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A_Jones
December 9th, 2014, 06:29 PM
Ok I know there is a lot of looking down the nose at writers who defend their work. Why? Do you think you are all knowing and smart enough to KNOW that what they did there was wrong and the only way to fix it is to get rid of it?

Of COURSE not! No when you are BETA reading a writers piece you can see things they cant this is soooo true, but they also see things you can't that is why it is SO valuable to them that they defend them selves. Then together you can find ways of which they can polish their work.

So please my writers, defend your work. NEVER take my word or suggestions as law (or even as speculation) take them as the start of a discussion that will ultimately lead to your triumph.

And my beta readers, expect the same from me.

EDIT: By defending their work I mean to ask the beta reader Why they feel the way they do. Only through follow up questions do I believe a writer will learn how to fix their mistakes and grow. I did not mean they should blatantly tell the beta reader they were wrong. Beta readers are in a position to tell you what a reader doesnt get. It doesnt matter what you think, they will always be right about whether or not it works for them. I am just saying it is important for a writer to ask why.

shadowwalker
December 10th, 2014, 07:51 AM
Nobody should take anyone else's word or suggestions as law, and discussing problem areas is fine - but if you feel you have to 'defend' your work, you're not ready for a beta. Betas are there to critique, not debate. I've done quite a bit of beta work over the years, and if an author implied my comments were 'wrong', or I 'didn't get it', I learned to just quit. I took my spare time and a lot of effort to give them my opinions and suggestions at no charge, knowing full well (and always telling them) that they were free to take or reject any or all of it. But if they want to whine about how I got it all wrong and convince me of their greatness - yeah, I'm not wasting my time on that. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Gavrushka
December 10th, 2014, 07:55 AM
Ah, for me, it's not a question of defending my work, but respecting the opinion of the reader. - I can agree it is their opinion without agreeing they are right, and so don't think any good would come of a defence, (factual issues aside, obviously.)

My writing would be a lot poorer without betas and I'd be a fool to rely on my own counsel.

Nemesis
December 10th, 2014, 07:58 AM
I agree with Shadow, there's a difference between having a conversation about your work with the beta and "defending" your work.

Sometimes a critique can be hard to swallow and sometimes it might even miss the mark, but getting upset over it and arguing with the person who is taking the time to read everything you've written and give you their opinion on it is counter productive at best.

Sam
December 10th, 2014, 09:42 AM
This thread tells me you're not ready for a beta reader.

The whole point of a beta reader is to tell a writer what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. What the writer does with that is entirely their prerogative. But if a writer has a hissy fit with me and screams, "You don't see what I see!", I'm never being a beta for them again. Why? Because it tells me they don't want to hear the truth. They want to be told their work is awesome. Plus, if you have to show me what I'm supposed to get from reading a particular scene, that scene doesn't work. Period.

People who are ready for beta readers don't need to defend their work. They know it isn't perfect – that's why they're seeking the services of a beta.

Gargh
December 10th, 2014, 01:56 PM
OP: Asking for a beta read is explicitly asking for subjective opinion, that's what you need at that stage, not an open forum discussion. If one person reads and doesn't understand X then it's possible they just don't get your work, so give them the respect of having another quick look at it but if you're still happy then just say thanks and move on. But if several people read it and don't get X? Then you know you have a problem that needs fixing. The most I would ever question betas on is to ask if they can elaborate on why X, Y or Z didn't work for them, to ask for further help in understanding the disparity between my intent and their read.

If readers feel like they can't be completely open and honest without getting into a debate, then you won't get real feedback and the whole process is meaningless. Betas are often readers, not writers, and are commenting on the piece as a whole and don't give a fig what your intent was; if they don't get it, they don't get it, that's all. The sheer beauty of the system is that they only have your final draft to comprehend the story from, exactly the same as any other reader you wish to sell to. It's your responsibility to ensure your work is understood the way you want it to be and it's better to be realistic at this stage about whether you've achieved that, with betas who are confident they can be forthright with you.

A_Jones
December 10th, 2014, 03:45 PM
Haha I suppose we have a different vocabulary when it comes to the word DEFEND. I really just meant the ability to converse about a problem area. If a beta reader tells you an area is a problem, my suggestion is to talk to them about what you can do to make that area an effective bit of writing.

I want my writers to ask me WHY I felt that way about that area, so that they can make it better, not just get rid of it! The reason I say this is because I had a writer a while back who accepted everything I suggested. Key word here suggested. I said that I didnt understand an area and I felt they should take it in a different direction.

Later I got a very angry email about how they had to rewrite an entire section because of my suggestion and now they are stuck. I wish they had just talked to me about my suggestion rather than taking it blindly. I have had only one other such situation happen to me so nowdays I just suggest people never sit back and take my help quietly, let me know what you think of them.

ppsage
December 10th, 2014, 05:29 PM
I totally agree that one should not argue with persons volunteering to give you their effort and opinion. That being said, however, I find the idea that beta readers are some kind of path to literary perfection completely laughable.

shadowwalker
December 10th, 2014, 05:55 PM
I find the idea that beta readers are some kind of path to literary perfection completely laughable.

Who said or even implied that? Betas are a second, hopefully objective, set of eyes. Nothing more, nothing less.

