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atombaby
07-03-2011, 06:11 AM
So I'm a little impatient.

My current novel-in-progress is comprised of three books, and I've just finished the first book (hooray!).

My question is, should I get a beta reader for it now in its current state, or should I wait until I finish the story? I have a friend who is reading it as I write it, but all he says is "it's good keep it comin'." He's great for keeping me motivated, but I couldn't honestly say if it's really any good at all.


Bonus question: for those who have had beta readers, do you give your betas your first draft, second draft, or next to last draft?

DavidCrue
07-03-2011, 10:28 AM
My two cents, YMMV.

You shouldn't engage a beta until you've reached the point where you think your draft is finished. Fully polished. Write your first draft, then go back over it to edit, fix what looked wrong, have a couple of areas you thought looked odd spot-checked (by friends or in SYW), and edit again.

When you've been over the draft so many times the words aren't even making sense anymore, and you're pretty sure you've caught all the errors anyway and this ms is ready for submission, that's when you get the beta.

A lot of manuscripts aren't ready even then. Send along the first chapter, just to check things like reader investment in your characters and that your story actually starts with the opening paragraph rather than 3k words in. That's the sort of edits which have to be done before the rest of it can be beta'd, because if you have to stop and move around chunks of story for proper flow and narrative hook, your beta will lose their mind.

So. Your ms has been through several edits, you've honed and polished and spit-shined, the first chapter has been looked at and you're certain the characters are interesting and the opening compelling... Now get the full ms beta'd.

There's nothing to say you can't have willing, sharp eyes on your work before then. Crit partners are wonderful. They can go over bits or whole chapters at a time during the writing/editing/polishing, catch your biggest dunderhead moves. It's really helpful to have someone you can talk to about the story during the whole process, bounce ideas off, check that the really good swordfight was as awesome as you thought. Keeps you from going crazy.

jeffo20
07-03-2011, 02:36 PM
Just my feeling on this, I would want to give my first book to a beta once it's 'done', rather than wait until the next two books are done.

shadowwalker
07-03-2011, 07:41 PM
My betas get stuff as its written - but I don't do 1st or 2nd + drafts. I edit as I write, they get the chapter when it's done, and then the next, and the next... Just how we do things.

Lauren W
07-03-2011, 08:20 PM
I've heard that this is the difference between a critique partner and a beta reader. My impression is that a critique partner is someone who goes through the whole process with you. Usually someone who's great to bounce off ideas to, find your plot holes, and who will read all your various drafts. They are usually other writers or editors you have a strong, close relationship with and are worth their weight in gold. Beta readers on the other hand usually prefer to read work that is as polished as you can get it and are those that help you perfect any last problems, errors, and flow issues. I would suggest at this point in your revision process you should listen to the friend who's already reading for you and even consider looking into a workshop. I found my local workshop to be fantastic and helped me polish everything up so that I could seek out beta readers. My beta readers still find things that my eyes are now numb too so they are so important to the whole process.

Scott S
07-16-2011, 01:26 AM
So I'm a little impatient.

Bonus question: for those who have had beta readers, do you give your betas your first draft, second draft, or next to last draft?


For me, I find time is the best. I put it away for at least two weeks and do something else. Then when I come back to it that special glow is gone and I can be more objective. If I still like it, then I start to look for other people. I don't really want to waste anyone's time on early drafts - so in answer to your question, I like to send out the second draft

Maryn
07-16-2011, 01:34 AM
My understanding is that a beta reader reviews submission-ready work. Anyone who's seeing work that isn't that polished is offering critique.

But that's mere niggling over terminology. What matters to you is whether it's better to get feedback while the work is in progress, or wait until it's complete and possibly until it's polished.

For me, there's no question. Finish it, first and foremost, then make it as good as I can before daring to presume it's worthy of anyone's time. Edited to add: And why? Because I'd hate to count the number of times I've read a work in progress, spent hours and energy on it, only to hear from the author that they've scrapped that part, that the story's taken a new direction or POV or some other fundamental change which means the part I critiqued no longer works. I vow I will never do that to anyone, because it pissed me off, although I think I hid it when I tried.

But that's for me. What works for you, and for those willing to give you feedback, is your decision. Just be absolutely certain you don't ask people to devote their time and expertise to mend things you could have, and would have, mended yourself.

Maryn, big on finishing

E.Murray
07-16-2011, 01:45 AM
Stephen King says "Draft with the door closed. Revise with the door open." Meaning, the first round of writing is for your eyes only. Go through it a time or two before sending it 'round. I learned this one the hard way. I was sure my book was brilliant as I was writing it. I had my wife read it and posted parts here in SYW after a quick polish pass. My wife was kind. The people in SYW weren't. And I'm very glad. Looking back, I have to agree it was pretty bad. At the time, though, I was convinced it was great. I burned some potentially good betas by sending it around too early. I guess I'm saying wait until you're sure it's done. Then put it away for a month and have a trusted crit partner go through it. Revise it (massively if need be) and be sure it's done (again) before asking for a beta.
But that's just me. Your first round may be better than mine.

