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Being a Good Beta

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 We've blogged about why you should do it and how it benefits your own writing. But if you've never been a beta before, you might not be sure how you do it. Depending on how well you know the writer you'll be betaing for, it's a good idea to decide on a  few things before you start.

Time Frame
Is the writer looking for feedback in the next week or two? Or are they okay waiting a month or longer? Take a glance at your own schedule and see if you'll be able to finish the MS for them in the time frame they're looking for. Of course, we all know life rarely goes as planned. If something comes up and you're taking longer than you wanted in returning the beta, just send an email to let them know you haven't forgotten.

Line Edits or General Feedback
General feedback usually means a writer is  looking for an overall feel of the book--if character arcs felt completed, if there were any plot holes, if the pacing was good throughout. Line edits (like copy edits) take a little more time and focus. Line edits usually include word choice, grammar, punctuation, paragraph breaks, out of character dialogue or thoughts, etc.

Once you know what the writer expects from your beta keep a few things in mind.

Be Consistent
Most people use the review tab in MS Word to leave comment bubbles for the document. Some people use the highlight function to indicate where they think a paragraph break should go and change font color to red for spelling errors or incomplete sentences. Whatever way you choose to beta, make sure you're consistent throughout the document.

Be Honest
Being a writer, you know how hard it can be hearing that your beautiful MS has some problems. Which might make it hard to point out things you think need improvement. But that's exactly what someone wants from a beta reader. They're looking for ways to make their work better and need your honest opinions. It's up to the writer to decide which advice to take and which to ignore. That being said, it doesn't hurt to point out things you love in the work as well.

Most, if not all writers, are simply grateful for someone to take the time to beta their book. But be professional and do a good job. When it's your MSs turn, you'll be glad you did.
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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17 comments:

  1. Great post! I, for one, LOVE beta reading. In fact, if anyone needs one, I'm available. :)

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  2. This is fantastic advice for Beta's. I always have a tough time explaining to people what it is I want/expect them to do when someone is being a beta reader for me. I'll be bookmarking this post and sending all my future readers to it. You sum up a writer's needs pretty perfectly.

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  3. Great post... I like the part about being honest. That's so important it's a matter of trusting your beta's.
    Time frame is also SUPER important.

    Also as a beta don't feel like your opinion isn't important.

    However the writer doesn't have to take all of your advice. But if you feel like they haven't taken ANY--- then it means it was a waste of your time and you might want to move on.

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  4. Terrific post with great tips to keep in mind! It definitely comes down to good communication between you and the writer too. :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

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  5. I haven't beta'd yet, but I am a member of a critique group (for only a month) and I have already learned so much from the critiques and critiquing others. It's all about the pictures in our head and whether or not we can put them onto the paper.

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  6. How do you get into this? Lately, I've noticed I've gotten much more critical of books. I notice errors in finished books and it drives me up the wall. I struggle with that urge to correct sentences in a book and not wanting to deface my precious book LOL

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  7. Hey, Pam, I'd love to have you as a beta reader! (I'm a multi-published romance author just starting to query my first YA manuscript.) Contact me if you're interested!

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  8. Awesome post and advice - especially the time frame and honesty parts; I know what it feels like to be on the other end of the line, and I was lucky to have found a perfect beta reader for my upcoming novel, and now it's due release in Jan '11 :)

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  9. Great post.
    Seems the key is being clear on both sides - what you want, what you have time/ability to give.
    =)

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  10. It took awhile to find good fits, but the betas/CP's I have are worth their weight in gold!!

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  11. Great post! I always like to give lots of positive along with what needs work. And yes, it's great to know up front what people are looking for. Good betas are invaluable, for sure.

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  12. great advice. I'm never sure whether writers want line edits or overall advice. Guss I should start asking.

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  13. Great post. My novel's out with three beta readers, and I have no idea how long it's going to take them. One had to go back to read from the beginning because she's never read first person present tense before (it took her awhile to get into it). Fortunately, the other two have.

    I'm starting to beta read a book tonight, and my plan is not to leave the writer waiting too long. The wait during querying is bad enough.

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  14. That really is a lot of good advice, BTW. I've had three teen beta readers and while all were very complimentary (it's great for the ego to hear, "I stayed up half the night reading!") one gave much more valuable feedback on things I could do to make the book better. I guess ego strokes have their place--we all need them sometimes!--but they don't help us improve the work.

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  15. Simple but solid advice. I am about to do a beta read for someone in the next few weeks, and then it's my turn to get my MS beta read, so these are some good points to follow. Thanks for the timely advice, as usual!

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  16. Awesome post and advice - especially the time frame and honesty parts; I know what it feels like to be on the other end of the line, and I was lucky to have found a perfect beta reader for my upcoming novel, and now it's due release in

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Item Reviewed: Being a Good Beta Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah