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    • In order to reduce the number of new members requesting a Beta reader before they're really ready for one, we've instituted a 50 post requirement before you can start a thread seeking a Beta reader.
    • You can still volunteer to Beta for someone else; just please don't request someone to Beta for you until you're more familiar with the community and our members.

What if your Beta experience did not go as planned?

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WriteMinded

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I've had the betas where I'd give dozens of comments per chapter, only to receive "oh, it was good" as the only comment for mine. And I've had the betas who needed to write essays to defend their novel from my critical comments. It's never fun.

I'm also in a situation with a Beta right now who has made some comments that seem bigoted to me. I have a female character who is sexually active with multiple partners and this reader has called her a "slut". In a scene where it comes up that she is not interested in drugs, the reader basically commented "she's already a slut, why wouldn't she do drugs? Morality is an all or nothing thing." I also have two brothers in this story, one a gentleman/sweetheart, the other a selfish troublemaker, and when it's revealed the gentleman is actually gay, the reader said "Oh, the other brother should be gay, it'd make more sense."

I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.
I suggest you let it go. You wanted a critique, and you got one. You don't have to like the critter's attitudes or biases, but they are also free to mislike your characters. Surely you don't want to fall into the category of betas you describe in the sentence I've bolded above. Readers will be viewing your novel through the eyes of their own prejudices and preferences. You will have no opportunity to express your "concerns" to them. That's just a writer's cross to bear. :)
 

Willink29

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I remember the first time I bete-read for one of my best friends. She'd talked to me with such passion about her story, as well as beta-read many chapters of my manuscript, so I was more than willing to do it. Sadly it did not go as great as I'd expected.

Her manuscript wasn't that good. But as she had praised my characters and scenes, I almost felt morally obliged to do the same, so it was particularly hard to tell her what I actually thought about it. I'll always remember being awkwardly silent, thinking of the best way to tell her how I felt, as she stared at me with expectant eyes. I thought I was being mean. I even thought she would hate me, because I understood how vulnerable you can feel when you tell someone to critique your writing. I mean, it's something you created out of thin air, a piece of your soul. And then you just sit there, close your eyes, and wait for the slap.

But just how necessary that slap is! Art is so subjective you'll often find someone who'll have something to say about what you've written. It is our job to gather what is going to make us grow as better writers, and toss out of the window what would only drag us down.

As for my friend, she took it really well (since I had plenty of tact) and improved her writing a lot after that.​
 

Cascada

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I've had the betas where I'd give dozens of comments per chapter, only to receive "oh, it was good" as the only comment for mine. And I've had the betas who needed to write essays to defend their novel from my critical comments. It's never fun.

I'm also in a situation with a Beta right now who has made some comments that seem bigoted to me. I have a female character who is sexually active with multiple partners and this reader has called her a "slut". In a scene where it comes up that she is not interested in drugs, the reader basically commented "she's already a slut, why wouldn't she do drugs? Morality is an all or nothing thing." I also have two brothers in this story, one a gentleman/sweetheart, the other a selfish troublemaker, and when it's revealed the gentleman is actually gay, the reader said "Oh, the other brother should be gay, it'd make more sense."

I'm wondering if I should try to bring up my concerns with them at all, or try to take it in as a "different perspective." Curious to hear what other people would do in this situation.

The beta reader expressed a personal opinion. Perhaps the beta-reader lacks empathy, or through her own upbringing has a more 'old fashioned' approach to relationships. For some people, morality is all or nothing, for others it's complex and multi-faceted. There is a wide world of people out there, who are going to view stories in a different way. We don't have to think alike, and we don't have to view the world in the same way.

Personally, I wouldn't give feedback in the way she did. I wouldn't call the character a slut, or make assumptions about what she would or wouldn't do, but I wouldn't applaud her either. I'm fairly new at beta-reading, but thus far for me it's not even about my personal feelings. It's about being objective, seeing errors, seeing strong points, correcting mistakes, offering an opinion on what could be improved.
 

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Ugh.

Okay, so be careful out there when accepting betas. Look at someone's profile before you accept them, so that you have an idea of who they are. Because you just might have someone respond to your suggestion for a swap, and then put all of ten short comments on your work. It's really hard for me to work on a manuscript when the other person is basically using me.

Basically, watch out for people who offer to beta just to get their own work looked over.
 
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Comanche

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I just got an email from my very first beta reader - -

Hmmmm - not exactly happy about it - and not because she was critical. I have a thick skin, and long ago learned not to fall in love with my words.

I asked a grad student at a nearby university to look over my MS. As she seemed to be a typical starving grad student, I offered to add a little to her PayPal account.

What I got was this -

* she only read to page 21, then put the book down. That meant she read 15% of my work.

* her advice was for me to read a novel she liked and read two textbooks (one of which I had read awhile back.) She said she didn't think the story was going anyplace.

But, I also did a beta read for an AW member - and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. That person has offered to read mine. I think it will be interesting to compare the feedback.

