Friday, March 23, 2012

What Kind Of Beta Reader Are You?


Yes. I’m at the awesome stage. With my WIP done, I’ve called on my amazing colleagues who are sacrificing time, sleep, and probably sanity in order to help me out. ;)

I love this part. It’s my favorite part of the writing stage. It’s so fun to tweak and flesh out and rearrange… not to mention hear what’s working or not.

It’s incredible what a fresh pair of eyes can do. It’s soooo beneficial for any manuscript to be ripped to shreds so it can be pieced back together and become all pretty and shiny.

I prefer to use the tier effect, where I use a reader, apply the changes I deem fit, and pass on to the next person and so on. It minimizes the amount of readers and you end up with a tighter project.

One thing the fabulous Jolene Perry taught me was to read your MS in a different format (iPad, paper, kindle) between readers. Such brilliant advice! I just finished a read on my ipad and it’s crazy what pops out at you. Also, time away from your project is the BEST editing tool ever.

But what I’m curious about, is what kind of beta are YOU? Each reader has different strengths. I know when I read for someone, my strengths tend to go to the actual writing. Sentence structure, paragraph flow, word choice, etc… so when I need a reader, I find CP’s who will look at content, progression, whether or not the tension is believable or if the tension is in the right place and so on.

The best way to judge a great beta is to read their work. I’ve tried to align myself with people that not only know their stuff but also have stories that I can’t put down.

On the flip side, when you beta, you have to be careful. There are writers out there who are looking more for approval than help. People who want fluffy “I love it” responses. Hopefully most of us are past this stage. I know I am. But sometimes it’s a good thing to ask what kind of crit the author is looking for beforehand.

And as a general rule, if someone betas for you, beta for them. I know I’ve had stories I’ve put in a line edit for where the person has never reciprocated. There’s nothing more irksome. It’s a one-way ticket to lose a great reader. (IMO)

What do you look for in a beta? Do you have awesome betas? What are your strengths? And if you haven’t given a virtual hug to your betas lately, go do it.

Red. Head. Out. :D 

43 comments:

  1. LOL. Well, I've already talked with you about how I beta ... I don't really mince words. I like to tell people what is working and what isn't. My strengths tend to focus more on the grammar, and I have a good eye for that. But I also like to draw the writer's attention to character discrepancies (Would character A really do that? What action might better portray their emotions at this stage? etc.) I love the idea of a tiered system - I haven't done it, but I have been critiquing one book for so many reads and rereads that things begin to blur, so a fresh set of eyes would probably be better for writers(and frankly, less annoying to me as a reader ...).

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  2. I want betas who spot everything, from flow to continuity to grammar mistakes. Fortunately I have three awesome critique partners who cover all of that.
    I tend to see the small stuff, although pacing issues rally jump out at me.

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  3. I seriously read for the BEST. PEOPLE. EVER.

    For example, I just got to read MORGAN SHAMY'S book, which is SURE to land her a book deal ;-O


    What kind of reader am I? You tell me, lol.

    I think I'm MUCH, MUCH stronger at picking apart the story, rather than the small stuff - unless you forget to put emotion in. Then I start to go all crazy every other paragraph, because for me, there's no story without emotion.

    can I just say that I can't WAIT to how this MS reads when you're ready to send it off?

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  4. LOL! There you go making my day, Jo ;)

    What kind of reader are you? A BRILLIANT one... You have the capability to step outside of the story and see exactly what needs to be done. It floors me. Yeah, I have the BEST. BETAS. EVER. :D *coughs Jolene*

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  5. I do the tier effect too. And yes my CPs are awesome! I give them hugs constantly :) I tell them to be constructive. I don't need them to sugar coat it. Give it to me straight :)

    Have a great weekend Morgan!

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  6. Give me a brutal beta read over an "I love it!" any day. I want my MS to bleed.

    I tend to go for overall feeling, pacing, and characterization in my beta reads. But if there are glaring grammatical errors that are repeated, I point them out.

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  7. I love my online critique group. Five of them graciously critiqued my first WIP. I submitted it to them in Word and each of them would track their changes and add comments. When I had them all, I merged all of those into one document. It was fascinating that sometimes I could go a couple of pages with nothing, and then everyone would comment on a paragraph. It really didn't matter what they said (I liked their input anyway); that paragraph needed help.

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  8. I'm at the same stage. Awesome post about beta reading. I think I do best with content, paragraphs, sentence structure, overused words. But I do some overall arcs etc too. I'm really not good at grammar.

    I'd prefer a harsh beta read. I'm putting it out there and want to know how make it the best it can be.

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  9. I love beta-reading. And I think I do a good job at it. I take very thorough notes as I read, write down page numbers, etc. I write down what I like or think doesn't work. But, who am I to critize what I'm reading. More suggest :)

    Great post dear cuz!

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  10. Very interesting post. I've never heard of the tier effect thing. Maybe you can elaborate on that.

    Re crits: I'm like you. I tend to be a line-by-line PUGS and pacing person, but if I print a sub out and sit in my easy chair with a pencil, I tend to beta more than crit. (Those two things are different in my vocabulary...Beta = broader issues, crit = line-by-line, intense and close up).

