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<  Seekers  ~  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt Advice for the Author

Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:22 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 29 Nov 2004 Posts: 183 Location: Northern UK
This is a lonely hearts forum in some ways. Lonely fic author seeks editor. Grammar hopeless seeks nitpicker. Canon baby seeks canon fanatic...

The resulting relationship can, like many set up in similar ways, be heaven or hell. It really helps if you set a few rules and think it over before starting.

I've written a few fics, and beta read even more, some long, some short. I've got alpha writers I've now been working with for eighteen months. I've just had another request in my inbox to "take a look" at someone's fic.

In short, I've been around the block as a beta more than once. So here's some advice to writers as to how to work that marriage. It is a marriage, and believe me, marriages take work.

1. If you are planning to write anything that you think might squick your beta - get it out upfront at the very outset. Do not let the poor reader work through ten chapters and then present her with graphic rape and torture. Warn her first - if she does not like that, it's best to find out early on. There'll be someone with more liberal tastes out there who can read your story.

2. Get it clearly understood from the beginning that you both have the same mental ratings. You might think something is R that your beta thinks is NC17. Take a little time to understand what you both mean by this.

3. Settle a service level agreement early on. Agree between you what your ground rules are for speed of read. Make these rules so that you both agree and have pre-determined times for read and return. Fix what communications systems you have for discussion, for advising of delay, etc.

4. There's nothing worse than getting angry emails from an alpha writer when the reason for delay is that your cat needed a visit to the vets. Agree a tolerance level before you start sending angry emails. And generally, avoid sounding aggressive. A gentle "Is everything okay?" is much nicer. I am far more likely to respond with an "I'm sorry my cat had to go to the vets" whereas, "What the effing hell are you playing at, why have you quit" evinces little to no response. Your rude email could sit in my inbox for a while... Equally, delays should be anticipated and flagged up quickly. I'm also posting a guide note for betas about this.

5. Respect your Beta! Hells teeth, she's doing this for no pay, and no credit. You, the writer will get the plaudits, not your beta. Therefore if she offers input about whether Severus would wear pink argyle socks, listen up. She's right if she says he would not, totally out to lunch if she says he would.

6. Agree terms of reference (bugger it, this is beginning to sound like legal advice, but it can get that way). What is your beta doing? Grammar, punctuation? Brit Picking? Canon? Is she a plot or characterisation beta? Generally, I nitpick everything except when told not to. If you do not want your plot criticised (though I also want everything criticised) then say so immediately. And if you do not say so, do not throw a hissy when the beta tells you that Hermione is not a blonde.

7. If you get a really good beta, show gratitude. Credit her for her work and ask what name she wishes to be credited under. Always thank her for her help. If she suggests something you do not agree with, be polite anyway. Politeness is the name of the game, at first anyway. Round about chapter twenty you can get down to the serious business of mutual namecalling. Twisted Evil

8. Be nice. It never hurts. Accept criticism and generally, I'd suggest you listen up. This is critique with a safety net, and better from your friendly beta, who will probably suggest that Severus' adopting a homeless kitten and handrearing it is a tad out of character - nicely, whereas readers might be just that bit less gentle with you. If your beta suggests something, or tells you something you do not wish to hear, I'd strongly urge sleeping on it before rejecting out of hand.

9. Is the fic going to be the long haul? Get that understood from the get-go. Not everyone is up for 275,000 words so best to find out early to save disappointment later.

10. Agree formats. I once spent four frustrating days working with someone who had MS Works when I had Word. Frustrating? I was tearing out my hair! If your programmes will not play together nice, you can paste stuff into the body of the email.

Phew. Wanted to say this for a long time. It can be huge fun, you get to read good fics in advance of everyone else. You can look and think, "I suggested the marble bath." Rolling Eyes

Good luck to writers, be nice to your new beta. They are worth their weight in gold! Cool Cool Cool Cool
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Posted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 7:38 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 06 Dec 2004 Posts: 5
Excellent advice! I have always been kind to my beta, and feel very lucky to have her. I've beta-ed a few fics myself, and do not have the patience for it at all, so it makes me appreciate her all the more.

Oddly enough, not two hours before reading this post, I wrote a Christmas scene involving Snape receiving a pair of argyle socks. Fortunately for my beta, they're not pink, and it IS a comedy, so I hope she will overlook my transgression.
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Posted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 3:19 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 25 Aug 2005 Posts: 9 Location: Hiding under Ron's bed
nice point! I would feel better if everyone looking for a beta read this...
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Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2005 7:10 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 13 Feb 2005 Posts: 27 Location: Louisiana / USA
Just found this post today. Well said.

~Sunshine~ The Southern Witch~
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Posted: Sun May 07, 2006 4:47 am Reply with quote
Joined: 22 Feb 2005 Posts: 54 Location: California
This is all good information and very well said.

As someone who goes through this forum periodically looking for writers, I would like to post a reminder here that reading the post describing what information an author should include. Many requests have next to nothing about the story. Authors need to keep in mind they are trying to sell their story to a beta.

If an author doesn't give the pairing, I hit the back button.

If there is no summary of the basic plot, I hit the back button.

Not sure if any of the seekers read this, but it might help out. The generic, "I need a beta for my story. Please help." doesn't endear me. How do I know this fic doesn't have a pairing I don't like or things that squick me? The more information you give, the more likely you are to find a match. Smile

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Posted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 1:53 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 30 Oct 2006 Posts: 5 Location: Thorngumbald, Hull UK
This is new to me, and so it's good to have the guidance and advice being offered. Wink

I'd be happy to Beta for anyone who needed it, although I am afraid that I would be no help with Britpicking as I have only just moved here and am learning the "-ism's" myself. Perhaps Hull was the best place to start, since they have so many! Very Happy

To anyone who is considering beta-ing for me (and I hope that some of you are, because I will need at least one! maybe ten, i am too fond of commas and I'm lazy with the shift key) I hope that if I make mistakes in the process that you will be quick to forgive and to tell me what I am doing wrong so that I don't continue to do so.

Transplanted American, living amongst the British...Seriously in need of Reese Cups. Smile
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