1. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    How did you find your beta reader?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Albirich, Jun 14, 2015.

    I know a lot of people have friends or family beta reading their work, but they can be unreliable, and sometimes might even hurt your book if they don't know how to critique or they don't want to hurt your feelings. The smartest thing to do would have someone - a mere acquaintance, or an internet pal, to help critique your writing. Of course, it comes back to finding someone with the knowledge to help you, and so forth.

    Currently I'm without one. My friends aren't the literary type, my family is even worse...regardless I wouldn't trust any of them with my work...so I'm just curious how you found yours :) working on and on without critique will leave you with your faults, and chances of them improving being slim to none.
     
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  2. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    You took the question straight out of my brain. Thank you. I hope there are good answers here.
     
  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I have a friend who's also a writer and has pretty much offered to beta anything. It sucks we can't all be so lucky :< Making friends with and forming a little network of similarly arty friends / acquaintances is honestly just unbelievably useful. Being active in online communities like this one would probably be the best advice I could give, reaching out to people and always giving before you ask for anything yourself. I'm like %89 sure I've even seen programs to help pair up writers and readers but I don't have links, you'd have to look into it yourself.
     
  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I mainly find mine over the internet but ever since I settled here at WF I have a mutual "I do you, you do me" relationship with a handful of members.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I recruited several beta readers from WF, but only one actually read my entire work, and her observations were extremely helpful. In fact, one of her observations (not related to my work) was that there can be drawbacks to having fellow writers critique your work - they tend to approach the work as writers, rather than as readers. They focus on technique instead of the emotional impact of the story on the reader and sometimes try to push your story in the direction they would want it to go rather than where you want it to go. It may be that the best beta readers are a mix of writers and avid readers.
     
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  6. TiffanyAnne
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    TiffanyAnne New Member

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    I hear you regarding family members. I gave my Mom one of my novels when I was 15 and got this critique: "Oh, honey, it was wonderful! Now put on your raincoat, it's really coming down out there."

    Needless to say, I needed more than that :p My friends hate reading as much as kids hate homework. So.

    Mainly, I joined a few writing forums a year ago and offered to beta read other people's work and naturally, they offered to do the same. One site I had success with (as I said, a year ago, it may be different now) was Absolute Write. I still talk to them and we swap work from time to time.

    As someone else mentioned, definitely join forums (such as this one). It's the best way to learn and grow as a writer. You'll find someone who will help you. Good luck!
     
  7. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Moms make the worst betas, bless'em.

    Mine read a novella I wrote when I was younger and her only comment was that when she was reading it, she forgot I was the one who wrote it. To this day I don't know what that means.
     
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  8. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, this thread is basically becoming a recruitment station for beta readers, right?
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    By going to the "collaboration" forum and asking for a beta reader.

    Edit:
    No. That would be the whole point of the collaboration forum. (see: above)
     
  10. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it's just me, but I sense anger in pretty much every post I read from you.
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That is actually one of the best, and most genuine compliments you can receive as a writer! It means your story was so engrossing that the reader 'forgot' they knew the author, and got sucked into the story.

    I know I said that to a friend once, who wrote a memoir. And it was true. I read the first chapter, which was mostly a 'begats' detailing a brief life of her parents and their extended family. While this was good, and interesting, it wasn't till the second chapter, where my friend began talking about her own life, that I truly did forget I wasn't reading some amateur effort. I became totally engrossed. She has a lively writing style and recalled so many interesting anecdotes about her really unusual earlier life, that I did truly forget it was about her. It's a wonderful book, which, sadly, she does not intend to publish because she's worried about repercussions within her extended family. She wrote it for her grandchildren, and that's fair enough. What a legacy!

    The best ways to find betas—in my experience anyway—is to 'let it be known' that you've written a novel. Many people will probably ask to read it. Give it to them, even if y0u think they might not like it. I've been surprised that people I thought would not like my novel actually did, and they gave me incredibly helpful feedback. Some others, whom I assumed might like the novel because of its subject matter, were lukewarm, or found it difficult to get started reading it. This had nothing to do with whether these people were friends or family either.

