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View Full Version : I'm a little confused about this site's definition of "Beta Reader."



magickalfantasy
02-25-2014, 09:01 PM
And before you point me to the stickies, I've already read them. More than once, and each time has left me more confused than the other. I've been told my whole life that a Beta Reader is someone who reads your books and basically edits it. Takes care of grammatical errors, tells you what you should and shouldn't fix, etc. This doesn't seem to be the same definition that Absolute Write has of a Beta Reader. From what I've seen, a Beta Reader just makes sure that the manuscript is ready to be sent to a publisher and by the time it gets to the Beta Reader, it should already have gone through extensive editing.

Which brings me to the reason I'm actually posting this thread. Not only for clarification, but also because I don't actually know what I'm asking for. As you can see, my post count is too low to request help in Share Your Work, but this article has a deadline that I need to keep and I don't think I'll be up to 50 posts by the time that deadline comes, and I kind of need help as soon as possible. Here's the problem:

Two of my 3 beta readers that I know in person have decided they wanted to stop talking to me, so now I'm stuck. I've been working on an article that needs to be <1,500 - 2,000 words long, but I ended up writing it to over 4,000 words long. I was hoping I could find someone who could look it over and help me cut unnecessary things from it to shorten it because I'm too close to the story to really do it myself. I don't know if I need to post in Share Your Work for that, or if I need to post that here.

Putputt
02-25-2014, 09:29 PM
I think the definition of Beta reader is pretty fluid, depending on you and your beta.

Maybe you could post a thread in here specifying what you need? I'd provide information like:

-What type of article it is
-Word length
-What you need from the beta (e.g. need them to cut the word length, or need them to check for grammar etc)
-When you need it by
-Whether you are open to doing a swap in return, and if so, what genres you're interested in

Good luck!

DeleyanLee
02-25-2014, 09:32 PM
AFAIK, "our" definition is simple: The beta reader is the one who reads the manuscript after the alpha reader (usually the author). As a general consideration to others, the alpha reader/author does all the work they can before passing it on to any beta readers.

What work that beta reader is requested to do depends upon the author's need with that manuscript. Some writers need help with line edits, some with plot holes, some with consistency, some with any combination of that or more. Not all beta readers are a good fit for all writers so there's a lot of discussion about "fits", which might be the cause of your confusion.

Don't post your original work outside of a protected area, like SYW. Posting it in SYW protects your first publication rights, which is important if you want to get paid for your writing.

If you have too many words in your article, I'd suggest you take a look at the topic and laser-focus your points to cut out extra verbage until/unless you can find someone to help you.

Maryn
02-25-2014, 09:40 PM
My own personal definition is derived from the source of the term, a beta user or beta tester, borrowed from industry. This is the person who uses a product the manufacturer believes is ready to market in its present form. The beta uses it and tells the manufacturer what's still not right with it.

To me, that translates to the beta reader being a person who sees the manuscript when the author believes it cannot be improved and is ready to submit to agents or publishers. It doesn't need editing or corrections. It will already be polished, as free of all mistakes as is humanly possible.

Someone who sees the work at earlier stages can be invaluable, of course, but that person is a critique partner or writing buddy, not a beta reader.

Maryn, firm on this definition, at least for herself

magickalfantasy
02-25-2014, 10:08 PM
Thanks for the answer. I'll probably post a request here after I get my edited version back from the one person I was able to send it to.

cornflake
02-25-2014, 10:18 PM
And before you point me to the stickies, I've already read them. More than once, and each time has left me more confused than the other. I've been told my whole life that a Beta Reader is someone who reads your books and basically edits it. Takes care of grammatical errors, tells you what you should and shouldn't fix, etc. This doesn't seem to be the same definition that Absolute Write has of a Beta Reader. From what I've seen, a Beta Reader just makes sure that the manuscript is ready to be sent to a publisher and by the time it gets to the Beta Reader, it should already have gone through extensive editing.

Which brings me to the reason I'm actually posting this thread. Not only for clarification, but also because I don't actually know what I'm asking for. As you can see, my post count is too low to request help in Share Your Work, but this article has a deadline that I need to keep and I don't think I'll be up to 50 posts by the time that deadline comes, and I kind of need help as soon as possible. Here's the problem:

Two of my 3 beta readers that I know in person have decided they wanted to stop talking to me, so now I'm stuck. I've been working on an article that needs to be <1,500 - 2,000 words long, but I ended up writing it to over 4,000 words long. I was hoping I could find someone who could look it over and help me cut unnecessary things from it to shorten it because I'm too close to the story to really do it myself. I don't know if I need to post in Share Your Work for that, or if I need to post that here.

