Joined: 29 Nov 2004
Location: Northern UK
|I've already posted advice (interfering and bossy cow as I am) to authors. This is for the prospective beta readers out there. Subtitled, know what you are getting into.
I've been an author and beta read. It took a while to find a good beta reader. Every fic writer needs one however good they think they are. Here's some things I learned as a beta, and as an author that I think any prospective beta reader might wish to know.
1. Seriously, are you qualified? I don't mean that you need to be an off-duty proof reader. But generally, you should have a good working grasp of the appropriate language, the rules of grammar and punctuation. If you have been taken on for canon vetting, you should be pretty competent about canon, from the books, and not the movies. To brit pick, you should be British. (Brit picking is generally picking up non british modes of expression and converting them into British usage).
2. Are you prepared to work? That means setting aside regular time to read over whatever story has been sent. I strongly advise anyone new to it, not to take on too much work. It can engulf you if you have several scripts to read. You need time to carefully read the story. There's no excuse for sloppy reading.
3. Generally, what is expected is that the beta will first of all read the chapter. Just a read, to get the feel. A second read will pick out the mistakes. You should agree with the author how you will show the errors in the script. I usually use "track changes" but it's up to you to agree how you like it best. I then read a third time, to try and sweep anything I missed. I make notes at the end and in between paragraphs, usually to point out canon stuff. Plot holes and characterisation issues I detail at the end. Along with explanations of any Britishisms. It might sound heavy, but if you are a writer as well, it certainly improves your English skills.
4. If you find yourself delayed in returning a story - tell the writer. PLEASE. I've had three beta readers just stop. Real life issues - but without knowing, it is torture. You really begin to worry about whether there was something, either in the story or the email, that offended them. Good communications are your friend. I've never ever failed to understand if a beta reader has a problem. When it comes to it, I can always find someone else to read that chapter. I value the friendships more than the beta reading in any case.
5. Agree levels of honesty beforehand. I always want honesty - especially if my beta says something does not work. I want to know that before I post the story. However, not every writer wants such truthtelling.
6. Find out exactly what the writer wishes you to read for - if it's just an edit, for grammar, fine. If more, it should be stated.
7. Tell the author what things squick you first, before you end up beta reading scenes you'd rather you did not.
8. Ditto make it clear what you prefer not to read in terms of rating. When I first began my present work in progress, it began with a very smutty first chapter. I recruited a beta reader (not my wonderful present one) and advised them that the first chapter was sexually very explicit. They assured me they had no problem with this. I sent them the word file, I've not heard from them since January 2004. Oh, well. Do not pretend to be broader minded than you are. There's nothing wrong with feeling embarrassed by stuff. Be honest.
9. Find out whether the story is likely to be a long one. If you are only up for shorter stories, no problem, so long as you say so.
10. Agree what software programme you are using - not all WP packages play nice together. If they will not play, you can generally paste typing into an email.
11. If you have to quit, for whatever reason, be honest and let the writer know. If they are rude about this, that is not your problem - they are just ignorant. It's for fun, not a lifetime of servitude or death.
Good luck, and remember it is about fun, either improving your own self-editing skills if you write, or being part of the creative process (and an important one) if you do not.