A_Jones
December 10th, 2014, 06:03 PM
I have discovered that peoples ideas of a Beta reader on this site are extremely different than what I learned in other writers circles. I think I understand now and I shall amend my statement.

I would personally like to provide a deeper service when elected to be a writers Beta reader by helping them delve deeper into why they wrote what they did and why it doesnt work properly. So feel free to ask me why I feel strongly about an area of your work.

However I will not expect it of any Beta readers of mine. :)

ppsage
December 10th, 2014, 08:54 PM
They know it isn't perfect – that's why they're seeking the services of a beta.

Morkonan
December 11th, 2014, 01:21 AM
The way I look at it is this:

What a Beta reader says they have read is what they have read, regardless of whether or not I wrote it or intended to write it. If they don't come away with what I intended them to come away with, it's my fault. My fault, not the Beta reader's fault. I am, after all, responsible for what was written on the page. If I failed to communicate appropriately and a Beta reader just doesn't "get it", then that's my problem, regardless of whether or not they're a drooling idiot or a scholar.

Some people aren't cut out to be Beta readers and some writers don't deal well with them. Whatever the case, there must always be a shared understanding between any two people engaged in cooperative effort - Honesty must infect everything you do. The Beta reader/writer relationship is also a cooperative effort, not an adversarial one. If one of the two doesn't understand that, then it's the responsibility of the other to illuminate their partner. Usually, this is the role of the writer. The writer must do what they can to foster the relationship that best helps them create the work. While it is truly a cooperative effort, most times, the end-game is always the same - The writer will write it and put their name on it and that means they own it, for better or worse.

If one wishes to use Beta readers and wishes good results from that relationship, one has to "own" the entire process and that includes the relationship between Beta reader and writer. One must take responsibility, as a writer dependent upon the contributions of a volunteer workforce, to foster an appropriate relationship. If it turns out that the relationship is unproductive or even harmful for the process of creation, then it's also the writer's responsibility to end it peacefully. And, that's not an easy thing to do. Some people take such a relationship very personally, so take some care to let them down easily.

egpenny
December 11th, 2014, 02:15 AM
A quote from Gargh: The sheer beauty of the system is that they only have your final draft to comprehend the story from, exactly the same as any other reader you wish to sell to.

The key words in that sentence are final draft. If a writer sends out a manuscript with spelling errors, same sounding word errors, and other obvious mistakes, and then complains that they didn't ask for all the corrections, it's confusing to me.

I can't in good consciousness Beta read something and not correct those obvious errors. When someone reads my work, I want to know every single thing that stops them while they are reading. If they stop reading, then I've done something wrong. Period.

Perhaps I have the term Beta reader and editor mixed-up...I don't know. Someone set me straight.


The above is a personal reaction toward something I read for someone who will remain nameless.

TKent
December 11th, 2014, 02:29 AM
There is no one answer to this. Some beta readers do proofing in addition to providing impressions, continuity issues, etc. If you get that then thank the high heavens for it. It's a bonus! I read a book by Martin Crosbie, a self-published author (I think it was in his book) where he goes through his process. He writes the full story, then has a group of beta readers read it, then revises it, then sends to editor, then has a group of beta readers read it again and says they almost always catch some final proofing errors. The most important thing is to communicate clearly with a potential beta reader up front if you have specific expectations. Then that person can either choose to read for you or not. Anything you and a reader agree on is fine. Like anything else though, there are guidelines that are generally accepted (which LeeC has been kind enough to share here) so in lieu of specific agreements otherwise, that's kind of what you should expect.

InnerFlame00
December 11th, 2014, 03:33 AM
If the reader can't see what the writer sees, then the writer needs to work harder to make sure that it is clear. Of course, keeping in mind that when you write a book not everyone is going to get it, but the majority should. For example, I was arguing with my friend about how much I hated her MC because her love interest loved her for seemingly no reason and there was nothing special about her. She got upset at first, but then realized that she spent all her time constructing the love interest's past and no time on her MC. On the other hand sometimes I will bring something up and she will explain to me why I'm wrong about that, and that will help her to be more detailed about her point. Gotta get dirty to get it done lol. Mostly its about not taking it personally.

shadowwalker
December 11th, 2014, 05:43 AM
They know it isn't perfect – that's why they're seeking the services of a beta.

That's a far cry from saying the beta will make it perfect. It's only saying the author knows it's still in need of work (if it were perfect, there'd be no need of a beta).

Sam
December 11th, 2014, 12:40 PM
Ppsage, if you thought I was saying that beta readers will make work perfect, your reading comprehension could use a bit of work.

The reason why people seek beta readers is because their novel needs work, i.e. it isn't perfect. I thought that would have made sense to a fellow writer and reader.

A_Jones
December 11th, 2014, 05:16 PM
Ok it is obvious that everyone has a different view of what is expected out of a beta reader and that is fine. BUT here on WF we need to uphold what WF expects out of Beta readers. So I suggest everyone read what LeeC posted about the expectations of a beta reader. This site has done its best to be as professional as it can be and the Admins have gone out of there way many times to make it so. The least we can do is follow their suggestions on how to keep it as professional as possible.

Galen
December 14th, 2014, 12:27 AM
A quote from Gargh: The sheer beauty of the system is that they only have your final draft to comprehend the story from, exactly the same as any other reader you wish to sell to.

