Beta Reading

Although I don’t do nearly as much as I did a year ago, I still feel like I spend a lot of my time beta reading. I have my set “clients”, occasionally picking up a new one when somebody reads my work and decides I’d be the best person to help them with certain aspects of the fandom.

I enjoy it. Most of the people who ask me to beta for them know they struggle with grammar, and so they ask me to help with that. My inner editor has a field day with the story chapter. Some of them also say, “Hey, you know character well. Can you tell me if he seems in character, or how to make him seem more in character?”

It’s a large analytical game where I get to react and give advice.

I personally don’t have a beta. I did briefly last summer, and he was wonderful. He offered better word suggestions, and found the character and plot gaps in my story. I was sad when he seemed to vanish off the face of the earth. He gave me what I really wanted. He actually did the job of a beta reader.

Too often, I hand my work over to someone and ask them to tell me what’s wrong with a piece. To tell me what works and what doesn’t. More often than not, what I get back is a useless love fest. I get heaping praises, which makes me angry (especially if I know the piece in question has serious problems). Sometimes, I get a scathing response where it’s obvious the person was looking to tear me personally down rather than address my work.

If you are asked to read someone else’s work, find out why they want you to read it, and then give them that. Don’t give them unearned praise. Don’t use it as an opportunity to attack them for stealing the last twinkie. If you feel you can’t consider the piece on its own merits, then don’t agree to read it.


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