    —I do have a 'thing' about not letting anybody read my stuff until it's finished, though. I do not want betas offering opinions on how they think my story or characters ought to be developing while I'm still developing them myself. I really cringe when I read threads here on the forum asking for reads of 'my first couple of chapters.' Unless the reading is ONLY for style, this, I feel, is a huge mistake. It turns your story into everybody's story, and robs you of the opportunity to come up with an entire story all by yourself. And conflicting opinions may well cause you to prematurely dump the whole thing.—

    I think the trick is not to ask for betas. Wait for them to fall into your lap. Folk who are interested enough to ask to read your stuff, will usually make at least a good attempt to do so. (Plus you're not putting people on the spot by asking.)

    It is also VERY important to let them know beforehand that they are free to either walk away without comment, or free to say 'it's not my thing, I couldn't get into it.' Or not being able to finish it. Tell them this reaction will NOT affect your friendship in any way. What you really want is honest feedback. Telling you 'I can't get into it' is honest feedback. When this happens...even if it's hard to do ...you must accept that you've received honest feedback from your nearest and dearest, and you must accept it without any anger, disappointment or grudge. Thank them for making the effort (even if they didn't! :)) and move on.

    If they are able to tell you why they lost interest, or couldn't get interested in the first place, do pay close attention to what they say, though. Then judge for yourself whether the fault is your writing, or just a difference of subjective opinion. Also pay attention to the kinds of people who do like your writing, who get sucked into the story, involved with your characters, concerned about the outcome, etc. These people are your target audience. Pay very VERY close attention to any criticisms these people offer you. These are the people who will ultimately buy your story, so make it as good for them as you can.

    ...........

    I don't expect betas to edit for grammar. If your MS needs a major grammar edit, then you probably need to do a bit more study before you embark on a writing career! If your grammar is poor, you may have the vision to be a writer but you lack the tools, so to speak.

    However, it's nice if a beta points out a typo, or notices something they think can be improved with different word choices (like spotting an over-use of adjectives and adverbs, or frequently repeated phrases, etc.) But I'd say it's most important to get your betas to concentrate on story flow, character development, looking for plot holes, continuity errors, etc. That's the kind of stuff you won't necessarily see by yourself.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2015
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  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My son has been an excellent critic so far, he's an avid reader and knows his stuff. He'll beta read the book when it's finished. I don't know yet who else I'll be recruiting. People in my critique group have read every slog of a chapter as it's been written so I don't know if any of them will be interested in the final version. But I plan to ask.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just one point to add to my above lengthy tome...! You don't really need a person with 'knowledge' to be your beta reader. You need a person who likes to read. Period. Look for feedback on how your story grabs/doesn't grab them.

    Of course a few 'knowledgeable' readers who can help you 'fix' problems are great to have, but don't turn others away. You should never rely on only one beta. Get as many as you can, to give yourself an overview. Sometimes it's the simple readers who are the most help. They'll tell you what they like and don't like as readers. So don't turn anybody down because they're not an expert on writing. If somebody asks to read what you've written, let them! If they are unhelpful, spiteful or judgemental, just suck it up and move on.
     
  14. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    @jannert Got to disagree with this 'I think the trick is not to ask for betas. Wait for them to fall into your lap. Folk who are interested enough to ask to read your stuff, will usually make at least a good attempt to do so'
    I've had several people ask to read my last. One, a writer said she wouldn't be able to start it for 3 days - none of them came back to me at all. I don't mind being told it's not really for them.
    Then, as I've probably mentioned before, I organised a swap amongst crime writers. Some have turned round really quickly as I have done. Others I've critiqued theirs and not only have I not got a thank you, I've not had a critique in return.
    One of the better writers in the group returned critiques quickly but they were of little value. He either put no effort in or was useless at critiquing.
    Finding a good swap partner is very difficult.
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, yes I don't disagree with you at all. Everybody's experiences are different. I'm sorry your volunteers didn't work out. Bummer.

    You're right about finding good swap partners. They are like gold dust, and you KNOW when you've found one. You go away on a high, enthused about making the changes they suggest that you realise will solve a story problem, make the whole thing easier to read, connect a few dots, etc. These moments are fantastic for a writer. Much better than 'gee, I really loved it, when will it be published.' Nice, but not terribly helpful. And maybe not an honest reaction, either.

