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Belle_91
11-13-2011, 08:56 PM
Alright, so I know this woman who really knows Revolutionary War History. She reenacts, and I also think she's one of the few who actually knows what she's talking about.

However, I know her personally. She's not my best friend or anything, but I do see her from time to time.

I was wondering, has anyone had a friend that they know personally beta read their story? Is it awkward when they say something harsh and you run into them? Is it just bad to do that all together?

Thanks.

Rhoda Nightingale
11-13-2011, 09:00 PM
I have done this, and it can really go either way. One had some useful things to say, for which I was very grateful; another was brimming with praise, which is nice, but ultimately useless; a third never finished the manuscript, but has a stellar grasp of grammar and punctuation and did wonders for the technical part of what she did read.

It's never been awkward or uncomfortable. But maybe I've just been lucky that way.

thothguard51
11-13-2011, 09:24 PM
My GF is my proof reader, but I have others I use for beta reads. People I trust not to blow smoke up me arse...

JSDR
11-13-2011, 09:48 PM
I have a friend betaing for me. When I got my first set of crits back, I yelled at my computer screen. "Did you even read the story?" Because he had a lot of questions that I felt had been answered in the chapters I'd sent.

So yeah, I asked him about it. Only after I'd calmed down, though. It wasn't awkward because I'd asked him for help, he provided it, and I wanted to discuss how I could make the points clearer. More importantly, I put myself into a receptive mindframe, and not a defensive one. I think that helps a lot in how you come across when asking critters for more information about a crit.

Turns out he'd only skimmed the dialogue and skipped the action scenes altogether. Because I'd asked him for help in other areas of the work and he'd tried to concentrate on those areas.

He's a good beta :)

I think it's more awkward when I ask friends to read my stuff and they never get back to me about it. Then I'm left to wonder if they thought it was so awful they couldn't say anything for fear of offending me and damaging our friendship. Which makes me feel bad about my writing. So I've stopped doing that.

Drachen Jager
11-13-2011, 10:04 PM
I think it's more awkward when I ask friends to read my stuff and they never get back to me about it. Then I'm left to wonder if they thought it was so awful they couldn't say anything for fear of offending me and damaging our friendship. Which makes me feel bad about my writing. So I've stopped doing that.

I hate that. Friends who either never read it, or read it and say, "Yeah, it was really good." "Umm, well, what could I do to make it better?" "I dunno, you're the author."

Darkshore
11-13-2011, 10:23 PM
That's the problem I have with my GF. She feels like I know more than her about writing so she can't tell me anything to improve on. I get "It was good!" Why? How? Any bad parts? "Shrug".

escritora
11-13-2011, 10:35 PM
You can ask her to crit the War parts from a factual and/or realistic POV only. And leave whether the story is engaging and such to other betas. Perhaps that method would make both of you more comfortable.

As for the others who have friends/family who are reluctant to provide feedback, ask them to jot down where they skipped a part or felt like it or when their mind wondered. In short, ask them to provide their opinion as a reader not as a writer.

Most of them are probably not writers and they can't tell you the reason something is off, but they can certainly tell you where the story lagged for them.

M. Scott
11-13-2011, 10:47 PM
If you have a friend who wants to read it, there's no harm. Just don't rely on that friend for crits. They don't like insulting their friends, but might be of some use for grammar/punctuation errors.

shaldna
11-13-2011, 10:50 PM
I was wondering, has anyone had a friend that they know personally beta read their story? Is it awkward when they say something harsh and you run into them? Is it just bad to do that all together?

Thanks.

It depends on the person and your relationship with them.

My beta is one of my very best friends, but she is BRUTAL. she doesn't let me away with anything, and she pulls up every single bit of sloppy writing. I trust her and I trust her judgement, and it doesn't impact on our friendship. I don't know what it would be like with someone else though

Commutinggirl
11-13-2011, 11:51 PM
I actually have one of my best friends read as I go (it helps with the moral support). She tells me what she thinks about the plot and she helps me put things into perspective. Once I am done and after my first edit, she will go through it again. She is what I would call "brutally honest" but thatīs also why I like her so I know it will not only be praised but constructive criticism. Knowing myself, I may get upset for a few seconds but I know my work will not be perfect from the get-go so I am looking forward to her views.
If your friend is really a specialist you could definitely try it out but if you feel uncomfortable about the feedback on your writing from that person, maybe you can just ask for views on the historical elements (does this seem credible?). You could then have another beta for the plot/writing...
In any case, good luck and keep us updated :-)

skylark
11-14-2011, 12:00 AM
I would use your friend to check out the historical plausibility of your story. Unless you would use her as a beta anyway (i.e. even if she wasn't an expert) I wouldn't ask her to beta, or even give her the whole book to read.

