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Thread: Defending Your Work

  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by W.Goepner View Post
    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.
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  2. #32
    Member TJ1985's Avatar
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    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.
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  3. #33
    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.
    Last edited by Kyle R; April 20th, 2015 at 03:56 PM.

  4. #34
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    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.
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  5. #35
    WF Veteran W.Goepner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam View Post
    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.
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  6. #36
    WF Veteran W.Goepner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    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.
    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.
    My friends and family call me Bill, you may also.Hidden Content

    When people meet people,
    Potential Strangers, Acquaintances, Friends.

    When dogs meet people,
    Potential Friends, Acquaintances, Strangers.

    I would rather be the Dog.

    It takes only,
    A second to meet,
    A moment to know,
    A Lifetime to forget.


    A word without thought can destroy.
    Please remember to think before you speak.

  7. #37
    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.

  8. #38
    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.

  9. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by candicame View Post
    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
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  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by A_Jones View Post
    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.

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