    I have never asked anybody to read my story. However, I have had people ask to read it—and then not get back to me at all, or get back to me with honest negatives (I really can't get into it) or with polite excuses, usually centered around 'I'll get around to it someday, but I've not got the time, etc.' I used to get a bit pissed off about that last one, back in the day when I laboriously printed off copies and posted them off, at rather large expense, because I felt ...shit, why ask me to send it to you if you don't have time to read it? But then I thought ...woops. They aren't writers themselves, and probably don't think about that aspect of the situation. Or ...they actually did try to read it, didn't like it, and don't want to say that for fear of hurting my feelings. Or maybe they truly have been suddenly swamped with stuff they didn't expect to happen. (I can totally relate to THAT at the moment!)

    Now I don't send printed copies any more, but if somebody asks to read it, I send it as email attachments in RTF format. Much less painful!

    When I am asked to 'read' for somebody, I try to be honest about when I'll get around to it. Right now I have 5 people asking for my feedback. Three of them have completed novels and two are asking for partial feedback on something I've already critiqued. It would not be honest of me to say 'oh, I'll get back to you right away.' If I say, hey I'll get to you next week, next month—if I'm lucky—I'm being honest. I know it's difficult for a writer to send something away, then not hear back soon enough. Heck, you want feedback TOMORROW, don't you? But that's just the way it goes. And many of us, myself included, are also trying to work on our own writing as well as get on with life 'out there.' So patience is definitely a virtue.

    When I beta read for people, I always read the entire thing first, without my critical pen in hand (unless I spot a typo.) Once I have the shape and flow of the thing in my mind, I go back and read a second time, and do a detailed critique in the process. This takes AGES.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2015
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  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    This is the exact process I have in mind for when I do my first Beta read. Read as a reader and then as a writer. So cool to see someone else describe it like that.
     
  17. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I am discussing the basic underlying premise of my novel(s) with a few, trusted people, and finding them responding positively to the concept. The conversation soon leads to them either being amenable or volunteering to beta read for me when I have something to read. I call this process, "luck".
     
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I try to get different betas for each book - I usually just ask on Facebook or something, but that might be easier because my Facebook is just for writing, so everyone who links to me there is interested in reading.

    As I get more experienced, I'm finding that I need betas less. I can usually just put the book away for a couple months and then read it myself and make changes. But good betas were really valuable early on, and I still like to have them when I try something new (new genre or whatever).
     
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  19. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't use Betas.
     
  20. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I've seen something similar mentioned more than a few times now.

    People write something, put it down for a while, then come back to it and have a very different opinion on the writing's quality.

    Would you recommend doing this even for a newbie?
     
  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd definitely recommend that all authors put their work away and come back to it with fresh eyes, for sure. You get so caught up in what you're trying to do the first time around that you may not notice whether you actually succeed or not.

    But I think betas are really important for newer writers, for sure. One of the reasons I can sort of do without them now is because I know what they've often said in the past - I should put in more description, I should watch repeated words, my male characters feel wimpy, etc. So now that I know those are my weak areas, I can anticipate that I'll have similar issues with current projects and correct them myself without prompting. But I learned that they were issues because numerous betas pointed them out.
     
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  22. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    So helpful to be able draw on that experience. Thanks again @BayView.
     
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  23. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I recruited my first beta reader by looking in my social circle for someone who reads avidly and whose taste/standard matches up with what I'm writing.
    I also provisionally booked someone else from this forum, who mentioned they liked a sample I posted in the workshop and when I PM'd to ask, said they'd be happy to read more.

    There's every chance that they won't pan out as amazing beta readers, which is why I'm recruiting early. By the time I'm finished and desperate for feedback, hopefully I will have figured out if they are going to be someone I can rely on!

    I've become a beta by replying to someone who put out a request for one on the forum. I think it's a little unfair to ask others to do something I won't commit to doing myself, and reading someone else's work has really made me consider what I want from my betas when the time comes.
    Also, who knows? Maybe reading someone else's work will create a quid pro quo situation and I'll have snagged beta reader number three :)
     
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  24. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Internet is one route. Friends, even avid readers, don't tend to give much constructive feedback. Another route is to find or start a local critique group. See the Member Guide of our group for ideas on how it might run.

    There are several writing groups in our area, whose focus varies - some write to prompts and compare, others mainly do critique of each others' projects.
     
  25. EmptySoul
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    EmptySoul Active Member

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    I married her. Now while that worked for me, your results may vary.
     
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