I'm assuming it is a book, of course - if it is a short story, I'd be more inclined to give her the whole lot to read for comments even if I wasn't entirely comfortable with her as a beta.

Edit: I don't have any problem with a beta being a close friend...I'm married to mine.

regdog
11-14-2011, 12:03 AM
My friends beta for me and I beta for them. We understand that we have to be honest when beta reading and it doesn't affect our friendship. If we've written something bad we're honest about it.

Polenth
11-14-2011, 12:30 AM
You need to consider the personalities involved. I don't take feedback personally and I'm a very laid-back person, so being critiqued by friends isn't an issue. I'm often chatting to my critique partner on IM when I read the critiques, as I don't need a cool down period.

If you're the sort of person prone to getting angry and taking a long time to calm down, you will find it awkward and might destroy friendships.

It's one of those times when you need to be honest with yourself about whether you'd be okay with it.

Tepelus
11-14-2011, 01:01 AM
I think it's more awkward when I ask friends to read my stuff and they never get back to me about it. Then I'm left to wonder if they thought it was so awful they couldn't say anything for fear of offending me and damaging our friendship. Which makes me feel bad about my writing. So I've stopped doing that.

This has happened to me many times. I won't ever ask friends or family to read what I write again. It's not like I give them a lot to read, just a few pages. If it's not your forte, fine, tell me. Silence hurts more than saying anything at all.

MaryMumsy
11-14-2011, 01:29 AM
From the other side of the fence: I beta for JeanneTGC in all her genres, under all her names. I have also betaed for a couple of others here on AW.

J doesn't think I'm brutal, but she does know that I'm honest. I'm not a writer, so I don't know the technical stuff(what's an em dash?), but I do know when something doesn't work for me, and sometimes why. I'm also nitpicky on historical detail.

One of the others would think I'm brutal (marking out 5-8 pages of ms in hard copy and writing NO NO NO across them in big letters might have something to do with that).

The third would probably think I made thoughtful comments, although she probably thinks I'm a slacker because I have had one of her ms for almost a year and am about 50 pages from the end. Sometimes RL just gets in the way.

MM

Hiroko
11-14-2011, 02:04 AM
My mother actually offered to read my MS. She's been a teacher for a long while, so I don't expect that she's lacking in knowledge of grammar or the writing process.
Unfortunately I was not planning on having anyone in my family proofread--my MS was a secret until my younger sibling blabbed about it.

I guess I'm considering it, since I'm not having much luck finding anyone else to beta read. At the core, what I really don't want is someone who won't be critical, who would do absolutely nothing for my book.

Otherwise I have no close relations in which I think I would be comfortable offering my book to be proofread. It would not bother me to have a reader online, but in the outside world, where I know no other writers...Might just be me.

Siri Kirpal
11-14-2011, 03:16 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting0

I hand most of my chapters to my Mom. Since she's retired English teacher and a huge reader, she's excellent at grammar etc. What she isn't good at is the whole picture. So, having your Mom read will probably help the details, but you may want someone else to look at the whole thing.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Kitty27
11-14-2011, 06:48 AM
These are my experiences with friends and family reading my work:

Mom:
Kitty,are you well? Chile,is this-LAWD! I will throw some annointing oil on you right quick.

Brother #1
What the fuck is this? When you blow up,I want a trip to Jamaica for reading this crazy shit.Your Black card is gonna get pulled for writing this mess,sis.

Brother #2
Where are the naked chick descriptions? I ain't here for the plot,you know.

Brother #3
I like it. But it makes no sense. What is this about? Where did this character come from? Are you aware that you are insane?

Cousin Aka Best Friend
I don't like it. Do this part over. Read this again and tell me how this makes any sense. Were you high when you wrote this?

Out of all of them,my cousin is the best. She has an eye for plot holes and grammar that has been a serious help to me. Plus,she is incapable of tact.She tells me the raw truth,lol.

