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pich313
02-05-2014, 12:44 AM
I have never worked with a beta reader before. As my need for some grows, I have started to gather a list of people to help, but for those who are not writers, what do I offer in return? I can't just swap novels and return the favor.

robjvargas
02-05-2014, 01:44 AM
Do you mean that you're incapable of critiquing someone else's work? Because it's entirely possible that your partner will be seeking "fresh eyes" more than expert ones.

I don't beta read. But I'm more than happy to provide an opinion. Then the other person can give my opinion whatever authority they want based on what they know about me.

pich313
02-05-2014, 06:19 AM
No. I'm more worried about non-writers. With a writer I would swap manuscripts and offer my critique in return for theirs.

ZerosJourney
02-05-2014, 06:43 AM
Cookies.

I don't know. I only have one non-writer beta, and she's a good friend, so all she needs as "payment" is the book I've been keeping all hush-hush about.

Drachen Jager
02-05-2014, 07:14 AM
I found most non-writer friends are useless beta readers. They're afraid to hurt my feelings by pointing out the bits they didn't like, or they take it too seriously and nitpick every detail while missing the big picture.

Maryn
02-05-2014, 08:46 PM
I've had the same experience as Drachen Jager with non-writers as my betas. Mostly afraid to hurt my widdle feewings, so they don't give me a truly representative sampling of what's not working for them.

Not that every beta experience with writers has been golden or useful, but most have.

Maryn, hat in the ring

Ari Meermans
02-05-2014, 09:12 PM
::checks who's posted previously:: It seems this non-writer hasn't had the privilege of betaing for any of youse guys. I am not a writer, but I AM a voracious reader and the opportunity to beta read a great story is my "reward". Those few who have been able to "stick it out" with me have found I'm a ruthless beta. Not mean. Not cruel. Not (particularly) snarky. But most definitely definite about what I see, think, and feel about various passages in the ms. Iow, working with some non-writer betas is not for the fainthearted. But if you must use a non-writer as a beta, for heaven's sake do not pick a friend, a family member, or anyone who won't be honest with you. Also do not pick someone who is not a voracious reader and who does not understand the craft.

Maryn
02-06-2014, 12:31 AM
I'd have you beta for me in a heartbeat, non-writer. In fact, whatcha doing this weekend?

Maryn, kidding, since she has nothing ready

Kylabelle
02-06-2014, 12:36 AM
*makes note of Ari's offer, puts it in a safe place for laterz.*

:D

Little Ming
02-06-2014, 12:46 AM
I have never worked with a beta reader before. As my need for some grows, I have started to gather a list of people to help, but for those who are not writers, what do I offer in return? I can't just swap novels and return the favor.


No. I'm more worried about non-writers. With a writer I would swap manuscripts and offer my critique in return for theirs.

Treat them to a nice meal? Change the oil in their car? Walk their dog? Babysit their children?

Really depends on the reader and what you have/want to offer, no?

summontherats
02-06-2014, 01:45 AM
I found most non-writer friends are useless beta readers. They're afraid to hurt my feelings by pointing out the bits they didn't like, or they take it too seriously and nitpick every detail while missing the big picture.

I've had the same experience. Besides, writing is a craft, and people who think about it a lot tend to be better at giving targeted reviews you can act on.

Also, it makes things weird. Friend and family love you, so they want to help... But then they don't like the genre, or they don't have time, or they don't like to (or have time to) read. They feel pressured to help, but they might not actually have the skills, time, or energy needed to read tens of thousands of words. I'd much rather have a beta who I don't know.

But if someone actually does it and actually finishes it, bake them a tray of brownies or take them to dinner or something.

etherme
02-06-2014, 01:49 AM
I've had the same experience as Drachen Jager with non-writers as my betas. Mostly afraid to hurt my widdle feewings, so they don't give me a truly representative sampling of what's not working for them.

Not that every beta experience with writers has been golden or useful, but most have.

