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View Full Version : Do family members' opinions count? Or do they just love you?



annetookeen
08-09-2013, 08:32 PM
I dunno, they keep saying "don't let your friends and family beta read cuz they have no choice but to say good things about your work"

But my mom just kills my work. This isn't you at all, yikes your grammar, sorry didn't get this, etc. I let her beta read all right!

And Paolini, the author of Eragon, began that book as just something for the family (his dad published it for him), and it became a bestseller with a movie to boot!

I'm rambling. What do you people do/think?

Little Anonymous Me
08-09-2013, 08:38 PM
I think it depends on your family. Some people will lie their guts out because they love you. Then there are others. ;)


My mother reads what I write. I don't think I've ever been more thoroughly put through a meatgrinder in terms of logic and plot consistency. I'll get stuff back covered in red, with 'THIS MAKES NO SENSE ARE THEY STUPID?' in my margins. :ROFL: Grammar and I are buddies, but I'm always flabbergasted by the amount of stuff she catches.


So, it varies. More in terms of personality than their relationship to you, I think. You can get a random stranger as a beta who's so terrified of hurting your feelings you have to read everything five times to get what they mean.

dangerousbill
08-09-2013, 08:46 PM
But my mom just kills my work. This isn't you at all, yikes your grammar, sorry didn't get this, etc. I let her beta read all right!


There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, family members and good friends are likely to push their comments through the 'will this start a feud?' or 'my son wrote this filth?' or 'is this character patterned on me?' filters.

Also possible is that they're just not interested, but can't say so, and they do a half-hearted job.

Corussa
08-09-2013, 08:47 PM
I think it depends on your family.

Definitely. My husband has read and reviewed what I've written, and there were just so many issues he brought up. All good points, but... eek.

I am pretty sure in some cases he is still being careful not to hurt my feelings, and I am certain if someone else had written it, he would properly rip into it... but he's still had a very beneficial effect on my WIP.

I wouldn't show it to my mum, sister or rest of my family though - I've learned my lesson in that regard. :D

AshleyEpidemic
08-09-2013, 08:55 PM
For me, they definitely do. Often my family is more critical of me than others because they want me to succeed. My dad will tell me flat out if he doesn't like an idea and it's helpful. Same with my boyfriend. If he doesn't like an idea he doesn't say it outright, but his interest level makes it obvious.

Bufty
08-09-2013, 09:34 PM
Depends upon the family - on what are their opinions based (apart from mild envy or admiration that one of the family has actually written something you know, like J K Rowling did) and in the final analysis do their opinions really matter as far as technique and writing and story goes?

Paolini is not the norm regarding family involvement.

Siri Kirpal
08-09-2013, 09:52 PM
There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, family members and good friends are likely to push their comments through the 'will this start a feud?' or 'my son wrote this filth?' or 'is this character patterned on me?' filters.



Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

This is the only problem with using family as beta readers I've had. They are otherwise excellent at catching inconsistencies, inaccuracies and typos. But then, my Mom is a former English teacher. And my husband is an archtypical Virgo.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

gothicangel
08-10-2013, 12:18 PM
I swap university essays with my sister, I rip her essays to pieces, and she takes revenge. We are both on the 2:1/First Class boundary. :evil

Of course sometimes she doesn't listen. Just this week she was reading back an essay, and said 'I should I've done this . . .' To which I replied, 'is what I told you.'

skylark
08-10-2013, 01:41 PM
My husband and I always beta-read for one another.

It probably helps that we started out with one anothers' theses. If we hadn't corrected problems in those honestly, we'd both have failed.

nighttimer
08-10-2013, 02:41 PM
I never show my family anything until it's done. My son reads my blog, my brothers occasionally, my daughter and my sisters never and my wife just smiles sweetly.

When I was starting as a writer I cared so much what my family thought I would all but stick the finished product under their noses as if to say, "I wrote this. Isn't it great?"

But just as you don't want to be unkind when you see a friend's baby and it's so ugly you don't know where it should be burped or walked on a leash, you say, "Awwwww...it's so precious."

The best person to look to for affirmation of your ability and talent is the one staring back at you in the mirror. Please that guy first and you can live with what the rest of the world thinks.

Thank your family for their opinion, kiss them on the forehead and then ignore it and go right back to writing what you like.
:e2BIC:

bearilou
08-10-2013, 02:55 PM
The best person to look to for affirmation of your ability and talent is the one staring back at you in the mirror. Please that guy first and you can live with what the rest of the world thinks.

This was so very needed in my life right now.

I have never really depended on family to provide the crits I need on my writing. As much as my mother wants to proclaim that she really is a discerning and picky reader and that she really does know good writing when she reads it and that she really isn't saying this to spare my feelings....

She is still my mother. I take it with gratitude that she is so supportive and move along.

Ken
08-10-2013, 03:26 PM
... it can work, obviously.
Many members, here, give evidence of that.
Doing so just comes with a caveat.
Bias is a real risk.
Substantially less so with strangers.
Plus, if they annoy you with a harsh crit,
and you're unable to deal with that, maturely,
you can tell them to #&%@ off.

Not something you can do with a relation !