What you describe in the bolded is, as you allude to, an editor (and a proofreader and etc.). I'm not sure who or where is describing that as beta reading, as editors charge money for their services.

That's not to say that friends or betas won't sometimes do some of those things for one another but you're saying people have told you that beta readers edit your book for free and then, well, what did those people tell you editors, proofreaders, etc., do?

Bloo
02-25-2014, 10:23 PM
LOL see to me, a beta reader is the person who reads it next (Alpha, Beta) etc. What Stephen King terms his "Ideal Reader" (IR). I've probably been terming it wrong.

In my writing though, things are a little different, I usually send it to a couple of readers I trust implicetly to give me good honest feedback. Sometimes it's feedback I don't like "This is too melodramatic...and not in a good way" or "this really doesn't sound like your voice."

When I get thumbs up from those writers, this is where being a playwright is nice. I like to host a reading. Get some actors I know, like, and trust and we sit down and read the script aloud along with some listeners. This is where being a playwright again is nice, because scripts are meant to be performed, read aloud and be seen (if you will). I take notes as to what works and what doesn't and talk to the actors and the "audience" about what they liked or didn't like. Then I go into rewrites.

USUALLY!

LOL I have been known to skip the second step, particularly for some of my 10 minute plays, but that's my process in an ideal world.

I know this doesn't really help you, so in regards to your article. yeah cutting words SUCKS! But really look for any rabbit trails, side tracks, etc you can cut. Then look for anything you might have stated more then once that isn't necessary, and cut those.

lise8
02-26-2014, 04:20 PM
as it is only a short work, I am sure many would be happy to have a look for you. What is it about? You say article then story, which is it? I could be interested to 'beta' read it for you, and my beta reading style is to do line by line and to tell you if I feel lost, confused, intrigued... and why I think that. I am by no mean the 'Ideal Reader', I have a lot to work to do on improving my WIP. But in the way I see it, any feedback is useful of it reflects truly the reading experience that person had.

I would also second the highlighting thing. This is what I was taught when working out resume/ synopsis ( an exercise French pupils have to endure throughout high school!). Highlight the subject, the verb and the direct complement in each sentence. Read that only. This in itself should make sense. If it doesn't, edit till it does. Then work the style around it.
As you have a word count deadline, attribute your word counts for each paragraph/ section, and stick to it!

Good luck. Let us know when your work is ready for beta reading!

Shelley-Bell
02-26-2014, 06:20 PM
Can you let us know what your piece is about and if its something we have any experience or interest in I'm sure someone will jump in.
At 1500 - 2000 words, its a reasonable size to undertake.
I am pretty new here, also under the 50 posts but am looking just for critting and beta work, no WIP for me just a love of words and a nit picking / details nature.
Good Luck
Shelley

Maryn
02-26-2014, 07:23 PM
Shelley, you don't need 50 posts to offer to beta read or to write critiques at any Share Your Work board.

Either (or both) are excellent ways to get some reciprocity going, giving before expecting to receive.

Maryn, pleased to meet you

amergina
02-26-2014, 07:41 PM
And over in Novels, there's the return of the Beta Project, run by the very lovely Sage:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=285798

Chase
02-26-2014, 09:54 PM
To me, that translates to the beta reader being a person who sees the manuscript when the author believes it cannot be improved and is ready to submit to agents or publishers. It doesn't need editing or corrections. It will already be polished, as free of all mistakes as is humanly possible.

Someone who sees the work at earlier stages can be invaluable, of course, but that person is a critique partner or writing buddy, not a beta reader.

Maryn's definitions work for me. I have two longtime critique partners whom I can't do without.

Mellanah
03-01-2014, 06:13 PM
Don't post your original work outside of a protected area, like SYW. Posting it in SYW protects your first publication rights, which is important if you want to get paid for your writing.


What counts as a protected area? Something with a password? Also, how much can you post without affecting first publication rights? I've seen people post snippets of their work all over the place.

Maryn
03-01-2014, 07:14 PM
A "protected area" here (and elsewhere) is a board where a password is required both to post and to view what is posted. Anything posted there does not meet the legal definition of having been published.

What's posted on a board or site open to the public, no membership or password needed, is published.

I'm no lawyer, but I presume you could post any amount AW would tolerate, behind the password which protects the various Share Your Work boards. I have no idea how much of a snippet you can publish online before it affects your first publication rights.

Maryn, pleased to meet you