    And about the Kindle thing - YES! Better still, have the voice option read it out loud TO you. You'd be surprised how many things your eyes will blow past even at that point. I caught several things in a well-critted prologue but having my Kindle read to me.

    Great post, Morgan! = )

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    1. I never thought about using my eReader to read to me. I usually read the story from my monitor out loud to my wife. After I incorporate suggestions, she prints a word doc and reads it out loud to me. That has helped some. I had friends read my books before publishing, but they didn't give me any feedback about grammar, typos, etc. I need some impartial folks to really critique my work.
      Richard Alan

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  11. That shoulda been: 'by having' my Kindle read it...
    ugh

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    1. This goes to show you that our brain fills in what we expect to see. If you had not pointed out the error, I would not have noticed it. I read "by having". LOL
      Richard

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  12. When I first started writing I let friends who knew nothing about writing read my stuff. And though they're completely awesome and told me they'd pay money to read something like that, it definitely wasn't what I needed to hear!! :) Hooha for the blogging/writer community!!

    I'm with you, I like to give it to one reader at a time and change, then send to the next, partly to make sure the changes I just made actually work, lol!! I'm not sure I necessarily have any one aspect I focus on when I beta read. Mostly I go through and mark it if something stands out to me! Whether it's plot, pacing, or grammar, whatevah!! YOU are an awesome beta reader, my friend!


    And I like the idea of reading it in a different format. I actually print my ms out and read it aloud! It really helped with WABF,U? ;)

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  13. Red.Head.OUT! Man, you kill me! I love it.

    I am currently brainstorming a list of betas. I'm not ready for them yet, but they are people who's work I like and who's opinions I trust. People who I think will be honest with me but not cruel.

    I agree it is important to tell them what you're looking for. I've developed some pretty thick skin so as long as they aren't an all out a-hole or downer, I'm cool with it.

    When I beta - I make notes of what I think works, but also tell them what I like. And I tend to expand a lot so they understand my comments, or even try to put a helpful brainstorm idea, if they're up for it. :)

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  14. I am a gentle beta reader! If I think something needs work, I will say so, but I do it in a way that isn't soul destroying!

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  15. I use the tier effect as well. I have one cp, who goes from start to finish with me. Now I am implementing her suggestions and tightening anything else I notice, then I have 2 betas lines up to see the cleaned up version and give their opinions.

    They both have their ms, ready for me to critique, but I like to read their while they read mine, so it is a 2 way road and we can get to know each other better.

    As for me...I am a brutally honest cp. --Only because that is what I want in return. Yeah it might sting to know something isn't working, but if they notice it, then so will an agent....I'd rather my cp point it out ahead of time. I try and add smileys though so the writer understands my words are meant to improve, and my tone is sincere. It's all in the tone of voice. So smileys are my dialogue tags :)

    And I tend to be all about plot and pace.... so when I read, I am quick to let the writer know..."this is slowing down and I'm wanting to skim ahead."

    My cp is quick to let me know... "there should be some descriptions here. Pace is great but I want to see it." :)---We're a good pair :)

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  16. doing that now too. i feel bad because i'm a slower reader than my partners so far...always have been. but i get it done! i set a deadline and get close =)

    how do i read & crit an ms on my ipad? that would help tremendously! you can email me if you hve time: taratylertalks () gmail () com

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  17. Oh gosh, if you ask me to beta read for you, be prepared for comments that have absolutely nothing to do with your ms filtered in among stuff that has everything to do with your story. When I do an in depth crit, it'll look like I tore your story apart when really, I just comment on anything. My own running commentary, lol. Whether it's a good thing or not, I'm not sure yet.

    Voice, grammar, and pacing is what I look for. Oh, and a male lead I can obsess over and eventually right my name into the kissing scene for. ;)

    And uh, if you need a beta down the line... *points at self*

    Just sayin' :)

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  18. When I beta, I edit. I'm really good at catching grammar/punctuation mistakes, and feeling when words or sentences aren't flowing. Though I'm terrible at doing this in my own work :-/

    I'm REALLY bad at pacing, esp in my own work. I need someone who can look at that, and the overall arc of the story and tell me where it's not working. So far I haven't found that person yet... anyone interested? *cough*CassieMae*cough*

    I love the idea of tiered CP's. I totally wasted a bunch of eyes by sending the same draft out to 2 or 3 people at a time. I'm totally doing it that way from now on.

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    1. Did that last sentence make sense? I'm doing it the tiered way from now on... that's what I meant. Jeez.

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  19. I gravitate toward betas/critters who are honest, but tactful. They're the ones looking out for your best interest. :)

    Most of mine have been fantastic, and I'd love to work with them again!