The key words in that sentence are final draft. If a writer sends out a manuscript with spelling errors, same sounding word errors, and other obvious mistakes, and then complains that they didn't ask for all the corrections, it's confusing to me.

I can't in good consciousness Beta read something and not correct those obvious errors. When someone reads my work, I want to know every single thing that stops them while they are reading. If they stop reading, then I've done something wrong. Period.

Perhaps I have the term Beta reader and editor mixed-up...I don't know. Someone set me straight.


The above is a personal reaction toward something I read for someone who will remain nameless.

From my understanding of "Beta Reader", they are NOT editors. Specifically, they do not edit because a beta reader is essentially giving you a gut reaction to your work.

shadowwalker
December 14th, 2014, 02:15 AM
From my understanding of "Beta Reader", they are NOT editors. Specifically, they do not edit because a beta reader is essentially giving you a gut reaction to your work.

For me, a beta reader is whatever the reader and writer agree it to be. I've done everything from simple proofreading to delving into plot and characterization - it all depended on what the writer wanted/needed. And I've also read everything from broad first drafts to ready for submission. As long as both parties know the ground rules and follow them, the relationship should work.

Gavrushka
December 14th, 2014, 07:27 AM
I think a problem can arise with a beta when they unilaterally decide they're the writer's salvation, intent on leading them to the promised land. It has happened to me, and there is little more galling than a beta taking the attitude of a school teacher instruction a dim child. - Perhaps this can on occasion lead to writers making less than ideal readers, especially when styles clash, or the beta overestimates their ability.

I've just finished reading my seventh novel for members of this site, and I've yet to come across anyone who felt the urge to defend their work. I did screw up my comments for one, relating them very poorly and caused a fair bit of distress as a result. - I lost sleep over this, as I could have dissuaded a gifted writer from continuing. Luckily that didn't happen.

Seven reads, I think, is enough for the time being, and beta reading can be very draining , not to mention time consuming.

I've only had two people from this site read my work, and I don't think either are active here now. So, rest assured no one will have to defend their work from me for a little while. :P

Galen
December 14th, 2014, 04:31 PM
Gavruska - you are right to point out some of the drawbacks with beta reading.

I have tried to learn to determine if a beta reader and I could forge a productive relationship early in the process to save time and effort for the both of us.

I have been clumsy with my comments at times, and ended up sounding overly critical. I continue to learn how to state my "issues" or questions of a work I am beta reading in a positive, constructive way.

W.Goepner
January 23rd, 2015, 01:17 AM
Ok I know there is a lot of looking down the nose at writers who defend their work. Why? Do you think you are all knowing and smart enough to KNOW that what they did there was wrong and the only way to fix it is to get rid of it?

Of COURSE not! No when you are BETA reading a writers piece you can see things they cant this is soooo true, but they also see things you can't that is why it is SO valuable to them that they defend them selves. Then together you can find ways of which they can polish their work.

So please my writers, defend your work. NEVER take my word or suggestions as law (or even as speculation) take them as the start of a discussion that will ultimately lead to your triumph.

And my beta readers, expect the same from me.

EDIT: By defending their work I mean to ask the beta reader Why they feel the way they do. Only through follow up questions do I believe a writer will learn how to fix their mistakes and grow. I did not mean they should blatantly tell the beta reader they were wrong. Beta readers are in a position to tell you what a reader doesnt get. It doesnt matter what you think, they will always be right about whether or not it works for them. I am just saying it is important for a writer to ask why.

My editor is a volunteer, he is often telling me, not to explain it to him, but to the reader. My issue with that is, I know what I have written and do not see the confusion. When the reader, beta or otherwise, is reading to help the writer, discussion fosters ideas, ideas which can then be gleaned into the story-line. My editor is doing that also, besides showing me proper English. He sends me a rewrite of a sentence or two along with the offending sentences, thus I can read the differences and make up my mind as to how I want it to read. The fantastic thing about this is he writes it how I mean it and usually I only have to change a word or two. Sometimes I see a thought I had not worked into that section and I add it in and send it back to him for opinion. The unfortunate part being he is a volunteer, it is when he has time to work with it. Seeing as I joined the forum because I have a huge lack of funds and am in need of help I cannot go professional.

I have not offered it up to this group as I am a determined cuss, who fears loosing his work to a underhand. Not that there are any here. It is my fear.

W.Goepner
January 23rd, 2015, 01:33 AM
This thread tells me you're not ready for a beta reader.

The whole point of a beta reader is to tell a writer what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. What the writer does with that is entirely their prerogative. But if a writer has a hissy fit with me and screams, "You don't see what I see!", I'm never being a beta for them again. Why? Because it tells me they don't want to hear the truth. They want to be told their work is awesome. Plus, if you have to show me what I'm supposed to get from reading a particular scene, that scene doesn't work. Period.

People who are ready for beta readers don't need to defend their work. They know it isn't perfect – that's why they're seeking the services of a beta.

