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Thread: Just Rob and his angel - A regular beta reading workshop

  1. #1

    Just Rob and his angel - A regular beta reading workshop

    Since joining WF as BlondeAverageReader my angel has been very active as a beta reader and consequently we discuss the subject regularly. Our tastes in genres differ considerably, so between us we cover a fair range. Also, being computer technology savvy, I can deal with most formats in which writers might provide their work. In the past I have also checked E-books for technical problems on our Sony and Kobo E-readers, which involves scanning rapidly through all the pages without consciously reading the text, something which seems to be second nature to me. Having carried out many conversions to E-book format myself I am aware of at least some of the quirks that can arise in the process and am always gaining experience in spotting them. In fact I convert all books sent to us to E-book format just for our own convenience, E-readers needing recharging far less often compared to other devices. We don't have a Kindle, so that service is incomplete, but so many people use those that it is relatively easy for a writer to get their Kindle files checked. E-reader simulation and compatibility checking software is also available, but as a past tester of computer systems I consider using the actual devices to be the acid test.

    While my angel reads strictly from the viewpoint of an average reader I have had a brief excursion (or from WF's viewpoint, incursion) into writing, so am reasonably acquainted with the terminology and issues. In fact sometimes I have to explain the comments from submitting writers to her if they indulge in writer-speak, but hopefully she won't allow this to corrupt her viewpoint as purely a reader.

    So, with all this I get the feeling that we are moving towards being a regular beta reading workshop, especially since we can make time to indulge in it when required, so turnaround is relatively fast, especially at the speed that I read. I have also pretty much given up my own writing, so that does not take up my time, unlike the more active writers in WF. I thought it was worth mentioning this so that WF members are aware that we operate very much as a team although we accept and read works separately, so any comments we make have been discussed between us before being passed on. So, come one come all, there's a fair chance that one of us may be willing to read anything doing the rounds and provide a little useful feedback.

    ------------------------------

    That apart, I have had a thought recently about showing and telling when sending work to beta readers. Sometimes a beta reader can actually serve a better purpose if they are told what the story is supposed to convey in its showing. However, unlike a publisher a beta reader doesn't really want a synopsis as that constitutes a spoiler and destroys the natural reading experience, but they do need to understand what the writer is trying to achieve in order to assess how successful they have been. The fact that a reader has found a story entertaining doesn't indicate whether it was for the reasons that the writer intended. Some writers, myself included, may be quite happy for a reader's thoughts to wander far from what the writer himself had in mind, but if he is consulting a number of readers he may make revisions that destroy the very value that some readers saw in the work previously.

    Some writers tend to leave working notes in beta copies of their writing and this may well not be a bad thing. While a separate synopsis is of little use and actually detrimental, inline notes from the writer about what they intended to achieve with the section that the reader has just read, for example notes at the end of chapters, would enable a reader to verify whether they were still on the same track as the writer and make comments relevant to that. If the writer had any concerns about achieving particular objectives then mentioning that soon after the reader has read the relevant text could prompt more objective remarks from the reader. So, perhaps writers should consider putting not quite a questionnaire but certainly relevant questions to the reader at intervals throughout their story after the relevant passages so that the impact of the text itself is not spoilt. To some extent the writer's notes to self can achieve this by accident, but notes explicitly aimed at the beta readers could achieve more.

    Like I said, between us we're becoming a regular beta reading workshop here.
    Do you have any feedback to give about beta reading? If so see HERE.

    www.MensTemporum.uk - Fiction or prediction? What inspired my writing? Judge for yourself.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  2. #2
    I don't know if I don't want a synopsis to a book I am beta reading... I am not reading as simply a reader to switch off the brain and enjoy a story, I am actively looking for plot holes, errors in character reactions, story arc failures an other things that effect the quality of a work. To do that well I need to already know what is happening so that I can "take" a portion of my consecration away from the active reading of the plot, and turn it to the studying of the plot.
    Mildly dyslexic - Oops may occur, do occur.

    “Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
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    "Failure? There's no such thing as failure, only early attempts at success."
    -- The Love Guru

    "It's not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewere, would much rather you weren't doing."
    --Terry Pratchett

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fantastical View Post
    I don't know if I don't want a synopsis to a book I am beta reading... I am not reading as simply a reader to switch off the brain and enjoy a story, I am actively looking for plot holes, errors in character reactions, story arc failures an other things that effect the quality of a work. To do that well I need to already know what is happening so that I can "take" a portion of my consecration away from the active reading of the plot, and turn it to the studying of the plot.
    Each to their own. I prefer to beta read, solely with the knowledge of the jacket blurb. Then I know what the reader who selected the book is attracted to and can comment accordingly. If there are plot holes I will find them as the story unfolds. I don't need to be informed of the denouement. I prefer to predict what I think is going to happen next, not have it explained.

    As for someone beta-reading my genre. People read crime/mysteries to see if they can second guess the author over the outcome. The beta reader and the reader alike, should predict the victim or perpetrator as the plot progresses changing horses according to the skill of the writer. If the beta reader knows the outcome how can he/she judge the guile of the author?

  4. #4
    I still stand by my belief that if you have to tell a reader how or why something was written, it doesn't work.

    We should never have to hold our readers' hands.
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  5. #5
    I think JustRob's point is, after the chapter is read, the writer should identify concerns he/she has over the content.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by qwertyman View Post
    Each to their own. I prefer to beta read, solely with the knowledge of the jacket blurb. Then I know what the reader who selected the book is attracted to and can comment accordingly. If there are plot holes I will find them as the story unfolds. I don't need to be informed of the denouement. I prefer to predict what I think is going to happen next, not have it explained.

