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Revising Chant - IV: Beta Readers

I've dipped in and out of moodiness over the past couple of weeks.  Things will be just fine, then for no real reason, I'll slide into the total-bummer-this-is-crap-fuck-it-no-one-will-understand mood.  It's the time of year, the number of tasks I have before me, the amount of work I can't seem to finish, and, frankly, it's a bit of the hormone roller coaster. 

So it was a wonderful boost during last night's editing session to find little notes from a beta reader that had nothing to do with what was wrong.   She had taken the time to point out what she liked, too.

Good betas understand your voice and style, and are able to point out when the words on the page don't match those elements.  They can catch places where character personalities wander, where plot points are misaligned, and when the reader is likely to prefer napping to reading.

Great beta readers do all of the above, but reach a deeper level because they understand your overall intentions as well.  They see the work as a whole, and treat accordingly.  Most importantly, great betas know how to express themselves with both clarity and kindness.  Kindness is critical, not optional, to a good critique.  Saying kindness is superfluous is merely an excuse to be lazy at someone else's expense.  A beta's job is not to toughen you up.  Life does that well enough. 

But the priceless beta readers...  Well, they give you that whole package, then take an extra step by pointing out when you've done it right.  And they never-never give empty praise; compliments are backed up with specifics.  While the praise certainly feels good, its true benefit comes through learning to use your strengths.  Yes, it's important to improve below-par skills, but it is equally important to use what you do well.  Priceless betas show you both sides.

Thank you, Priceless Beta Readers.  I would have been incredibly fortunate to have found one of you.  That I have a collection makes me feel privileged beyond measure.

56K down.  74K to go.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
You have MUCH awesomenesss in Chant.

Did most beta readers send you files with comments? Or an e-mail paraphrasing their thoughts/comments?

I know I just gave you a brief, verbal run-down, so I'm wondering what format you find helpful from beta readers so I can be a better beta reader (for you or for anyone) in the future.
May. 31st, 2012 04:01 am (UTC)
Most gave both, with a greater weight on summary.

What I find helpful depends on the project, and on the beta. Forex, I have a priceless beta who goes through the ms. line by line, and another priceless beta who gives brief and global feedback. The line-by-line one finds nigh every weakness and gives specific comments. The global one gave a comment something like, "I wondered about X for the entire novel because..." Both gave me insights I hadn't had before, and both have made Chant a better story.

The global feedback--like yours--told me what you took away from the novel. It told me what your reading experience included, and that's critical. The line-by-line is fun because it's like being able to look over someone's shoulder as she's reading. It tells me if individual lines did what I wanted. There's something really cool about seeing someone react exactly as I hoped.

But that line-by-line is a huge investment of time and effort, especially with something as long as Chant (130K), so I never ask for it or expect it.
May. 31st, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
I have been a crappy beta due to unforeseen, but I will be better next time!
May. 31st, 2012 04:07 am (UTC)
My dearest Sherwood, having other things on your plate doesn't make you a crappy beta. It makes you a busy writer. :-)

Besides, were it not for you, Chant would never have been written. And you were the one who held my hand through omni discoveries, and taught me how to find that voice.

I still remember words you wrote in the first feedback letter you sent me, and bring them to mind when I'm struggling. I doubt I would have continued writing had you not extended your hand to me, and I know I wouldn't have attended VP were it not for your encouragement and support.

Priceless, Sherwood.

May. 31st, 2012 04:32 am (UTC)
I want to read the next iteration!
May. 31st, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
As in, the version of Chant I'm revising now, or the sequel to Chant (which I'll be starting on fairly soon)? Either one would be awesome!
May. 31st, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
May. 31st, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
Snoopy happy dance!
May. 31st, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
I've got to chuckle about that, because you do so much right.

Brava, my dear =)
May. 31st, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
Whatever I do right is the result of working with and learning from amazing beta readers. :-)

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


Blair MacGregor

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