Sam that is a blatant statement to throw out for a first sentence. Because this thread is to help people to understand, Why we writers, can use beta readers. Also as you have directed many times do not include me in that "you"re not ready", I want all the help I can get. :)

I will ask all of you who might ever beta for me. If I get Pissy about my work, Slap me. I should be attempting to explain what I am trying to convey and might not be doing a good job of. As I have explained to my editor, I tell you what I want to say in hopes of while I am, I glean my meaning and write it in. Of course he always comes back with "don't tell me tell the reader" and I will say, "help me I am lost", if I am having issues.

MamaStrong
January 23rd, 2015, 02:05 AM
Nobody should take anyone else's word or suggestions as law, and discussing problem areas is fine - but if you feel you have to 'defend' your work, you're not ready for a beta. Betas are there to critique, not debate. I've done quite a bit of beta work over the years, and if an author implied my comments were 'wrong', or I 'didn't get it', I learned to just quit. I took my spare time and a lot of effort to give them my opinions and suggestions at no charge, knowing full well (and always telling them) that they were free to take or reject any or all of it. But if they want to whine about how I got it all wrong and convince me of their greatness - yeah, I'm not wasting my time on that. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.


This is very well worded. I haven't had much of my work Beta read, especially by people such as those on this site whom I view as more "professional" than say my friends/family. I'm not quite ready for a "real" Beta yet for the very reason I'm not ready to feel rejection. Still toughening my skin on constructive criticism. I defiantly stand behind my work of course, but also feel like I need to hire an editor.

My friend is over visiting and trying to talk to me, so this may seem like babble. I apologize. :)

A_Jones
January 26th, 2015, 03:27 PM
W. Goepner, Thank you. I am glad at least you know what I mean. I know many here believe otherwise, but the truth is when you ask someone to help you with your work, they shouldnt tell you they wont help you they way you want them to. As a writer it is very hard to see how what you are doing is incorrectly coming across. So when your editor or a beta reader tells you an area doesnt work you need to talk to them about it to see what exactly didnt you say correctly and the only way of doing that is to explain what you WANTED to say there. Then, together you will make your work more beautiful than it ever was.

Smith
January 26th, 2015, 06:13 PM
Would it be fair to say that a beta reader, in general, is a subjective opinion? Aside from grammar or spelling rules.

What I mean, is let's say there is a scene in my story that for Reader 1 doesn't "work". In my opinion, they missed something. But I still take that advice into consideration. However, then let's say Reader 2 comes along and also says the same thing. Now I'm thinking, "Okay, more than likely there is a problem here. Let's take another look." Then the last reader confirms I do indeed need to go back and fix it, because just like the first reader said, it actually doesn't work.

The point I'm trying to make, is I'm thinking it'd be more advantageous for the writer to have as many sets of eyes as possible. Whereas one person may not have got any emotion out of scene x, a few others may have thought it was okay, or even good. So long as all parties involved keep an open mind, and the writer is willing to respectfully discuss (feel like that's a better word than defend) comments made by the beta-ers, I don't think anybody will have their time wasted. And, I think the process will be even more beneficial for the writer's understanding.

Basically, it's a delicate balance of knowing when to shut-up and listen, consider advice that may be good, or have a back-bone and politely disagree. Really a case-by-case basis.

Also, the writer needs to know how to ask the right questions to get the most out of the learning experience, as A-Jones mentioned.

Ariel
January 26th, 2015, 07:29 PM
Asking to receive more information is different than defending your work.

T.S.Bowman
April 20th, 2015, 12:06 AM
Asking to receive more information is different than defending your work.

A completely different animal, indeed.

There have been several instances where something I have written doesn't "feel" right to one or two people, but one or two others find it to be perfectly fine.

The key to gathering more information from those it doesn't work for is finding out, to the best of your abilities, why it doesn't. Those are the people you should be concerned with.

W.Goepner
April 20th, 2015, 06:59 AM
Ok I know there is a lot of looking down the nose at writers who defend their work. Why? Do you think you are all knowing and smart enough to KNOW that what they did there was wrong and the only way to fix it is to get rid of it?

Of COURSE not! No when you are BETA reading a writers piece you can see things they cant this is soooo true, but they also see things you can't that is why it is SO valuable to them that they defend them selves. Then together you can find ways of which they can polish their work.

So please my writers, defend your work. NEVER take my word or suggestions as law (or even as speculation) take them as the start of a discussion that will ultimately lead to your triumph.

And my beta readers, expect the same from me.

EDIT: By defending their work I mean to ask the beta reader Why they feel the way they do. Only through follow up questions do I believe a writer will learn how to fix their mistakes and grow. I did not mean they should blatantly tell the beta reader they were wrong. Beta readers are in a position to tell you what a reader doesnt get. It doesnt matter what you think, they will always be right about whether or not it works for them. I am just saying it is important for a writer to ask why.

Now that you have added the EDIT, you make a point, which stands to reason, why defend, when you intend for the beta reader to state there opinion? It is like my feelings when I had a person state, NO adverbs. (Maybe not that bluntly, but that is how I took it) Adverbs the ones ending in, ly? Anyway.

I used three in one paragraph, in the first chapter, attempting to describe the tender actions of my MC after being away from his spouse for a while. Though I felt they, (the reader) were wrong, I changed it. There are times when a soft touch or gentle movement needs to be gently enhanced. I do agree where there is an overabundance of these words one should consider revising.