Maryn, hat in the ring

I have friends that are brutal, so that's not always the case! I've never really sought out a "beta-reader" per se ... I've been luckily enough to have a handful of people who all tend to focus on different aspects of the story, so - in the end - I get pretty good coverage. :)

jtrylch13
02-06-2014, 02:28 AM
I found most non-writer friends are useless beta readers. They're afraid to hurt my feelings by pointing out the bits they didn't like, or they take it too seriously and nitpick every detail while missing the big picture.

Agreed! Sort of . . .

I liked your Gaiman quote: Though my friends and family betas had no idea what advice to really give me, if they said the beginning was slow or the ending left them feeling like they were missing pages then it was a strong indicator I needed work in those areas. On the other hand, more than half of them never got back to me and most of the ones who did just said really blase things like "I really liked the story" or "I'd buy it in a store". Not particularly helpful.

Nina Kaytel
02-08-2014, 11:56 PM
I found most non-writer friends are useless beta readers. They're afraid to hurt my feelings by pointing out the bits they didn't like, or they take it too seriously and nitpick every detail while missing the big picture.

I sent my novel The Black Sunrise to my Ex boyfriend once and though he'd bring me to tears over punctuation and grammar. I do mean tears -- he made me feel like a three year old holding up a drawing, and the parent shouting "That sucks the lines are all crooked -- just stop! If you can't draw right the first time then there is no need to draw!"
He was a non-reader, non-writer -- 4 Chan addict, so he over looked a vast majority of the real problems. Which gave me the idea if I fixed all the grammar and mechanics I would be fine.
Then I joined AW. I submitted the Alundra File to betas, and I got a much stronger idea of where my problems were and it wasn't with misplaced commas.
Oddly enough, he would always say to me 'if you can't handle what I say you will never make it', but I have handled the harsh criticism from writers better because it has merit.

While our friends can encourage us ( I hope) and make us feel great the real value is submitting to writers and readers -- they won't hold your hand, but they will make you stronger.

benluby
02-09-2014, 09:42 AM
I like writers for some parts of the beta process, and readers for the others. Readers are my target market. One of the criteria I have for determining just how well my chapter flows is how fast the beta's get back to me.
My harshest beta is a very good friend who could probably cover her walls with all her degrees and accolades from her writing. And she is like feeding your writing to a wood chipper.
Great praise on what is done right, and blistering critique on what is done wrong.
But...that is the type of critique I wanted. She was floored when I thanked her for it. She's used to being cursed out and taken off the Christmas card list.
Others just say they liked it. She's probably my greatest beta. If I could only have one, it would be her, even though the style of reading she prefers is not my particular style of writing.
The readers just want me to let them read the story. That is their thanks.
With her I gut her stories in return. Hers are predominately scripts, mine are stories, so we both get to play in the others park.
Biggest thing? Always thank your beta's. It tends to be a thankless job, and it is one that we must be aware of, and never forget that they are our initial fans.

Celeste Carrara
02-09-2014, 09:49 PM
I like to have a mixture of beta readers. Writers and non writers. I have 2 beta readers that are not writers but are avid readers in the genre I write. They help the most with plot, character development and telling me if I'm going too far out of the genre. They are brutally honest and I wouldn't have it any other way. My writer betas get on me for sentence structure, repetitiveness, pacing, etc.. I almost always swap MS's with writer betas. For my non writer betas, they do it because they love to read & love to help me. I have in the past thanked them with a gift card and I always thank them in the dedication of each book.

aus10phile
02-09-2014, 11:10 PM
I'm having a non-writer beta my book now because of his expertise in a given area. I'm asking for feedback on accuracy about different things, not about the story/writing. We'll see how that goes.

