Jul 29, 2011

Confessions of a Beta: Jenna

Today I'm handing the ost over to one of my Beta readers, Jenna. A few of these will be popping up shortly.

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I am a beta reader. As far as I understand, that means I am not in the publishing industry. I really like books. I have a grasp of spelling and grammar. I am very opinionated. I deeply want to help. All of that seems to add up to something my friend can use in her writing life. There are some downsides, like having confusing dreams based off of her half-written books, or developing crushes on quasi-villains, or getting in trouble for not being able to remember the names of secondary characters in any one of the 4-6 books in progress at any given time what is my problem why don't I care?


I love reading a book in progress, but it does get confusing. For example: authorfriend had begun a story in which she fiddled with point-of-view. She had written several chapters, then stalled out and shelved it. A few months later she brought it back out to rework it, which she then did. . .maybe another three times. I read each incarnation. Then we would discuss the newest chapter she had sent me, looking for slow spots or bits that made no sense. The problem was that I had four or five versions of the book in my mind, while she had just the one - the right one, the one she was currently writing. So I would talk about something that (now) hadn't ever happened. Our conversations include a lot of "wait, what?"

The roughest part for me is being honest. I have to tell a friend if her baby is ugly, frankly. She asks for my honest opinion and however much I don't want to hurt her feelings because she is proud of what she's written (with good reason), I have to tell her if I don't like it or if I think it could be improved, and then in what way it could be improved. I try to be plainspoken without being cruel, and I'm sure she gets more upset by my constant checking if she's okay and not upset. I still like being a beta reader, though. I prefer to be called a Siamese Fighting reader, to be completely honest.

6 comments:

  1. Siamese Fighting reader. That is priceless.

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  2. I noticed a typo I put in. "opinionated" in the first paragraph has an extra "n".

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  3. Honesty is the best policy in my opinion. If the book sucks then the writer is better off knowing that their story sucks and whether or not it is fixable.

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  4. The job of a beta reader is to point out the parts that work and the parts that don't. If the fear of hurting someone's feelings gets in the way, it only does a disservice to that writer.

    I agree with Jenna, it's important to convey your thoughts and constructive criticism in a way that doesn't attack the author. It's easy to swallow criticism with kindness and than it is to swallow something with jagged edges. Key word choice and stepping into someone else's shoes helps this process tremendously.

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  5. Jenna sounds nice, I wonder how you met her. Oh wait, you're welcome! :) This reminded me that I have a draft of my own confessions! Getting on that.

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