What bothers me is when you, the writer, try to explain why or how you were thinking, the reader remarks that you are coming off snippy, as I had one do once.

Sam
April 20th, 2015, 10:07 AM
Sam that is a blatant statement to throw out for a first sentence. Because this thread is to help people to understand, Why we writers, can use beta readers. Also as you have directed many times do not include me in that "you"re not ready", I want all the help I can get. :)

It may be blatant, but that doesn't make it any less true.

I have been a beta reader for numerous people, and they in return have done the same for me, with the stated proviso that the author is the ultimate arbiter of what s/he does or does not use from each beta's comments. If I disagree with what a beta has said, I don't argue with them. If they're confused with a scene, I don't try to explain it to them. I take what they've said, mine it for quality comments that I agree with, and I thank the person for taking time out of their busy schedule to help me.

I do not throw a hissy fit. Period. I do not defend my work. Period. Those are the actions of someone who has not yet grown a thick enough skin to seek the services of a beta reader, hence my original point. If a beta has said something I don't understand, I ask them to clarify their meaning. If they do not like something in the book, I ask them to explain why. I don't throw a temper tantrum and scream, "You don't see what I see!"

If you're going to seek out beta readers, be prepared to receive negative comments; understand that they are not an affront to you as an author; use them to help strengthen your piece; discard the ones that you do not agree with; thank the person for helping you; offer to beta-read a piece of their work in the future, should they wish to avail of your services; and act like a professional in all aspects of the relationship.

TJ1985
April 20th, 2015, 11:15 AM
I see the beta reader as being a first chance to see how the work performs. I can disagree with the beta reader all I want, but if the story I wanted to tell isn't told so that a beta "gets it," I assume that I failed in my attempt. Unless you pick really dumb betas, a failure is a failure. If I had to go back and explain myself three or four times, it would tell me that the writing or the story (or both) were flawed. A beta reader is, in my mind, never wrong. That's a harsh statement, but I believe it. If someone reads a story and doesn't get it, that tells me that I need a second opinion. If the second opinion agrees with the first, I need to go back to the drawing board and make it better. If a reader doesn't understand something, and a different reader also doesn't understand it, the flaw doesn't lie with the reader.

I've beta read for a person in this forum, one novel was 180+ pages, the other 220+ for a running total of 400 pages. After I read the first novel we touched base and did a notes dump. I had never beta read, and I didn't think to ask about how deeply he wanted me to go, I just went. I pointed out everything that didn't work, sneaky SPAG, continuity, clumsy wording, the works. If it was in there and I noticed it, I told him about it. He was gracious and grateful. He asked a few questions, I answered them, he asked for clarification of a couple points in my notes, I provided it. I kept my comments specifically relative to the piece, and I believe he appreciated that.

Had he, after I'd read 180 pages for him, chosen to bite my head off I would have demonstrated my skill as a profanitist, and I would likely email him from time to time so I could pick up where I left off. That's my personality: I'll try to move hell uphill to help you, but if you take my help and then throw it back in my face... Don't waste your time or mine trying to get another milliliter of help from me. I beta read his longer novel, did the same as before, and if he emailed or PM'ed me and asked me to beta a 500 page piece he'd been working on, I'd do it in a heartbeat without hesitation.

The moral of the story is a simple one: Treat your beta readers as you like, and repay their efforts as you please. If someone points out a pinhole in your masterpiece, tell them how stupid they are and demean them for not understanding. However, if you choose this method you should know that you'll go through a lot of beta readers. You'll also have more difficulty finding new beta readers once the rumor gets around of how you treat them. Demeaning or arguing with a reader doesn't fix a broken story, but editing/rewriting does.

Kyle R
April 20th, 2015, 03:39 PM
Interesting discussion!

I try to be honest and encouraging when I offer reader feedback. Nowadays, whenever I offer suggestions, I make sure to include a disclaimer making it clear that anything I say, as a reader, should be ignored or discounted if the author feels any of the suggestions don't work for them. The author, after all, is the creator.

I also think, as a reader, it's just as important to point out what works as it is to point out what needs work. Sometimes finding only flaws can taint the feedback with a negative slant.

If, as a writer, I'm only told of my flaws, then I might assume there's nothing I'm doing well.

However, if you tell me my flaws and the things I'm doing well, I'll have a better idea of what I should work on and what I should continue doing.

Lastly, I feel, as a reader, that all my feedback is purely subjective. Meaning, it's all just my personal opinion. Just because something might not work for me, that doesn't mean it's bad or that it even needs fixing. This is why I believe phrases like "to me", "for me", and "in my opinion" go a long way when offering feedback.


So, to me, the best advice for writers is: be grateful for well-intentioned feedback. Don't argue. And reserve the right to make your own creative decisions. If some feedback you receive doesn't jive with what you're going for, feel free to ignore it.

And, again (to me) the best advice for readers is: be honest about what doesn't work for you, be encouraging about what does work for you, and remember that your feedback is not creative law—it's only your personal opinion. :encouragement:

Smith
April 20th, 2015, 06:44 PM
It is okay to discuss points with a beta reader for the better understanding of all parties, but not argue over them.

I think that is what was meant by "defending". Poor word choice maybe, but I still agree.

W.Goepner
April 22nd, 2015, 06:24 AM
It may be blatant, but that doesn't make it any less true.

