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AM_Ramos
04-22-2012, 08:32 PM
Hi everyone,

Just wanted to ask what your beta-reading style is.

I wrote an article on my blog about how I do my beta-reads, but would appreciate comments, suggestions and tips on how to be a better beta-reader. I always just want to do a fabulous job for the authors I'm working with, since they deserve it.

Anyway, here's my blog entry (http://annabellemramos.blogspot.ca/2012/04/my-beta-reading-style.html). Please feel free to comment there, or here. Thanks!

shadowwalker
04-22-2012, 08:55 PM
I'm a nit-picker when it comes to grammar and slang. I tend to look at phrasing and sentence structure pretty closely as well. I'm more a generalist when it comes to characterization and overall plot (another member of our beta group is more 'into' that).

I consider myself totally honest, but I don't believe in being "brutally honest" either. That's just ego-tripping in my book. I do tend to get more strident if the author refuses to listen - not that I expect them to follow my every suggestion, but when they get stubborn about things that they do need to at least look at, then it's just wasting my time. Fortunately, I've only had a couple such experiences, and in those cases I politely backed away. My whole view of being a beta is to help the writer write better, not force them to develop a thicker skin (I leave that for reviewers). If they decide they don't want that help, there's no reason to browbeat them about it.

Maryn
04-22-2012, 09:39 PM
I'm pretty cautious on who I'll beta for, and author of the not-so-popular thread Why I Won't Beta Read Your Novel.

Since I'm definitely a detail person, I tend to beta as if I were doing a critique with line edits; someone else can do the 'big picture' work. I'm going to catch minor flaws in grammar and other writing mechanics, whether I seek them or don't. I also seek self-contradiction ("Wait, he cut off his ponytail in chapter twelve, but she tugs it playfully in twenty-seven.") and inconsistency in characters' behavior and voice unless there's explanation.

I return a marked manuscript which is a mess--and the reason I prefer paper--and a brief overview in which I note what I considered the most important flaws remaining as well as what I especially liked about it. I attempt to be both honest and gentle, often using humor to soften bluntness.

Depending on the quality of the writing, I might also attach a handout or two on writing flaws I saw over and over, if I happen to have one.

I always close with thanks for the author trusting me with the manuscript and with encouragement to improve the work further, or to submit it soon if it's already in great shape.

Maryn, grizzled veteran

cjcurrie
04-24-2012, 10:26 AM
I mostly agree with Maryn. Except for her signatures, which are always weird.

How I critique depends upon what the author wants, but I usually deconstruct a work more heavily in the beginning than anywhere else. The opening is the most crucial part of a story, so I fill it with line notes about every single thought I have while reading. Rhythm, flow, and drive are the things I like to focus on. Once the author gets a feel for the things I notice, I let them extrapolate the notes to the rest of the work I'll try to only mention new ideas.

When given the choice, I deliver my critiques as honestly and straightforwardly as possible. I figure that the value of a critique is independent of how I feel after receiving it ... as a writer, I need to have thick skin anyway and learn to never take anything personally. A person's experience with a work of literature is always subjective, so I try to emphasize that point and use it as an excuse to tear things apart c:

Maryn
04-24-2012, 06:45 PM
I mostly agree with Maryn. Except for her signatures, which are always weird.I take that as a compliment!

Maryn, always fishing

Lhipenwhe
04-24-2012, 08:35 PM
I tend to do line-by-lines, which mainly focuses on things I'd cut or grammatical changes. But I proceed with caution and allow for some 'leeway' due to stylistic changes. It's because of that that I'll start asking for samples of the work before beta-reading; it's a bit snobbish of me, but there are some things that I just can't edit due to conflicting styles.

AM_Ramos
04-26-2012, 05:03 AM
I completely agree! The point of being a beta is to help the writer write better. I don't know if my method is the most sound, but I try not to focus too much on the negative aspects of the manuscript (no matter how abundant.) I believe that positive (but honest) feedback is more effective in helping to improve the work.





I'm a nit-picker when it comes to grammar and slang. I tend to look at phrasing and sentence structure pretty closely as well. I'm more a generalist when it comes to characterization and overall plot (another member of our beta group is more 'into' that).

I consider myself totally honest, but I don't believe in being "brutally honest" either. That's just ego-tripping in my book. I do tend to get more strident if the author refuses to listen - not that I expect them to follow my every suggestion, but when they get stubborn about things that they do need to at least look at, then it's just wasting my time. Fortunately, I've only had a couple such experiences, and in those cases I politely backed away. My whole view of being a beta is to help the writer write better, not force them to develop a thicker skin (I leave that for reviewers). If they decide they don't want that help, there's no reason to browbeat them about it.

AM_Ramos
04-26-2012, 05:11 AM
Yes! I've read that post, and I appreciated it :)

I love your technique of using humor to soften bluntness!! I will definitely employing that strategy next time.

I've done my first few beta-reads on actual printed paper, as I found that it's easier for me to catch mistakes when I have the manuscript in my hands. But it's been a bit costly and time consuming, so I've tried a new method: uploading the manuscript directly into my Kindle reader, and then taking "screenshots" of sections that I want to comment on. So far it's working.

Oh, I just wanted to mention, you sound like a grrrreat beta-reader!


I'm pretty cautious on who I'll beta for, and author of the not-so-popular thread Why I Won't Beta Read Your Novel.

Since I'm definitely a detail person, I tend to beta as if I were doing a critique with line edits; someone else can do the 'big picture' work. I'm going to catch minor flaws in grammar and other writing mechanics, whether I seek them or don't. I also seek self-contradiction ("Wait, he cut off his ponytail in chapter twelve, but she tugs it playfully in twenty-seven.") and inconsistency in characters' behavior and voice unless there's explanation.

I return a marked manuscript which is a mess--and the reason I prefer paper--and a brief overview in which I note what I considered the most important flaws remaining as well as what I especially liked about it. I attempt to be both honest and gentle, often using humor to soften bluntness.

Depending on the quality of the writing, I might also attach a handout or two on writing flaws I saw over and over, if I happen to have one.

I always close with thanks for the author trusting me with the manuscript and with encouragement to improve the work further, or to submit it soon if it's already in great shape.

Maryn, grizzled veteran

algardis
04-26-2012, 05:33 AM
I'm to the beta readers / crit field. So far my style is to be open and honest with concept analysis while looking at the overall picture and character flow.

Mutive
04-28-2012, 12:52 AM
I'm more into story structure, world building, and character development than the line by line stuff. My real interest is in finding ways to take a technically decent, but bland story, and find ways to make it jump. (i.e. there may be a theme that's really interesting that the author is just touching on, or a character that could use more development, or whatever)

But I honestly try to catch almost anything I see. If I catch a spelling error, I correct it. Same for grammar, tangled sentences, etc. But my personal favorites are trying to highlight places for improvement in a story.

veschke
04-29-2012, 01:59 PM
I've done four or five beta reads of novels via critters, plus two for people I know IRL. I think I have a frustrated desire to be a book editor lurking somewhere.

Since one usually only has one chance to read the book as a beta, I try to address both structural and line-level issues. For the latter, I am likely to mark up heavily for the first chapter or so and then just note once in a while, "X is still a problem." I return a written summary, which I usually break down into plot, character, world, and grammar, plus the marked up file or hard-copy.

I find that a lot of my suggestions have to do with things that could be worded more simply and straight-forwardly.