PorterStarrByrd
07-25-2011, 08:06 PM
Stephen King says "Draft with the door closed. Revise with the door open." Meaning, the first round of writing is for your eyes only. Go through it a time or two before sending it 'round. I learned this one the hard way. I was sure my book was brilliant as I was writing it. I had my wife read it and posted parts here in SYW after a quick polish pass. My wife was kind. The people in SYW weren't. And I'm very glad. Looking back, I have to agree it was pretty bad. At the time, though, I was convinced it was great. I burned some potentially good betas by sending it around too early. I guess I'm saying wait until you're sure it's done. Then put it away for a month and have a trusted crit partner go through it. Revise it (massively if need be) and be sure it's done (again) before asking for a beta.
But that's just me. Your first round may be better than mine.


Don't know exactly where Eric thought his book was when I beta read for him but it was readable without pain. No matter how many reads and edits you do, the new sets of eyes are going to see things you couldn't

I'm on my fifth read now and each author has had a recurring problem that I'm sure they couldn't see. My own work has been improved as I see things there that I am made aware of through looking at these other works.

My first SYW was an eye opener and I'm sure my first work for a beta read will have surprises for me too.

As long as you have cleaned your work up fairly well, you will gain a lot of information to improve your work by putting it out there for a beta read. If you polish it to what you think is a high sheen, I believe some of what it took to get there will turn out to have been wasted time.

That said, there are quite a few beta readers out there who insist on reading ready to publish material (Why I won't read your ... thread).

My stance is that, if it is ready to publish, I need a publisher or an agent, not a beta reader.Beta reading is a tool (for most of us) rather than a source for a book review.

Don't hesitate for to ask for a beta reader early, just make sure you and the reader agree about what is going on.

Mharvey
07-25-2011, 08:18 PM
I agree with the idea Betas come after the drafts are finished, but there's no hard and fast rules saying you can't ask for a Beta, just as long as the Beta has all the information up front and knows you aren't done yet.

What may be more beneficial for you is a writing partner. Someone who you can bounce ideas off of, and field some in return from them - and someone who motivates you to finish the darn thing. :D

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 08:48 PM
I agree with the idea Betas come after the drafts are finished, but there's no hard and fast rules saying you can't ask for a Beta, just as long as the Beta has all the information up front and knows you aren't done yet.

What may be more beneficial for you is a writing partner. Someone who you can bounce ideas off of, and field some in return from them - and someone who motivates you to finish the darn thing. :D

I think here again we're just dealing with semantics. Call them betas or crit partners or writing partners, the question really is - when do you ask someone else to look at what you've written? And that's up to the writer - as long as the reader knows at what stage the writing is at and is comfortable with that, there shouldn't be a problem.

Brutal Mustang
07-25-2011, 10:24 PM
When you share your work with others too soon, you'll be reluctant to go back and make major changes that would drastically improve your story.

Mharvey
07-26-2011, 12:56 AM
I think here again we're just dealing with semantics. Call them betas or crit partners or writing partners, the question really is - when do you ask someone else to look at what you've written? And that's up to the writer - as long as the reader knows at what stage the writing is at and is comfortable with that, there shouldn't be a problem.

Oh it's absolutely semantics. No question about it. Just, some folks have certain expectations - Betas usually expect a completed work. So if it's not completed, and the Beta wasn't told that, I could see why they might be annoyed or something. Me, I don't care. Just let me know what to expect going in.

PorterStarrByrd
07-26-2011, 03:47 AM
When you share your work with others too soon, you'll be reluctant to go back and make major changes that would drastically improve your story.


Wouldn't it be the other way around ... after a lot of time and effort is put into polishing the story?

Of course you never want submit anything for beta TOO early, so you've certainly got a point there.

shadowwalker
07-26-2011, 03:58 AM
Oh it's absolutely semantics. No question about it. Just, some folks have certain expectations - Betas usually expect a completed work. So if it's not completed, and the Beta wasn't told that, I could see why they might be annoyed or something. Me, I don't care. Just let me know what to expect going in.

I guess it depends. I belong to a couple beta groups and we see stories at every stage.

shadowwalker
07-26-2011, 04:02 AM
Wouldn't it be the other way around ... after a lot of time and effort is put into polishing the story?

That would be me. "What? The huge no-way-around-it plot hole is in chapter 3?!?!" Toss that story. :(

Brutal Mustang
07-26-2011, 06:09 AM
Wouldn't it be the other way around ... after a lot of time and effort is put into polishing the story?

My experience: I get started on a story, and start passing chapters back to Mom as I write. Then I realize, Shoot, it would be awesome if this happened in the last chapter. But for this to happen, I need to delete that one scene in chapter two where she falls off her balcony ... and dang it, I'll have to completely delete that one handmaiden from the story. She wasn't all that original of a character anyway. But crap. Mom loved that handmaiden, and she loved the balcony scene. I can't delete them! Dang it!

Take this little scenario, and times it by a hundred during the course of a single novel, and you have an epiphany (usually at midnight when you wake up with yet another awesome story twist). Having anyone read your work too soon is worse than being in a straightjacket.

