Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to be a great Beta

Today I wanted to write a post about great beta readers and/or critique partners. Thanks to Mary Kole, again, I had to opportunity to hook up with a few exceptional ladies who said they would like to take a look at my MS. First off ((waves and winks)) I want to say thank you to these gals. They have been the very best group I've worked with so far. (And not just because Lisa has said so many kind things about my story). =)

It got me thinking about what I like about them vs. past experiences. Now, I don't want to belittle anyone who has swapped reads with me beforehand. Not at all. All of you others have been great. But some of the things that have stood out to me are these:

  • They always keep me updated as to where they are in my MS.
  • They point out the good along with the nagative.
  • They aren't affraid to speak their mind if something doesn't work.

I love it when people can be completely honest with me. The harsher the better, I say. Now, perhaps I have grown a tough skin through the last few years or hearing people's oppinions, but there is no growth without a little (or a lot of) pain. The worste thing you can do for someone when reading their work is to tell them the good, wash over the rest while pretending the bad parts don't exsist and blindside the person to their flaws.

I want to know what stinks. I want to know when something doesn't work, or isn't believable. That's the only way I can grow as a writer, learn from my mistakes. I love that one of my betas told me something wasn't right and then explained why.

Having as many people read your MS as you can helps in so many ways. Everyone picks out different things that I never noticed before. Some things used to be perfect and then during last rounds of revisions it somehow got cut out on accident. So, in that way alone, having someone look at your work after each round you see things that need to be sharpened.

I love Nathan Bransford's way (or old way...sob) of having people critique each other, using the sandwhich affect:

  • Compliment (possitive comments)
  • Constructive Criticism
  • Compliment, compliment and compliment some more.

It was always great to read his critiques on someones work. People are more apt to listen when we point out the good, build them up with encouragment, but also be completly honest with the not-so-great parts.

And just a hint for some of you out there. Don't NOT finish someone else's MS because they gave you a harsh crit. That's all I'll say about that =). It's sad when someone gives you all sorts of help and then, because maybe you didn't agree with it, or it was too hard to hear, you simply didn't do them the justice of finishing their work.

Now, any stories or other hints anyone want to share on the subject?


Jolene Perry said...

I'm finally at the point where I want people to tell me EVERYTHING. The more markings on each page, the better it will be when I'm done. I may not take all of the suggestions, but I do want to hear them all. It's a far cry from when I was afraid to post a paragraph. Now, I'm like - anyone wanna really mark something up? Give me a call - I have pages for ya.

Man, I haven't been by here in a LONG time. I'm not sure how that happened...

Shallee said...

Great tips for betas! In my crit group, we make a point of saying both the good and the bad things-- because if you only hear bad things, the first thing you think is that everyone hates it! Thanks for sharing this. :)