Miss Plum
11-14-2011, 07:14 AM
The awkwardness will probably be more on their part than yours.


don't rely on that friend for crits. They don't like insulting their friends
This looks most like my experience, unless you have friends who are fellow writers or editors. I referred a comic book writer who was aiming at teenage girls to three of my teenage girl cousins, and they read every word carefully, gave him almost all positive feedback to his face, and then carried on and on about its faults once he was out of hearing distance.

DancingMaenid
11-14-2011, 07:23 AM
It really depends on the person and the agreement you have with them.

I used to have a beta reader who was a friend, and she was the best I've had to date. But that was because she knew what she was doing and we were both comfortable with the dynamic. She'd beta-read for people before, is a writer herself, and wasn't uncomfortable about being honest. If anything, I think the fact that we're friends helped, because we could communicate well.

With friends and family who aren't writers, I've found that they're generally not as good as all-round betas. Whether or not they can give good feedback as readers depends on the person.

I think there may be more potential for it to be awkward for the friend than for the writer. A lot of us are used to criticism to some extent, but our friends may not be used to giving it. I also think it's natural to worry about someone's reaction when you give them criticism.

In your case, if you really want to ask this gal for help, I'd probably ask specifically for input on the historical accuracy. That's what you really want from her, and I think that's most likely to get good results. I think people are often more comfortable advising on areas of expertise like this, where they can give more objective feedback, than they are with giving more subjective critiques. Especially if they aren't writers or editors or anything.

Libbie
11-14-2011, 07:40 AM
My most relied-on reader is a personal friend, not another writer. I hang out with her, I've known her well since elementary school, we were bridesmaids in each other's weddings, etc.

It works out great for me, because I genuinely want to hear criticism of my work. It makes me a better writer to know where my weak points are. And I trust her opinion of my weak and strong points. It doesn't bother me when she gets a little harsh. I get excited to fix what she's pointed out to me. I'm grateful to her for the help, and no matter how much she's criticized my writing, it's never effected our friendship.

But I think how you will react depends on your general reaction to criticism. If you tend to be hurt by critiques for a while before you let them take effect, then it may be better to steer clear. You may not be able to separate your writer-self from your friend-self and keep the hurt feelings out of the friendship.

Depends on you!

NeuroFizz
11-14-2011, 10:14 AM
I'm another in the "depends on your relationship with the person" group. However, if the person is not an experienced writer or experienced critter, and you take the attitude that the crit comments will be viewed cautiously, then you'd better take all of the praise just as cautiously.

My #1 (by age) daughter is one of my readers. She isn't a writer, but she's a voracious reader. She gives feedback concerning the story flow, plot issues, character inconsistencies, character sympathy, and things like that. She also will not hesitate to tell me when something stinks.

No matter who reads my stories, if someone doesn't understand what I'm trying to say, even though I felt I presented it in the clearest way possible, I never take the attitude that the reader just missed what I was trying to say until I first re-analyze that part to make sure I really did say it in a plain and understandable manner. If a reader is confused by a part of my story, it's likely the fault is mine, not the readers, and I'll not change my mind on that until I take a very critical look at that part of the story.,

quicklime
11-14-2011, 06:15 PM
Alright, so I know this woman who really knows Revolutionary War History. She reenacts, and I also think she's one of the few who actually knows what she's talking about.

However, I know her personally. She's not my best friend or anything, but I do see her from time to time.

I was wondering, has anyone had a friend that they know personally beta read their story? Is it awkward when they say something harsh and you run into them? Is it just bad to do that all together?

Thanks.


A lot will depend on you and, to a lesser extent, your friend....

if they say something harsh, will it make life difficult for YOU later? we can't really answer that, because criticism that may make one person wilt another may simply shrug off and ignore, and may make a third even more determined to fix things.

Phaeal
11-14-2011, 10:14 PM
Specifically ask for feedback on the historical aspects of the book. That plays to her expertise and should make her more comfortable about the task -- probably flattered, one hopes enthusiastic. Most people like to have their special knowledge acknowledged and valued.

Then, whatever she says about the book, smile and thank her and perhaps provide a service in return or a token of gratitude. This is how you keep ALL betas happy. :D

EclipsesMuse
11-15-2011, 07:17 AM
I'm also in the depends on the personality group.
I'm letting my boyfriend and one of my close friend beta. Both are honest with me on plot, characters and voice of my work. They know that it helps me a lot more than just "it's good."

Gymnogene
11-15-2011, 10:25 AM
My mom is my current beta. I can't say it has had an impact on our relationship, even if my manuscript does comes back with a generous amount of red. Like me, she's an aspiring writer, although English is not her first language. Her crit tends to be sound when it comes to finding plot holes. I will probably find a second beta after I've fixed up the worst of the problem areas.

Norman D Gutter
11-15-2011, 09:02 PM
It can be awkward to have a friend be a beta reader.

I had a high school/college friend who's sort of a literature afficianado read several of my things. He never critiques them, however, instead he addresses them as literary criticism. On my non-fiction book that I e-self-published, he gave criticism that was essentially, "Why didn't you address this? Why didn't you address that?" His criticism amounted to "Why didn't you write a different book?"

The problem becomes, if you don't incorporate what the friend-beta suggests, what does that do to the friendship? Make sure the friendship is strong before you do that.

NDG

AlishaS
11-16-2011, 01:44 AM
I think it really depends... I won't let friends read my work. I did it once, and I learned my lesson. Since they are my friend they thought it would be more helpful to tell me how great it was, without actually pointing out any of it's problems. Friends tend to sugar coat.

That said, now, some of my beta's who were not my friends are, however, they are writers, like me, so they know how important a crit/beta read is and don't bother trying to tell me everything is all flowers, and rainbows, they tell me the truth.

Quickbread
11-16-2011, 01:51 AM
It can help a non-writer beta reader if you give them some structure for commenting. I ask people to tell me: What's working and why? What's not working and why?

That said, I did have a once-friend read my novel manuscript when it was in an early full draft stage. A few weeks later, she said, "I read your novel. Wow, just wow." And that's it. I was really looking forward to some constructive criticism because I knew it had problems. I guess she was expecting something very different than what I'd written. That wasn't my problem, but her comment and lack of follow-up really hurt me for a long time. I'd have much preferred if she'd been open and honest. I'm much more careful now about who reads my WIPs.

Mark G
11-16-2011, 03:55 AM
If you'd asked me last year or earlier this year, I would have said "my mom and my wife are my beta readers" and they were the only ones I trusted, blah, blah... I posted such in AW.

A lot has happened since then.


My mom finished reading two of my MSs and returned only spelling/punctuation/grammar errors and a single question about the definition of something she'd know if she knew the genre. Since she didn't know the meaning, she clued me in that an explanation would bring more readers in. That was helpful, other than the fact that she's not my target audience. Other than that, she didn't provide much feedback.
My wife wanted to rewrite sections of my book using words she liked better or restructuring sentences. She came back with something like 300 recommended changes. They weren't all bad ideas, but they weren't my voice.
I got an excellent beta read from another writer (friend of my wife's, does scripts and screenplays). He marked up my MS with notes about things he liked and things that he thought needed work. His insights were an extremely useful tool.
I attended a writer's conference and talked to a bunch of aspiring writers. I got two professional feedback sessions on my first 20 pages from freelance Editors. I got the feedback that I'm 90% there but I'd benefit from the feedback of other writers.
I joined a local writer's group with "read and critique" sessions that have been extremely useful. They recommend avoiding adverbs... :)
So my advice now would be to get to know your fellow writers and build some relationships in the writing community, so you can use them as a sounding board. Your fellow writers, especially ones you hold in high esteem, will be the best place to look for feedback.

Would you prefer to study Karate with a Black Belt instructor or someone who has watched a Bruce Lee movie 50 times?

profen4
11-17-2011, 03:39 AM
Would you prefer to study Karate with a Black Belt instructor or someone who has watched a Bruce Lee movie 50 times?

Bruce Lee movies? No. That would be Kung Fu, or Jeet Kun Do. Now, if they'd watched 50 Chuck Norris movies ... ;)

Brukaviador
11-17-2011, 04:14 AM
I've hd a friend beta read for me and it went really sideways. Despite being a guy that reads dozens of pretty dark or crime filled or supernatural books per year, he got all weirded out by mine. I think because he knew me personaly, he started drawing funny parallels between me and my writing (as if I'd had practice being a predatory vampire) and jumped to a bunch of weird conclusions.

For months after he finished reading it, he got really evasive whenever I brought it up and he never did give me back the manuscript. Several times he told me to meet him some place to come get it and then just never showed, wasting hours of my time.

In the end, I don't know what really happened but we aren't friends anymore. It's an extreme example but it's now why I don't let anyone beta read my stuff who isn't a writer themselves.

Tepelus
11-17-2011, 04:48 AM
Wow. That is really strange, Viktor.