Now, I keep my work close to my chest, until it's done. I slice, dice, rearrange, ponder, delete characters, insert characters, take out cliche lines for fresher, funnier ones, et cetera, until my heart is content. The book only 'escapes' when it's good and ready.

thothguard51
07-26-2011, 06:36 AM
There are different needs and different type of beta contracts...

Some beta readers want it clean. Basically you are using them as proof readers.

Some beta's will accept a finished draft that is fairly clean. In this case you are using them to edit.

Some beta's will work with a writer as the story progresses, clean or not. You are using the beta as a developmental editor at that point. Think of them as a sounding board on where the story is weak, the pace too slow, the dialogue off, etc. They may or may not critique for grammar and punctuation at this point, so it will be what ever the writer and the beta's agree upon.

I have used beta's during development and I have used different beta's for the finished product before I start submissions. But no matter when I use the beta, we always have an agreement on what each of us are looking for and willing to do. I never ask a beta to do more than they are comfortable with...

This is just my experience and others have different views I am sure...

Good luck.

shadowwalker
07-26-2011, 08:06 AM
But crap. Mom loved that handmaiden, and she loved the balcony scene. I can't delete them! Dang it!

Well, sorry, Mom - I'll put that handmaiden and the balcony in the next book. ;)

If the betas know it's a WIP, they should know that parts they already looked at might go out the window. It's always your story.

Anaximander
07-26-2011, 03:52 PM
I tend to keep the early drafts to myself until I get REALLY stuck. Then I'll send them to a beta-reader or two, someone I don't know, and see what they think. Then I'll make changes based on their feedback, or I'll force myself to name a good reason why I'm leaving it the way it was and not how they've suggested changing it. Either way, that's usually enough to break the block. Plus, the reason I'm stuck is often that there was some problem with what I'd written that made it hard to go on, and the betas usually catch that.

amora10
07-26-2011, 09:33 PM
From my experience if you are writing three books, I would polish the first book to the best of my ability and then get a beta reader for that as you are working on the second. I only suggest this because glaring errors/plot holes/ inconsistencies might be found in the first book that will force you to completely change what you have written in book two and three.

But as most people here have already suggested, fine-tune that first book as much as possible before looking for a beta reader.

tarak
07-27-2011, 04:14 AM
Do you mean it has three books within the one MS, or do you have three separate novels planned? If it's the former, are you concerned with where things are headed that you want feedback before it's done?

atombaby
07-27-2011, 08:54 PM
Do you mean it has three books within the one MS, or do you have three separate novels planned? If it's the former, are you concerned with where things are headed that you want feedback before it's done?

Three books within the MS and yes, at this point I'd like to get feedback on what I've written so far. Also, I've seen some writers accompany their beta material with questionnaires as far as content and etc. is. I'm wondering if that's common procedure as well when one puts their work out to beta? I never imagined this would be so complicated haha and I truly appreciate all the responses I've gotten!

ShashaWriter
08-01-2011, 06:36 PM
So I'm a little impatient.

My current novel-in-progress is comprised of three books, and I've just finished the first book (hooray!).

My question is, should I get a beta reader for it now in its current state, or should I wait until I finish the story? I have a friend who is reading it as I write it, but all he says is "it's good keep it comin'." He's great for keeping me motivated, but I couldn't honestly say if it's really any good at all.


Bonus question: for those who have had beta readers, do you give your betas your first draft, second draft, or next to last draft?



I think it's better after cause a beta just might make you second guess you wonderful work. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. . . but still once you get all your thoughts together and actually take the time to write a piece of work to completion. . . then and only then should you let someone beta.

If you do it during you might have to be a bit firm on your original ideas cause it might end up turning into a collaboration.

I would actually like to give them the last draft. That way they can see it at it's best then add their sugar on top. That way it's all mostly your work and they help you to make it better.


Like I always say betas don't teach you to write they only help you to discover the writer inside.

Soul
08-01-2011, 07:08 PM
My experience: I get started on a story, and start passing chapters back to Mom as I write. Then I realize, Shoot, it would be awesome if this happened in the last chapter. But for this to happen, I need to delete that one scene in chapter two where she falls off her balcony ... and dang it, I'll have to completely delete that one handmaiden from the story. She wasn't all that original of a character anyway. But crap. Mom loved that handmaiden, and she loved the balcony scene. I can't delete them! Dang it!

Take this little scenario, and times it by a hundred during the course of a single novel, and you have an epiphany (usually at midnight when you wake up with yet another awesome story twist). Having anyone read your work too soon is worse than being in a straightjacket.

Now, I keep my work close to my chest, until it's done. I slice, dice, rearrange, ponder, delete characters, insert characters, take out cliche lines for fresher, funnier ones, et cetera, until my heart is content. The book only 'escapes' when it's good and ready.

But not everyone is you.

And not every minds changing stuff.

I've had my writing thumbdrives wipe so many times that I have no issue telling my friends who fix things that "sorry that scene doesn't work, had to change it"

And they understand.

ShashaWriter
08-01-2011, 07:34 PM
I really like your avatar.