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Carmen Baxter
02-07-2014, 02:10 PM
As I'm nearing the final revision of my book before it's ready to beta, I'm thinking more and more about my beta experiences. The value of finding beta readers, of course, is getting potential readers' perspectives. What works and what doesn't, which subplot falls flat, which passages were hard to read etc.

But often you can only find beta readers if you offer a swap. In theory, I'm fine with that. I've finished my MS and need a break anyway. Trouble is, finding a partner with whom to swap can turn into a nightmare.

I like my critiques tough and, well, critical. I will always summarize the good and the bad, because I believe a writer can learn from both, but I don't hang around leaving cute comments. When I beta, I put a lot of effort into it. I'd rather overmark, so that the author can pick what he/she likes and discard the rest.
You don't always get back what you put in, though.

But what I dislike most about beta swaps is this: I don't want to swap manuscripts with those who have trouble spelling, or don't know the simple mechanics of writing. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind "proofreading" an MS, but I cannot proofread, line edit and content edit at the same time. And I don't care to, if all I get back on my MS is "I couldn't really find anything wrong with it."

So how do I go about finding a person who is at my level? And by that I mean someone who can string more than one sentence together, but hasn't yet been published?

I feel like there should be an objective grading system out there. From 0=absolute beginner to 10=seasoned pro with several books under their belt.

Most people feel they're a better writer than they are. Some think they are worse than they are. In my objective grading system, I fluctuate between a 5 and a 7, depending on what day of the week you catch me. A 5 when I realize that, once again, I've overwritten a chapter (=flowery and cringe-worthy); a 7 when I'm quite happy with my writing, and think it's just a skip away from being submittable.

So, if you could create such a grading system, how would you define the individual grades? And how would you grade yourself on that scale? And how would you use this system to find others on your level?

EMaree
02-07-2014, 02:57 PM
So how do I go about finding a person who is at my level? And by that I mean someone who can string more than one sentence together, but hasn't yet been published?

I feel like there should be an objective grading system out there. From 0=absolute beginner to 10=seasoned pro with several books under their belt.

The best way I've found for this is for each side of the swap to have chapters up in Share Your Work, so you can get an idea of their grasp of mechanics and (more importantly, for me, because it's more subjective) their personal voice.

I'm not a big fan of the "grading" idea because it's all personal. Plenty of new writers think they're ready for publication, and plenty of pros have confidence issues and think they're not up to much.

(Then there's the issue of the many excellent beta readers who don't write...)

I really like the Share Your Work coffee grading system (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=88154), where you indicate the kind of beta feedback you need with a type of coffee.

Putputt
02-07-2014, 03:07 PM
So how do I go about finding a person who is at my level? And by that I mean someone who can string more than one sentence together, but hasn't yet been published?

There are probably many different ways of finding the right betas for you. For myself, I just spent time participating on AW. Over time, I noticed people whose posts resonated with me and started chatting with them. It has been pretty much fool-proof. All of the betas I have swapped with this way have ended up being long-term betas whose writing and crits I admire. The only bad experiences I've had betaing have been with strangers.



I feel like there should be an objective grading system out there. From 0=absolute beginner to 10=seasoned pro with several books under their belt.

Most people feel they're a better writer than they are. Some think they are worse than they are. In my objective grading system, I fluctuate between a 5 and a 7, depending on what day of the week you catch me. A 5 when I realize that, once again, I've overwritten a chapter (=flowery and cringe-worthy); a 7 when I'm quite happy with my writing, and think it's just a skip away from being submittable.

So, if you could create such a grading system, how would you define the individual grades? And how would you grade yourself on that scale? And how would you use this system to find others on your level?

Ermm...no. I don't think this system works because it relies on the individual grading themselves, which I don't think is accurate. I connect with my betas based on more than just a number. I might give myself a five. Someone else might give herself a five. All we know about each other is that we see ourselves as fives. That doesn't mean our concept of what qualifies as a five is the same, or that we are accurate with our perception of our own writing.

chompers
02-07-2014, 03:13 PM
This is difficult to answer, for a few reasons. One, as mentioned already, it's subjective. Two, even though someone could be published, it doesn't necessarily mean they would be very helpful. I've seen some people who are published, but their posts are riddled with mistakes. And then there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum, where they're concise in what they say and have great grammar, but they're not published. So I don't think being published really gives an accurate indication.

And then there's also the fact that everyone's beta styles are different. Some need constant encouragement, while others want just the cold, hard truth.

There is a Willing Betas thread, and the people there tend to go into more detail about how they beta. That could be a good place to look and get an idea of who would be a good fit. Other than that, it's really a case of trial and error.