Putputt
08-10-2013, 03:52 PM
It depends. I don't think my parents would be happy knowing their sweet, loving daughter writes about teenagers killing one another. But Mr. Putt's really supportive and gives really honest (sometimes too honest :D) crit. He's the only familial beta I have, and there's not much difference in the level of harshness in his crit vs the crits I get from AWers...so it just depends.

EarlyBird
08-10-2013, 04:01 PM
I let my sister read my manuscript, thinking she reads a lot and will lend a critical eye. She loved it. Then I read another book she recommended (it was awful, so amateurish and cliche) and realized she has no clue what she's talking about.

Oi.

swvaughn
08-10-2013, 05:00 PM
I'm with the general consensus of "it depends on the family member." :)

My husband is an absolutely brilliant (and brutal) content / developmental editor. He's not a writer (thought he does write the occasional story / profile for RPG characters), but he's an intelligent, lifelong avid reader and a natural critic...it's awe-inspiring to hear him rip movie plots apart. :D

And my mother (also a lifelong avid reader) gave me one of the most helpful crits I've gotten on a book and helped me fix a rather glaring problem. :)

Annetookeen, it sounds like your mother is one of those genuinely helpful critical readers. I think having her beta is good!

DeleyanLee
08-10-2013, 05:32 PM
Totally depends on the family member.

I've been writing since I was a child. I couldn't PAY my parents or sisters to read my work. Still can't.

My daughter, OTOH, is one of the greatest copy editors I've ever met (she learned from her father) and is able to point out grammar issues and leave the writing style completely alone.

And many of my good friends are now friends because we've been beta'ing each other for well over a decade. They'd better be reading my stuff. LOL! The rest of my friends are more likely to buy it after it comes out than read it beforehand, so I don't expect that of them or will never read it at all. It's all good.

NeuroFizz
08-10-2013, 05:35 PM
Useful critiques will provide areas where a story needs improving and/or where the craft of writing for this story needs improving. If family members and friends can provide either type of critique, it is fine. Often, they evaluate the story as a reader, which can be a valuable addition to the critique panel an author solicits. It is wise to couple the reader-critique to a critique from someone (or multiple someones) with more familiarity with the writing craft to give balance to the overall evaluation.

One reason some new writers go to family and friends is to get an ego stroke. The question is if the ego stroke did anything to strengthen the story itself, or did it just empower the writer to go forward with the story "as is."

annetookeen
08-10-2013, 06:46 PM
And my mother (also a lifelong avid reader) gave me one of the most helpful crits I've gotten on a book and helped me fix a rather glaring problem. :)

Annetookeen, it sounds like your mother is one of those genuinely helpful critical readers. I think having her beta is good!

Oh, man, she just ripped a poem of mine to pieces. Too many weak stitches, she says. How can I not ask this woman to critique my work? She's a metaphoric trial-by-fire. So yeah, I guess I'll keep my family in my critique "panel" :)

Marian Perera
08-10-2013, 06:54 PM
I've been writing since I was a child. I couldn't PAY my parents or sisters to read my work. Still can't.

Same here. Much as I loved my mother, she wanted me to get a PhD, not be a writer. And even if I'd had a bestselling novel, she wouldn't have read it, because she didn't read fiction at all.

She'd have been even more disappointed that she couldn't brag about my books, because nearly everyone she knew was so religious that they'd have been appalled at my writing books with sex in them. Ditto for my father. Basically, my books would have been like that crazy uncle in the basement who no one ever talks about.

Kind of a relief that I don't have to worry about what my family might think any more.

RubySlippers
08-10-2013, 07:01 PM
:roll:

I'm in agreement with the general consensus. For me reactions to chapter one went like this:

Mom: "Can I have chapter two?"
Dad: "I thought it was very good"
Sister: "I would read that."
Brother: "Well, there are a few points I wanted to make...ten minutes criticism (constructive)..."
And when he was finished I asked him "but, did you like it?" and he said "Oh," like he had forgotten that part, "Yes." That was all.

So I have most of my family to go to for general encouragement and goo feeling, and baby bro to go to if I need it ripped to shreds!

Thankfully I have a couple of writer friends who are happy to scribble all over my manuscript and tell me what they think.

stormie
08-10-2013, 07:02 PM
I think it depends on your family. Some people will lie their guts out because they love you. Then there are others. ;)


I agree with this post. But I also take what they say with a grain of salt, just as I do with a non-family member who beta-reads. Everyone's take--including editors--is different on how a story should be told, and what works and what doesn't. One time I had two editors of a magazine, debating with each other, what worked and what didn't. Grammar and spelling, though, is another ball game. I either look it up to be sure, or do a mental head slap.

lolchemist
08-10-2013, 07:30 PM
I think it depends on the personality of the family member too. Some might go the 'That's great, honey!' route to even the most putrid pile of rubbish you give them because they love you and don't want to crush your dreams and hurt your feelings while others might go into crazy-stage-mom mode and CRITICIZE-EVERY-FREAKING-THING even the things that don't need it because they know everything and you know nothing.