I have been a beta reader for numerous people, and they in return have done the same for me, with the stated proviso that the author is the ultimate arbiter of what s/he does or does not use from each beta's comments. If I disagree with what a beta has said, I don't argue with them. If they're confused with a scene, I don't try to explain it to them. I take what they've said, mine it for quality comments that I agree with, and I thank the person for taking time out of their busy schedule to help me.

I do not throw a hissy fit. Period. I do not defend my work. Period. Those are the actions of someone who has not yet grown a thick enough skin to seek the services of a beta reader, hence my original point. If a beta has said something I don't understand, I ask them to clarify their meaning. If they do not like something in the book, I ask them to explain why. I don't throw a temper tantrum and scream, "You don't see what I see!"

If you're going to seek out beta readers, be prepared to receive negative comments; understand that they are not an affront to you as an author; use them to help strengthen your piece; discard the ones that you do not agree with; thank the person for helping you; offer to beta-read a piece of their work in the future, should they wish to avail of your services; and act like a professional in all aspects of the relationship.

Thank you Sam, that is a nice clarification of what I thought you said and what you meant.

I am working with a person from the forums here, they are reading over my one complete story. They are not only beta reading for me they are editing it also. I will admit I have very bad grammar habits, and they are busy pointing out many to me. Because I know my SPaG is terrible, I cannot fault them for the corrections.

When they have confusion with a spot in the story, I write it to them and explain where or why it is as it is. This gives me a opportunity to think about what I am trying to say to the reader, hopefully giving me insight as to how I can change or improve it. Quite often I leave it as is, because later in the story it is explained. I have many times sent my comments to my beta reader only to have them tell me not to explain it to them but to the reader. Where they have confusion in a area and I explain it to them, they might tell me to use what I explained to them in that spot. Some times I have to ask them to expand on what it is they are not getting, then I can see it from their view point and scratch out a fix.

I know we as writers use many different methods to achieve our goals in writing or completing a story, I would say as much as the beta reader has ways they view a scene our storys. I know what I do is not what someone else would. I also know when I ask advice of others they can only give me what they see in what I attempt to write. Quite often when I go reading through the forums, I have to remind myself that what I am looking at, is only words on a page and any emotion I see is actually what I put there.

W.Goepner
April 22nd, 2015, 06:40 AM
Interesting discussion!

I try to be honest and encouraging when I offer reader feedback. Nowadays, whenever I offer suggestions, I make sure to include a disclaimer making it clear that anything I say, as a reader, should be ignored or discounted if the author feels any of the suggestions don't work for them. The author, after all, is the creator.

I also think, as a reader, it's just as important to point out what works as it is to point out what needs work. Sometimes finding only flaws can taint the feedback with a negative slant.

If, as a writer, I'm only told of my flaws, then I might assume there's nothing I'm doing well.

However, if you tell me my flaws and the things I'm doing well, I'll have a better idea of what I should work on and what I should continue doing.

Lastly, I feel, as a reader, that all my feedback is purely subjective. Meaning, it's all just my personal opinion. Just because something might not work for me, that doesn't mean it's bad or that it even needs fixing. This is why I believe phrases like "to me", "for me", and "in my opinion" go a long way when offering feedback.


So, to me, the best advice for writers is: be grateful for well-intentioned feedback. Don't argue. And reserve the right to make your own creative decisions. If some feedback you receive doesn't jive with what you're going for, feel free to ignore it.

And, again (to me) the best advice for readers is: be honest about what doesn't work for you, be encouraging about what does work for you, and remember that your feedback is not creative law—it's only your personal opinion. :encouragement:

This is interesting Kyle, I never thought to give a positive response to a area which works. I see where it would help the writer feel confident in what they are doing. I try not to say always what is wrong, but I also try to explain how or why it is not working for me. I even try to offer up my ideas as I see them.

POINT; The person I am beta reading for. They refer to what I see as the mane character, as a Tall Lizard or Dragon, Bipedal humanoid. Then about 2/3rd the way through they give them hair and call them a man. Talk about the mind blower. No where until that point, do they refer to them in that way. I do not think it is intentional but... They just took this character and demeaned them to a sub level from what I was reading them.

Waite a moment I don't think I sent that to them yet.

Mesafalcon
May 28th, 2015, 05:33 AM
A general rule I go by, is if I hear it from one or more beta reader, I throw up a red flag.

The opinion of a single reader of course, is very useful, but it's only one reader.

We really need multiple opinions before we can take something seriously if we don't also immediately agree with what was pointed out.

candicame
July 18th, 2019, 09:46 PM
The goal of any critique is to help you write the book you thought you wrote the first time.

If your betas are telling you that you didn't write the book you thought you wrote- you don't get defensive. You say, "Thanks, that's really gonna help in the rewrite." Because that's the whole point of having beta readers. It's important to set expectations so that they'll be able to help you, but no I would never consider defending my work because if I was going to do that I wouldn't get beta readers or an editor. I'd just sent it out to make its way in the world to stand or fall on its own merit. I'd just start querying. Betas are doing you a favor.

My issue is that I feel like betas don't provide enough feedback, but I've had a really hard time finding betas. That's actually why I joined this forum and I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.