    As for someone beta-reading my genre. People read crime/mysteries to see if they can second guess the author over the outcome. The beta reader and the reader alike, should predict the victim or perpetrator as the plot progresses changing horses according to the skill of the writer. If the beta reader knows the outcome how can he/she judge the guile of the author?
    Having re-read any number of crime novels... if a writer has written a story well, you still follow the leads as they come even if you know what has happened. As for me.. I don't pick a book by what is on the dust jacket in Real Life... so why should I when beta reading something? I skim through a book before I read it, I read the first page, I sometimes even read the last page... I have a pretty good idea of what book is about before a check it out.
    Mildly dyslexic - Oops may occur, do occur.

    “Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
    -- Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

    "Failure? There's no such thing as failure, only early attempts at success."
    -- The Love Guru

    "It's not worth doing something unless you were doing something that someone, somewere, would much rather you weren't doing."
    --Terry Pratchett

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    I still stand by my belief that if you have to tell a reader how or why something was written, it doesn't work.

    We should never have to hold our readers' hands.
    My wife was the first to read my completed story, and we would discuss each chapter after she finished it. Afterward, I realized what a crutch that was. By answering her questions, I was removing the need for the story to answer them instead, and things that should have been explained and clarified in the text simply weren't. And because we had our talkback, neither of us realized it.
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    I still stand by my belief that if you have to tell a reader how or why something was written, it doesn't work.

    We should never have to hold our readers' hands.
    True, but if the beta reader's experience with one's work doesn't ... work ... then it makes sense to make them aware of what one was attempting to convey rather than leaving them to guess. If the message has failed to get across then they can't help and some mutual hand holding is in order.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gamer_2k4 View Post
    My wife was the first to read my completed story, and we would discuss each chapter after she finished it. Afterward, I realized what a crutch that was. By answering her questions, I was removing the need for the story to answer them instead, and things that should have been explained and clarified in the text simply weren't. And because we had our talkback, neither of us realized it.
    I don't have that problem because my angel doesn't read what I write. Hasn't she suffered enough from me already over the years? Nevertheless she must be a glutton for punishment as she is currently reading novels from two WF members at the same time; well not literally of course, but alternately.
    Do you have any feedback to give about beta reading? If so see HERE.

    www.MensTemporum.uk - Fiction or prediction? What inspired my writing? Judge for yourself.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  9. #9

    A Request for Feedback

    As I have now been appointed a mentor for this beta reading forum our little domestic workshop here has acquired more significance. My angel continues to be well employed as a beta reader and I have actually had members reading my own novel, which is quite an assault course for any reader and open to anyone to download from my website, so their comments are very revealing. It is evident to me that there is much knowledge to be gained from the collective experiences of both writers and readers within this forum, but that is not directly evident within WF.

    I can understand that there are aspects of beta reading that need to remain unseen by the majority, but as a staff member I would be happy to hear in confidence about your experiences in this area. Send me a PM about anything that you may think is relevant and I will treat it sensitively. I have listed below a few potential subjects, but you may have others.

    From writers - Praise for specific readers -- We don't know who they are or what they are reading, so can't offer awards for their activities or recommendations to other writers in terms of how well they tackle specific genres or other aspects, such as regional differences, both geographically and in knowledge of past times. It is already clear to me that readers' comments can vary in style as much as writers' works, so remarks about these are also welcome. I want to raise the profile of the beta reading collective to attract more readers to it, but that needs writers' feedback, not just to the readers themselves but to us at WF.

    From writers - Bad experiences -- Some members have mentioned bad experiences from beta reading along the way, so if you have any grumbles about the experience let me know in confidence, even naming names if you wish, and I will take it into consideration. It is a controversial subject how much a writer should react directly to readers' comments, so if you feel the need to tell someone but aren't sure that the reader is the right person then send your reactions to me initially instead to see how I feel about them. We want to improve the service, so need to know its flaws.

    From readers - Observations on writers -- These may be about their written works, which we don't normally see in their entirety, or about the writers themselves, for example how they react to your comments and whether they offer more works for you to read subsequently. If you are a popular beta reader perhaps you feel that you are getting too popular with some writers. We want the experience for beta readers to be a pleasant one even though much of the activity falls outside of WF.

    From both writers and readers - Concerns about security -- Members need to communicate directly to pass over documents outside of WF. There are ways to do this via public cloud services as well as via email. What are your thoughts about the methods available? Unpublished works are sensitive documents of great value to their writers. Do you have concerns about this and how do you tackle them or want them to be tackled? We want all parties to feel secure about the processes involved and will come up with general recommendations if members feel that there is a need in some areas.

    From both writers and readers - Technical problems -- If anyone has problems over getting documents from writer to reader in a suitable format then let us know. Also other lesser problems may be encountered, such as appended notes vanishing when draft word processed documents are read as E-books. Even if we can't offer advice on overcoming any problems we may be able to compile a guide to avoiding them.

    From any member - Introductions of new readers -- Some writers have mentioned that they have their own following of beta readers and equally some readers may know of others interested in what we have. We are open to new members joining solely as readers as their opinions may be more likely to be unbiased than those of experienced writers. That is the theory anyway and it seems to work in my angel's case. Despite her initial concerns about joining a forum full of aspiring writers we have made her welcome and will welcome others. They are an important asset within WF. If potential reading members are hesitant to join then we need to address their reasons. My angel joined as BlondeAverageReader because that is all that she claims to be. We need more like her. (Well, I don't personally of course. She is quite enough for me, I assure you.)
    Last edited by JustRob; April 19th, 2017 at 12:58 PM.
    Do you have any feedback to give about beta reading? If so see HERE.

    www.MensTemporum.uk - Fiction or prediction? What inspired my writing? Judge for yourself.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

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