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  1. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    What to do when Beta reading something great?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Gareth MH, Sep 14, 2016.

    The problem I'm having is that I'm beta reading a novel for a small fee and so far its all so good that there is really very little for me to help with.

    The first person narration is spot on, dialog is great, the characters are very relatable, the opening is solidly compelling. If anything so far the only thing I seem to be able to help with is that the plot seems to be dragging a little bit, but that may not be the case once things move on a little.

    I mean maybe this is not an issue, but I feel like I'd not be doing my job as a beta reader if there's nothing I can help them with. Thoughts?
     
  2. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    All feedback is valuable. It's important to know what the writer is doing right, as well as where where he or she is going wrong.

    Sometimes the hardest critique is the one where you make no suggestions at all. The danger is when the critic feels that some suggestion for improvement must be made somewhere, so that the clients can feel that they're getting their money's worth.

    I'm reminded of how easily a concept can be degraded by a number of people who feel compelled to add something of their own to it. The Russians have an expression for this: they call it"pissing in the soup."
     
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  3. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Someone is paying you to read their work and you are coming on here for what to do? You get paid to do this and you've never run into this situation? I thought beta reading was usually a swap or more of a volunteer thing. That's beside the point. But I do think this should be somewhat of a warning for people who come across potential beta readers who want to charge them.

    When I do a enter into a critique situation, I expect that I'm going to read something great. That's what I'm looking for. I would love to read something I think is flawless, and I certainly wouldn't feel like I didn't know what to say. I don't know if it's just me, but when I've gotten critiques I've secretly hoped that the people reading my story would love it. If you don't know how to give that kind of feedback as well as pointing out troubling issues, I'm not sure you should be giving critiques let alone charging for them.
     
  4. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    Pissing in the soup, yeah thats kind of what I feel like I'd be doing to make any suggestions, its a really great novel. I've got no problems telling the person what they're doing right, I was just wondering what peoples thoughts were.
     
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  5. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    Settle down fella. Its not like I sought them out, they sought me out. Ok? Usually I have a lot to say about peoples work and take the time to write several thousand words giving my detailed, page by page thoughts, I was just wondering if people would be ok receiving nothing but praise. Thats all.
     
  6. PGWhyte
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    PGWhyte Member Supporter

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    Depends if it's mine you have :superlaugh:I submitted mine yesterday, just to get a rough guide of where I'm at with everything. Reading your post gave me a strange thought, what if who I sent mine to (I paid) isn't who she says she is and its you reading mine :superlaugh:
     
  7. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    I doubt it. They know who's getting it. Good luck with your novel though.
     
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  8. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    Your whole posts sounds rather demented to me. If you're the kind of 'paid' beta reader that goes on forums asking for advice on how to give useful critique, I feel sorry for the author who paid you.
    OMG...
     
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  9. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    Jesus, I'm just wondering if people would be ok with receiving nothing but praise. Thats all.
     
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  10. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    You think a positive critique is about simple praise? Maybe I have too a high expectation of someone who is going to get paid to provide feedback that they know what they are doing to add value. But lucky you and unlucky author.
    OMG...
     
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  11. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    **FOR CLARIFICATION**

    When its been me if someone gave me nothing but praise I'd assume they didn't put much thought in or that they didn't care enough to be useful to me. But I'm just wondering if thats just MY neurosis and that most people would be fine with it as long as it was thoughtful praise.

    And its not like I'm doing this professionally, it works out to about $1 per hour that I'm spending on it. Christ, people! Way to make someone who was asking for some simple thoughts and feedback feel like shit. Great job.
     
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  12. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    If I received nothing but praise (whether I'd paid or just posted in the workshop here) I'd feel slightly like my time had been wasted because I by no means think my writing is perfect. There has to be something. Thoughtful praise would be very much appreciated, don't get me wrong, but I share your neurosis on that front. I would think most writers would.
     
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  13. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    Thank you, thats helpful. And as it turns out as I've gone further in I'm picking up some issues in the middle third. But thats of little consequence now.
     
  14. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    Well since you clarified it is NOT professional and that you only get $1, which is as far as I am concerned FREE, then I'm much more sympathetic. Otherwise, it is outrageous to me. So no need to feel shit, you just need to put a bit more CONTEXT in your post.