WriteMinded
02-10-2014, 01:39 AM
You can offer lunch, dinner, or help with a broken faucet. A nice thank you though, that is the best reward.

andiwrite
02-10-2014, 03:57 AM
I have never worked with a beta reader before. As my need for some grows, I have started to gather a list of people to help, but for those who are not writers, what do I offer in return? I can't just swap novels and return the favor.

Uh, the chance to read your amazing novel. Duh? :)

pich313
02-11-2014, 08:01 PM
just to throw another topic into the mix...

have you ever encountered an issue with beta readers who are writers simply hammering something because it's not the way they would have written it...not necessarily because it's wrong?

i understand the concept of listen to all the feedback and take what you agree with, but has this every been an issue?

railroad
02-11-2014, 08:22 PM
^^Yep. I had a paid editor who objected to the theme of substance abuse in my book. He had some family members who were addicts and was personally offended by the drug and alcohol use in my book. Wanted everyone in rehab by chapter three. Not a good situation.

Celeste Carrara
02-11-2014, 08:24 PM
just to throw another topic into the mix...

have you ever encountered an issue with beta readers who are writers simply hammering something because it's not the way they would have written it...not necessarily because it's wrong?

i understand the concept of listen to all the feedback and take what you agree with, but has this every been an issue?

No. I guess I've been really lucky with my betas :)
But, I am very clear up front about what I'm looking for when it comes to beta reading for me, and I'm very clear on how I will give my feedback for their work. I have had 2 issues which I don't even think are big deals, but I had one beta think my writing was too terrible for her to read lol and then I had one that wanted a longer commitment than I was able to provide. Those didn't work out, and no hard feelings from me. I have had about 4-5 different betas work with me from here that have really been wonderful. They were honest and pushed me in the areas I needed pushing. None of them ever tried to put their voice in my work. I have one beta I work with now & we have 2 completely different writing styles. I really enjoy her work & she has given me great feedback. But neither of us try to push our styles on the other.

summontherats
02-11-2014, 09:23 PM
^^Yep. I had a paid editor who objected to the theme of substance abuse in my book. He had some family members who were addicts and was personally offended by the drug and alcohol use in my book. Wanted everyone in rehab by chapter three. Not a good situation.

Whoa. That came from a paid editor? Unless it was a story about people struggling with rehab, that doesn't sound good. A paid professional should separate what's best for the book from their personal feelings.

pich313: I've had betas who gave me irrelevant, weird, out-of-the-blue advice. (Or the old "This isn't wrong, but here's how I'd do it..." switch-a-roo.) That seems to happen when they don't know how to describe what they're struggling with.

I mean, if they say they'd do it differently, they obviously think something is weak. The problem is that they're giving you a solution, but you don't know the problem. If you can get them to tell you what they're trying to solve, you can figure out how to address it (or if it's worth addressing at all.)

aus10phile
02-11-2014, 09:57 PM
just to throw another topic into the mix...

have you ever encountered an issue with beta readers who are writers simply hammering something because it's not the way they would have written it...not necessarily because it's wrong?

i understand the concept of listen to all the feedback and take what you agree with, but has this every been an issue?

I've had that happen in critique sessions/workshops more so than with beta readers. I think it's because beta readers are generally closer to your target audience on some level (because they've been interested in your book and offered to read it, or you found them based on the genres they like, etc.).

In a workshop setting full of random people, you get a lot of feedback from people who may never be interested in reading anything like your book, but they have to give feedback. It takes a lot of skill to be able to critique something that's not up your alley, I think.

WriteMinded
02-12-2014, 06:15 PM
just to throw another topic into the mix...

have you ever encountered an issue with beta readers who are writers simply hammering something because it's not the way they would have written it...not necessarily because it's wrong? No. I've been very lucky with betas.


i understand the concept of listen to all the feedback and take what you agree with, but has this every been an issue?A lot of critters give feedback on one or two chapters before committing to the whole MS. That gives both of you a chance to decide if you want to go ahead. If the beta's style doesn't work for you, you can find someone who is a better fit and vice versa.