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  20. I hope to be a very honest beta who's also a cheerleader. A good beta job should make the writer excited to continue, not break their spirit, no matter how rough the piece might be. Personally, all of the beta reads I've done lately have been for stories I'd pay to buy, so that makes the efforts painless and fun - BONUS! :)

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  21. Hey, Morgan! Finding betas for my debut was tough. I felt like I was begging the unwilling to grade yet another student essay. :) Second novel, totally different story. I've had quite a few offer out of the blue, and their skills have turned out to be considerable. I don't tell them what I want; they just apply their strengths. Some are grammar eagles. Other is great at ferreting out my greatest weakness--overwriting. I feel so fortunate to have them. I hope I've at least given them a great story to read. Flowers don't hurt, either!

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    1. Could have used a proofreader on that last comment :)

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  22. I published my first book without critique. I had offers from other teachers I work with but felt too vunerable.
    Today, would be a different story and I would most likely ask one of you.
    I have taken on my first critique just recently and find that I mostly pick up grammar and punctuation mistakes. I am also good recognizing and distinguishing incorrect tenses within a story.

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  23. I'm not quite at this stage yet, but almost. I'd be happy to beta for anyone that read my work, I just hope I'll manage to be useful to them!

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  24. Great advice, a really interesting post. I've not beta read for anyone, and I'm not yet at that stage with my MS. I can't wait to get there though!

    Also, there's a blogging award for you over at my blog.

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  25. I really don't know what I'd do without my betas! They are so wonderful :) I find myself needing assurance that the overall arc and characterization is working the most, so I'm lucky that my beta's work with me on that. I have my critique group for more detailed things within scenes. When I'm reading other's work, I'm definitely a detail's person--I'll be the one looking to make sure you kept the eye color the same, the timeline working, the fun little things like that :)

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  26. Betas are the time to find stuff that's wrong and get them fixed. Its not a time for people to shovel praise on the writer. I'm a bit blunt if I'm a beta reader. Not rude. But to the point in a constructive manner.

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  27. I would like to think i am a good Beta reader. I like to do two read throws. I make notes as I read the first time about general thoughts as I read, and watch for general structure of the story. in my second read through I make notes about the flow, voice, tone, make notes about how the structure works. I Look for places that need to be what I call tightening. looking for information dumps or where the exposition is just loose. I always worry that when i am done with a manuscript might be bleeding but I like to think that what i do to a manuscript is surgery then leave it to the writer to handle the post op.

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  28. I have to remember to point out the things I like because when I turn back a chapter it is colored like a string of Christmas lights. Blue for deletions,red for added stuff, green comments...

    I try not just to edit things, but to let the author know why I'm changing something so that they can improve their writing and I don't become just a line editor for them.

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  29. My betas are awesome. They tear stuff apart no holds barred, but they know that's what I like. As for the kind of beta reader I am...I pretty much do the same thing. I don't sugar coat anything. If I don't like it, I point it out and tell you exactly why.

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  30. I have a beta who is amazing. Even after my CPs have a chance to read my stuff (totaling 10 persons) and apply their suggestions for improvement, he has the gumption to say "this first page was painful to read" but then points out exactly what makes it be that way. And the suggestions are always easy fixes that I never would have caught otherwise. A good beta is a great friend indeed. :)

    I'm also a flow, syntax, blocking kind of beta.

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  31. I do CP's and Betas. Sentence structure and word choices are my weakness so I look for people that are strong in those areas. I think pace, character development and the big pictures are my strengths. And Jolene is the Bomb! She shreds MS's with such love. ;0)

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  32. I have great CPs as well. I think I am more of a flow beta. If I read your story and it sucks me in...great, but if not I can usually tell you why I think that is.

    Great post, lady.

    BTW, when do the winners for Rach's 2nd campaign challenge get posted? This is my first challenge and I haven't seen those results yet and thought I might have missed something.

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  33. I think we need to agree on the definition of the term beta-reader before discussing how to be a great one.

    I have GREAT critique partners ... we swap critiques (often line by line) for each other on a regular basis.

    My BETA readers tend to be just readers, not necessarily writers. They read and critique it to different levels, based on their own desires. I usually only employ beta readers when I *think* the novel is finished.

    The help from critique partners and beta readers is essential to the writing process.

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  34. Hey,

    I've always been a good editor, but that is just my opinion (ask Cassie!)

    I love sending chapters out, but am holding back until I too am finished WIP :)

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  35. I'm the tight of Beta who concentrates more on pointed out plot holes, discrepancies, character continuity and motivations. The last thing you should ask me for help with is grammar! :)

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  36. Wow! That's a lot of comments! I would love to find an honest beta, but I'm wondering how you found them. I'm still not quite at that point yet with my WIP, but soon, I hope.

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  37. As a beta reader/critiquer, I think I go more for sentence structure and grammatical errors than the bigger things like plot holes and character developmnet. Well, that's what jumps out at me first, anyway. I also like to point out what DOES work in a manuscript. Someone who beta reads for me ALWAYS puts smiley faces by the stuff she likes, and it's really encouraging :-) (Makes it easier to "accept" the things she doesn't like!)

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  38. i guess it depends on the quality of writing... if the writing is pretty good, i tend to leave the grammar etc and focus on the story... but if the writing needs work, i end up concentrating more on the grammar etc

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