    My thoughts are this about praising in critiques:

    I hate it when people tell me it's great, the description was good, the emotions were there, I really liked the characters, BUT they do not pinpoint what is the exact source of the positivity. The language is eloquent, elegant and blah blah blah. I have gotten that and it drives me crazy, but it is FREE, so I don't complain because I cannot expect much from these people.

    What I want from positive praise is a person saying to me:
    • I really felt sad when this happened.
    • I really thought he was the perfect psycho, he reminded me of XYZ.
    • This part of the joke was hilarious, I can imagine this and that.
    • I like how you did that, it reminds me of XYZ.
    • You are awesome, you made me really care about these characters and this is why.
    • I can really relate to this character.
    • She seemed really evil to me.
    • The mood felt to be...

    Praise is useless without something to let the author know where they are going right. Positive critiques are fabulous when it's telling something useful.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2016
  15. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    No worries. In hindsight I should have been aware that writers might be touchy about such a subject. But regardless of how little the money is I want to do the right thing by the author. That was the reason for the question. And I have no problems with giving detailed thoughtful praise, its just at the time of posting this I was feeling like if everything was positive would the author take any of it seriously at all? Less of an issue now though as I've moved further into the manuscript some issues of lagging tension are cropping up.
     
  16. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    If your breakdown is really anywhere close to a dollar an hour, why are you charging anything? When you charge someone for any service, it sends the message you are a professional and are equipped to handle the project. It just doesn't seem like that's the case here. I have a hard time with anyone taking advantage of writers. Maybe that's not your intent, and maybe you are charging next to nothing like you claim, but because you seem unsure of how to deliver a positive critique, I worry your paid efforts could be damaging to your clients.
     
  17. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    I'm not going to get into it. And I'm not going taking advantage of anyone. Thank you.
     
  18. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    On the nothing but praise angle Linny has pretty much summed up my thoughts. Positive critique is fine, indeed desirable, so long as it is specific.. i really liked it when... with so and so you've really captured.... this action really makes me like/hate character etc .... its only puff when people say things like " all your characters are good and I really enjoyed this book"

    On the fee thing, whether a dollar an hour is reasonable depends I guess on how long it takes ( I mean if you take 100 hours to read the book and write your critique, then the author is still paying $100). However I share @deadrats concern that someone who is offering a paid critique service has to come on a forum to ask how to give critique... its a bit like going to a garage to find your car in bits and the mechanic frantically paging through 'auto transmissions for dummies'
     
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  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    You're in a lose/lose situation (or at least you were until you found some issues in the middle of the book).

    1. Offer only praise = author is pissed off because that's not valuable critique
    2. Find something to criticise just to earn your fee = author is pissed off because your feedback is off, or makes the change and ends up with a worse manuscript

    This is why I would never accept payment for critique. Somebody tried to pay me once, after I'd given my feedback, and I sent it back.
     
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  20. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    I have no problem giving detailed positive critique. That was never an issue. My concern was would people take a critique that was all positive seriously? Thats all. Its no longer an issue anyway. Nor did I set the price, what I'm getting is what I was offered and I'm happy to get it and is really just about prompt delivery. The only reason I brought it up is because it made me feel like I have to take it more seriously.

    Christ people, put your pitch forks away. I'm sorry I fucking asked.
     
  21. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    Yes, you get it. Thank you.
     
  22. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Although that said it is rare for any manuscript to be so perfect there's nothing to highlight , in fact even in published works it is rare to find one with Mary Poppins syndrome (ie its practically perfect in every way)
     
  23. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    ...You can get paid for beta-reading? :D

    I'm sure there is something you can point out, or at the very least explain why you think thing X was great because then the author knows they'll keep doing that in the future. You test-drive the product and analyze for the author what worked and why and what didn't and why; provide him/her guidance, in a way, even if only as a reader, no need to be a professional editor. Write him/her a 3-page analysis of only the good things if there are only good things.
     
  24. Gareth MH
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    Gareth MH Member

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    The issue I was having in the start was that it had clearly had a lot of time and effort spent on it, and was very tight. Any suggestions I could have made would not necessarily have made for a stronger manuscript.
     
  25. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    I refer back to my previous point about you not having the experience to be taking money for your services ... that is that an experienced beta reader would a) be able to make positive but worthwhile comments about that sort of section which would make the whole manuscript better - if only by highlighting the really good stuff so the writer knows what they've done well , and b) would probably have read the whole thing before worrying about these concerns , as part of the beta read is to see how different sections relate to each other.
     
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