Now - to find someone on AW to beta read mine while I make myself available again.
 

audibob1

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I haven't paged through this whole thread yet, so maybe someone's already said this, but I find it helps if you ask your beta readers to answer specific questions that warrant more than a yes or no answer. ("At what point, if any, did the story lose your interest?" "What was your least favorite character and why?") This way, they can't say, "It was good" as their feedback. For the beta readers that are never heard from again, it helps to set a deadline. If some readers don't respond after the deadline, then they probably weren't going to take it seriously in the first place.

I've had my same novel-betas read some of my short stories before, and often got the "it was good" answer, and I found that I was able to draw a lot more opinions out of them asking specific questions.
 
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rusoluchka

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I've been offering first chapter beta reads and did an entire ms beta read earlier. So far, I've had pretty decent experiences; however, a recent one actually made me lose sleep. We were discussing over email an issue I'd highlighted that no one had brought to their attention before and it quickly escalated to us misunderstanding each other. I don't believe they understood the feedback I was providing, and emailing back and forth wasn't helping. Needless to say, I feel awful that we couldn't communicate, but wish them the best of luck.

Just a word of caution that you can be passionate about your story and your idea, but don't let that passion prevent you from listening.
 

D_Shalayek

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So I'm going through the beta process right now with a short story. After my second round of betas, everyone seemed to love it. They all said it was really fun to read, but a few of my readers had some very minor understandable grievances. I fixed the grievances, and submitted the material for a third round of beta reading.

And now it's universally panned. :Headbang:

I think the lesson learned is, if everyone seems to like it, don't touch it. At all.
 

Nerdilydone

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Ugh. So be careful who you swap with. I just had a person drop off the face of the earth after I commented on their work. They not only didn't beta mine, but they aren't responding to emails or messages on here.

I'm also having a phobia-driven panic about them stealing my work, but I'm pretty sure that's just paranoia. Worst case scenario I have plenty of evidence of copyright, but I hope I'm just panicking.
 

rhiannon_writes

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Just had one of my only beta readers finally get back to me with her full comments and I'm torn between excitement and sheer disappointment. She adored my book. She had basically no critiques to speak of. I tried ferreting out some more concrete answers, but she just really liked it. I know she read it and isn't just pretending to, because she gushed for quite awhile about her favorite parts and characters and details she would've had to pay attention to notice. I'll take the self-esteem boost and move on at this point because I don't think I'm going to wring many more useful comments from her. But finding anyone to beta (especially a 103,000+ k novel) is a challenge. She's one of only two beta readers I could find. While I'm flattered she liked it so much, it's a very early draft and I know it needs a lot more work. It's just disappointing that now I'm basically down to one beta reader, and I don't know how I'm going to find more. I wanted her critiques. I pleaded with her to find negative (for lack of a better word) things to say, and she did, but it wasn't really stuff that helped. She said things like "double-check how to use emdashes I'm not sure myself if you used them right." Which I probably should, but I wanted her to rip apart my plot and writing and characters and all, but she couldn't think of any issues.

It's frustrating because I know I should be excited. I am! Someone liked my book! Hooray! But it's not really even a second draft yet. It's draft 1.5 at best, and written in a frantic coffee-fueled two week haze. It NEEDS work, and as much as I appreciate her being a fan, I want that criticism so everyone can enjoy it like she did. Aaaand now I'm back to square one. Sigh.
 

CJSimone

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Just had one of my only beta readers finally get back to me with her full comments and I'm torn between excitement and sheer disappointment. She adored my book. She had basically no critiques to speak of. I tried ferreting out some more concrete answers, but she just really liked it. I know she read it and isn't just pretending to, because she gushed for quite awhile about her favorite parts and characters and details she would've had to pay attention to notice. I'll take the self-esteem boost and move on at this point because I don't think I'm going to wring many more useful comments from her. But finding anyone to beta (especially a 103,000+ k novel) is a challenge. She's one of only two beta readers I could find. While I'm flattered she liked it so much, it's a very early draft and I know it needs a lot more work. It's just disappointing that now I'm basically down to one beta reader, and I don't know how I'm going to find more. I wanted her critiques. I pleaded with her to find negative (for lack of a better word) things to say, and she did, but it wasn't really stuff that helped. She said things like "double-check how to use emdashes I'm not sure myself if you used them right." Which I probably should, but I wanted her to rip apart my plot and writing and characters and all, but she couldn't think of any issues.

It's frustrating because I know I should be excited. I am! Someone liked my book! Hooray! But it's not really even a second draft yet. It's draft 1.5 at best, and written in a frantic coffee-fueled two week haze. It NEEDS work, and as much as I appreciate her being a fan, I want that criticism so everyone can enjoy it like she did. Aaaand now I'm back to square one. Sigh.

Hi rhiannon_writes. Have you gotten feedback from the other beta reader yet and did they find a lot needing work? You say you know it needs work, but do you think maybe it's just at the line level? Beta readers have different approaches and some will look only at the bigger picture things (line level critiques can be overwhelming and won't be a strength for some), and maybe you actually are good with the bigger areas of plot, characters, pacing and such.

I don't think an all positive beta read is useless. It tells you that it already worked for a reader. I'm inclined to say she's not just trying to be nice if you were making a point of seeking more critique. You can even let yourself feel good about it.

But I'd definitely still seek out other betas and continue with your own line edits.

Good luck!

CJ