Maybe some people have a lot of experience, but my background's not in creative writing. I've never had anything published. I've never even had any collegiate level, creative writing classes. I don't know anything about this. I need the help. I need to know what readers think, big picture, story level stuff. I don't need to have an opinion about what they think, I just need to know what it is. That is just information that I need. I don't feel like they need or want my feedback on their feedback. I can't imagine they'd possibly care. I need to know how it reads. Without input from me. If they don't get it then they don't get it, but if a lot of people don't get the problem might not be that my art is just beyond their comprehension, it might be that it's just not that good.

seigfried007
July 18th, 2019, 11:19 PM
The goal of any critique is to help you write the book you thought you wrote the first time.

If your betas are telling you that you didn't write the book you thought you wrote- you don't get defensive. You say, "Thanks, that's really gonna help in the rewrite." Because that's the whole point of having beta readers. It's important to set expectations so that they'll be able to help you, but no I would never consider defending my work because if I was going to do that I wouldn't get beta readers or an editor. I'd just sent it out to make its way in the world to stand or fall on its own merit. I'd just start querying. Betas are doing you a favor.

My issue is that I feel like betas don't provide enough feedback, but I've had a really hard time finding betas. That's actually why I joined this forum and I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.

Maybe some people have a lot of experience, but my background's not in creative writing. I've never had anything published. I've never even had any collegiate level, creative writing classes. I don't know anything about this. I need the help. I need to know what readers think, big picture, story level stuff. I don't need to have an opinion about what they think, I just need to know what it is. That is just information that I need. I don't feel like they need or want my feedback on their feedback. I can't imagine they'd possibly care. I need to know how it reads. Without input from me. If they don't get it then they don't get it, but if a lot of people don't get the problem might not be that my art is just beyond their comprehension, it might be that it's just not that good.

Oh my goodness, while I agree with your post, why'd you just commit thread necromancy?

Btw, collegiate level writing classes won't necessarily help you as much as a place like this, which full of actual writers. I've taken several collegiate writing courses from different universities--some specifically devoted to academic writing, others allowing for fiction. Haven't taken any solely devoted to fiction, but I have taken "the fiction path" in every course that allowed for it. While you can pick up tips and tricks from such courses, most of what you get is practice... and you'd probably make better headway tinkering around by yourself anyway.

Actually, instead of trying to resurrect this bad boy from 2014, go ahead and make a new one in writing discussion. This is more a publishing area, and critiques (and taking criticism) isn't a skill publishing has some grand monopoly on. You'll get a lot of relevant feedback and responses that way. Some of the members in this thread aren't active anymore :-)

Art Man
August 21st, 2019, 04:58 PM
Ok I know there is a lot of looking down the nose at writers who defend their work. Why? Do you think you are all knowing and smart enough to KNOW that what they did there was wrong and the only way to fix it is to get rid of it?

Of COURSE not! No when you are BETA reading a writers piece you can see things they cant this is soooo true, but they also see things you can't that is why it is SO valuable to them that they defend them selves. Then together you can find ways of which they can polish their work.

So please my writers, defend your work. NEVER take my word or suggestions as law (or even as speculation) take them as the start of a discussion that will ultimately lead to your triumph.

And my beta readers, expect the same from me.

EDIT: By defending their work I mean to ask the beta reader Why they feel the way they do. Only through follow up questions do I believe a writer will learn how to fix their mistakes and grow. I did not mean they should blatantly tell the beta reader they were wrong. Beta readers are in a position to tell you what a reader doesnt get. It doesnt matter what you think, they will always be right about whether or not it works for them. I am just saying it is important for a writer to ask why.

When you wrote "defending your work" I thought you meant copyrights and defense from plaigarism.

You're right about a chance to respond and the need for there being a two way dialogue with the author and beta reader that extends beyond one round. If a beta reader is a good enough critic the author shouldn't feel impelled to ask a whole lot beyond the initial exchange. Of course, if a beta reader isn't specific and detailed and doesn't offer a full explanation to the author and makes ambiguously general comments the author is going to have many questions.

Ralph Rotten
August 21st, 2019, 06:12 PM
With Beta readers, it is best to STFU.
As soon as you start arguing with a Beta, they will clam up, and the feedback will stop flowing.

luckyscars
August 21st, 2019, 08:57 PM
With Beta readers, it is best to STFU.
As soon as you start arguing with a Beta, they will clam up, and the feedback will stop flowing.

100% agree. Arguing or otherwise getting defensive with beta readers (or any readers, really) is plain unprofessional. Do McDonalds argue with the taste testers when they're rolling out a new recipe of McNuggets? It's like chefs who get combative because somebody didn't like their food. It's weird.

The whole point of having work beta read is to get a subjective impression. The idea of a beta reader is to road-test your work with somebody who would be your target audience. If the beta reader thinks your story doesn't work it's either because (1) It doesn't work or (2) The beta reader was not the target audience and the work was a bad fit - for example, asking a conservative, religiously-inclined reader to give you feedback on your blasphemy-riddled, sexually-charged splatter punk novel probably won't get you very useful or postiive feedback.

Both of those things are, ultimately, aspects in the writer's control, that the writer has to take responsibility for. It's like those dingbats who go on those TV pop star shows and start screaming death-metal style in the audition, then act shocked when Simon Cowbell or whatever his name is doesn't like it.