Just remember, unless they are a writer themselves or are educated in that way, not all the advice they give will be useful and you just have to sit there and indulge them because if you try to go 'But grandma, that's not how you use commas!' it will be butthurt-city!

jaksen
08-11-2013, 05:24 AM
My husband is my one and only beta. He once threw a ms. across the room and screamed, "They'll never buy this."

He was wrong; they did. And I still let him read my stuff.

Sai
08-11-2013, 05:49 AM
I often ask my mom to read over the short romance stories I write for a woman's magazine (she's part of the target audience after all). While the first thing she usually says afterwards is along the lines of "Oh honey, it's so good! It's lovely!", she also catches each and every typo and points out things that go right over my head.

Filigree
08-11-2013, 06:36 AM
I let only one family member beta read my work. The rest do not really care, and that's fine by me.

annetookeen
08-11-2013, 05:55 PM
My husband is my one and only beta. He once threw a ms. across the room and screamed, "They'll never buy this."

He was wrong; they did. And I still let him read my stuff.

That's pretty vicious, I think? If someone threw my mss I'd probably have a piece of my ego chipped off. :o

kkbe
08-11-2013, 06:25 PM
They support me unconditionally but they tell me the truth.

Like, Your ending SUCKS, you have to fix it. (I did.)

Or, I almost threw up. (She didn't.)

:)

Sai
08-11-2013, 06:29 PM
Oh, and I forgot that I regularly have my brother (who's a pretty sharp guy) read over my stuff. I'm pretty lucky in the beta/family department.

Spell-it-out
08-11-2013, 06:49 PM
One of my sisters in my best beta, mainly because she has no qualms about telling me where it's all gone wrong! Which is exactly what I need.

annetookeen
08-11-2013, 07:58 PM
One of my sisters in my best beta, mainly because she has no qualms about telling me where it's all gone wrong! Which is exactly what I need.

Wish I had a sibling like that. My brother was a lit major before he decided to shift last minute into Advertising. But he never reads my work. Just says, "Looks long." or "Looks boring."

hahaha now that's a tough market!

Kitty27
08-12-2013, 04:58 AM
My cousin literally has no ability to filter herself. She will tell me the brutal truth. I have sent her novels and they come back without a shred of dignity left.

My brother isn't as blunt,but he tends to focus on certain things. He acts like plot holes slapped him when he was a child and will find even the tiniest one. He's a science buff and it is quite a trying ordeal with him concerning my Sci-Fi novels. The convo usually goes like this:

Me: It's not really important.
Him: Yes,it is. This isn't possible.
Me: In my world,it is!
Him: Your world is full of it. Make some damned sense here,Kitty.
Me: For the love of Gawd! Just read the damn book.
Him:I'm not reading anything from your crazy ass. Bye.

My dear mother usually inquires if I am in need of Jesus and no longer reads my work.

Sometimes,family can be a big help. Especially if you have relatives like mine:cry:

Mutive
08-12-2013, 05:20 AM
It depends a lot on the family member, as people above have said.

If the family member in question is another fiction writer, they'll probably do a decent job. (I sometimes beta read for my little brother, and am no nicer or meaner to him than I'd be to anyone else. Which is to say, plenty mean, but always well meaning.)

With that said, you figure that the person in question is about as reliable as another fiction writer with their skill set would be.

In general, I think, people recommend against it as most of us don't have a serious novelist or short story writer in the family. (So you're essentially just getting a general reader.) But that's not necessarily the case for everyone.

calieber
08-13-2013, 04:01 AM
I'm pretty sure my mother hates bad writing more than she loves her children -- both of whom are born nitpickers editors, so I can probably get a decent critique from my sister as well. I don't know about my father. Mom writes feature articles, Dad was a reporter, my sister is working on a screenwriting career.

I agree with dangerousbill, though, you should probably think twice about asking for crit from anyone who is the model for one of the characters or is likely to think they are.

The other day my father had me proofread for him, though (I found a "Buffalo buffalo buffalo"-type sentence that I persuaded him to change into something that could be read by humans).

DancingMaenid
08-13-2013, 04:19 AM
I definitely depends on the family.

My mom is definitely prone to gushing about my writing sometimes, but I don't think it's because she's my mother so much as I don't think she's an incredibly critical reader (which isn't a criticism of her. It's just not something she thinks about much). On the other hand, she'll complain about my characters being mean, or about any signs of conflict. If she had her way, stories wouldn't have any conflict in them.

But I don't think that readers always need to offer unbiased critique in order to have helpful input. Obviously, I don't use my mom as a beta. But even if I don't agree with everything she says, sometimes she'll bring up something that I find helpful.

ladybritches
08-13-2013, 07:52 AM
I beta for my daughter sometimes, and I think I'm harder on her than I am on strangers, mostly because I'm invested in her future and I want her to succeed. But at the same time, how can I be sure that I'm seeing her work for what it is, since I'm looking at it through a mother's eyes?

My brother is a songwriter, and he's convinced I only like his music because we're related. Yet sometimes I'll be humming a tune a week after I heard him play, and I'm wondering whose song it is, and then it hits me that it's his and I'm like, damn, that's good. So I'd say that's proof that I enjoyed the music. Right? :D