Whether or not a story works should not come down to a single piece of feedback...but if you're going to get something beta read, for goodness sake make the most of it. Select the volunteer with a little thought, be respectful toward them and their time, and if they don't like it, that's your problem not theirs. If they can't 'see' something it might be because they're wrong, or it just might be because you're not the greatest writer who ever walked the earth.

seigfried007
August 21st, 2019, 09:23 PM
I don't think arguing with a beta reader should ever be done, but I do think respectful discussions should happen wherever possible. I've received some vague feedback on occasion, and to make such feedback useful, conversations had to happen. Plus, my betas have all become friends with me anyway.

Ralph Rotten
August 22nd, 2019, 04:09 AM
It took me a long time to learn to STFU when debriefing Beta readers.
But then, I'm an asshole. Even says so on Amazon.
In fact, I typically send a questionnaire along with the book so they can make their comments free of my hawkish gaze.
It also keeps them from feeling on-the-spot when you ask hard questions.

Art Man
August 22nd, 2019, 03:39 PM
With Beta readers, it is best to STFU.
As soon as you start arguing with a Beta, they will clam up, and the feedback will stop flowing.

I wouldn't be argumentive but if a beta reader simply said, "Remove this paragraph." without an explanation I would probably ask why he thinks it should be removed.

luckyscars
August 22nd, 2019, 07:39 PM
I wouldn't be argumentive but if a beta reader simply said, "Remove this paragraph." without an explanation I would probably ask why he thinks it should be removed.

A beta reader probably wouldn't say that, though. An editor would, because an editor is there to edit. A beta reader is there to provide an opinion on the story, not tell you what to do.

If a beta reader did mention something alone those lines, however, I think it would be fine to ask why they think what they think. What would NOT be fine is to then say "YEAH BUT THIS IS WHY..."

This isn't a Blu Ray special edition, you don't get to insert explanatory footnotes or audio commentary in a written story. You aren't entitled to right-of-reply (well, you're entitled to it, but it makes you sound like an ass IMO).

Bottom line: If your beta reader's feedback indicates your meaning was not totally clear enough for them to see what you end up wishing to 'defend', then you need to shut up and take that on board. Then maybe go away and rewrite the work so that you don't have to explain or defend things to readers.

RLBeers
August 22nd, 2019, 07:55 PM
When I read a comment on my work from a critic who has no relationship with the series, I usually discount it as they do not know the backstory, but still, if the critique (one recent comes to mind) has value to offer, I use it, shamelessly.

Ralph Rotten
August 22nd, 2019, 08:57 PM
Sure, it's okay to ask probing questions. But I desperately try to not turn it into an interrogation.
If they thought a section need to be cut, I would be curious.
After all, every writer has a blind spot for their own work. You simply cannot see your flaws.


Also, when I beta test a book, it is a real BETA, not an Alpha.
So I am looking for broad strokes from the readers. I tell them I am not looking for proofreading so much as big overview.
After the Beta readers I still proof the book a few times.


Alpha: Having the book read BEFORE major editing.
Beta: Having the book read when it is practically perfect in every way.

Moose.H
November 7th, 2019, 09:22 AM
I have my work checked and edited well before a Beta. Having submitted something inadequate I felt humiliated and that has had an immense positive effect on my writing. Writing is a skill that requires practice and criticism as the author often gets too close to their content and leaves issues inadequately covered or gets to verbal. I listen to criticism and use it.
Heck maybe because I know I am ADHD and dyslexic...

JohnCalliganWrites
November 7th, 2019, 06:02 PM
Sure, it's okay to ask probing questions. But I desperately try to not turn it into an interrogation.
If they thought a section need to be cut, I would be curious.


Personally, I never ask, because usually betas will have already volunteered that kind of information if they have it, which is usually only possible from other writers.

Being asked to cut something from a non-writer usually means it was tiring to read, boring, or stupid. Someone who knows more about craft might say, "this scene does nothing but deliver exposition about world building, so I think it should be cut and the world building put somewhere else." The writer might hear that and agree, or they might decide that they lost track of the necessary desire line and add MORE exposition to explain the character's goals and emotional change, but that's up to the writer.

If a non-writer or novice says, "cut this," lol I probably don't want to hear "boring" from them that much.

Ralph Rotten
February 10th, 2020, 01:55 PM
I have my work checked and edited well before a Beta. Having submitted something inadequate I felt humiliated and that has had an immense positive effect on my writing. Writing is a skill that requires practice and criticism as the author often gets too close to their content and leaves issues inadequately covered or gets to verbal. I listen to criticism and use it.
Heck maybe because I know I am ADHD and dyslexic...


Yesss! This is a biggie for me: Having my work fully proofed and edited before sending it to betas.
See, when someone reads your manuscript, errors will bias them against your work.
Psychologically they go from seeing you as one of those thinkers who has written a book...to an ordinary person who makes errors that they were able to see.
Once the reader starts to think they are smarter than the writer, they will treat your work differently (and I don;t mean that in a positive way.)

So I always try to give betas as clean a manuscript as possible so they are not at all distracted by errors & typos.
I'm not looking for proofreading...I am looking for feedback on the big-picture of my story.