Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress

Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby sierramcconnell » 21 Jan 2013, 13:43

I think I might have asked before...it feels deja vu-y.

Anyway. I am so excite because one of the things my current beta told me I agree with 100%. I hated this one scene and only put it in to make other betas happy. It made me raaage. But then she says that the opening I want to use, might not be the strongest opening and it should be split up and told from another characters point of view.

Now I'm open to changing things. I have changed soooo many things to the point that it feels like it isn't my book anymore after all the people have looked through it and I changed about 95.9% of the things they said to do. However...the opening...my train station scene...I want to keep it.

This brings me to the question...do I /have/ to listen to the betas when they say they wouldn't choose it for an opening?

I mean...a lot of different people will say, "Ooh, you need an action scene" but that's been listed with the top most cliche openings, somewhere around 'character waking up'. It's been done so many times it made people sick. So I really, REALLY don't want to do this because there's no point in adding it to the book. It doesn't /do/ anything for it.

I'm not being stubborn...well, maybe a little...but there are somethings I just /don't/ want to change...even though I've changed a lot. I'm willing to edit it, but the location...it has to stay. It's important.

So...do I /have/ to listen? O_O
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.
User avatar
sierramcconnell
 
Posts: 670
Joined: 23 Aug 2010, 19:28
Location: BG, KY

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby Hillsy » 21 Jan 2013, 18:41

Simple rules: If one person says it, discard it. If 3 people say the same thing, pay attention.

Brandon Sanderson (I think) said he discarded 3 out of 4 things the betas said - until he found a brilliant writing group with multiple published authors in it....now he throws away about 2 in 3.

Look up writeaboutdragons.com - on there are some lectures and I think in lecture 1 parts 3-5 he talks about how to give a good critique......watch it, then reverse apply it to your current problem.

E.g. You don't want to hear: There should be more action here and here, or a love scene, or kill that character off really early to throw a twist or...or....or...etc. That is your beta writing the book for you. But what you're actually hearing is "I'm a bit bored here". Nothing more, nothing less....and how you solve that is up to you - not your betas

AND if after ALL that you still want to ignore the advice, do it. It's your book. Every Novel has problems with it in one capacity or another. FACT. All those problems are different for different people. Trying to make it a perfect book is impossible. Trying to make it a book YOU'RE proud of is simply hard work.
User avatar
Hillsy
 
Posts: 303
Joined: 09 Dec 2009, 02:33
Location: Gravesend, UK

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby wilderness » 21 Jan 2013, 20:25

Totally what Hillsy said. I think Brandon Sanderson's advice on critiques is really good.

I think if one person says something, and it agrees with my instincts/aesthetics, then I listen to it.

If someone says something, and I don't necessarily agree, then I wait and see if others comment on the same thing.

A lot of times, people may proscribe a specific solution, e.g. to change your first scene. But I think what's important is to find out WHY they are suggesting it. Is it because they find the current scene too slow? Is there something in particular not working for them? Remember, your betas may not always be able to verbalize the problem so you have to ask a lot of questions and even be a bit of a detective to get to the bottom of a particular suggestion. You still may not agree, but if you know what the heart of the critique is, you can judge it better. And even if you do acknowledge the problem, your solution maybe different from your beta's suggestion.

Um, so yeah I think I just rephrased Hillsy. Haha. Hope that helps!
User avatar
wilderness
 
Posts: 541
Joined: 21 Feb 2010, 16:25

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby sierramcconnell » 21 Jan 2013, 21:46

Hm. I think the biggest problem is that I don't see anything wrong with the beginning. If I were reading it I would like it more than an action sequence. But the different betas all say different things about it. So I'm assuming there are just some people hooked by the beginning of a book, some hooked by word of mouth, and some by the blurb.

As hillsy said, and others have said, I can't write a book perfect for everyone. Eventually I think I'll just have to see if it can stand on its own...
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.
User avatar
sierramcconnell
 
Posts: 670
Joined: 23 Aug 2010, 19:28
Location: BG, KY

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby Hillsy » 22 Jan 2013, 04:08

You may have stumbled on the crux of the problem. It's not the location, the amount of action, the machine-gun toting wallabies, the sentient confectionary.....it's the hook. An action sequence can have no hook. A person reading a newspaper, drinking coffee can be amazingly compelling. What your Betas may well be saying is "I'm not hooked by the start" and then rather than saying it and leaving it at that - which is what they should be doing - they are saying what they think is ought to be. Romantic tension can be a hook, mystery can be a hook, a promise of future information could be a hook.

The first section of one of the most successful breakout books in recent years - The Name of the Wind - starts with a man with no name polishing bottles in an empty inn, being silent, preparing the room for three local lads coming for an ale after a days labour to talk rubbish about old legends.................Rock n Roll, eh? No it ain't - but it is compelling. That might be what your start is lacking - but your betas only see it as an absence of physically action, rather than a lack of conflict and narrative action.

And yeah....all that being equal - if you love it, keep it, and ask all dissenters to line up for a swift kick in the genitals if they want to complain further
User avatar
Hillsy
 
Posts: 303
Joined: 09 Dec 2009, 02:33
Location: Gravesend, UK

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby sierramcconnell » 22 Jan 2013, 06:13

...well, I think one of my biggest problems also is that I didn't really want to work with this beta. In the first message, I just had a /feeling/ we would not get along, and unfortunately, it was a good feeling.

She's very harsh, doesn't seem to understand what the sandwich rule is, and everything I said about her book, she's saying about mine. She's not picking up on obvious clues everyone else did, and she's already said she didn't like the genre I'm writing in.

I just...don't mesh well with her...so I politely explained to her through email that I don't think we will work together well, what I thought overall of her book (the part I could get through considering it was written in spats in a ten year span and I'm only on chapter two and there has been about fifteen characters with various classes I cannot remember for the life of me...), and that we should probably go off to rework the book before going further.

I mean, maybe I should stop listening to other people, summarize the book I have, and start all over from scratch? Or maybe I just need someone who's not going to pull the "I have a degree in English" card to try and make their points valid.

It's not that I don't know the book needs work. I just think...I've worked on it so long already...it's never going to be /completely/ complete.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.
User avatar
sierramcconnell
 
Posts: 670
Joined: 23 Aug 2010, 19:28
Location: BG, KY

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby Hillsy » 22 Jan 2013, 07:11

Right........

......Firstly, sounds like you've got a problem with 1 person. Deal with that, hit reset, move on.

Secondly, and as ridiculous as this sounds, to me it seems like you need to learn how to workshop. Meaning - learning the weight and merit of critique/advice, how to sift the gold from the silt, and what that means to your novel. There's a ton of advice online for that.

Thirdly, if it's as good as you think YOU can make it, without making adjustments you don't believe in just because someone else says so, then give it one last quick line edit and send it out. Start something knew and forget about it....when the feedback comes in from publishers & agents, you'll have a better idea how close to the mark your own appraisal of your work is. Plus if you don't work on something new, you'll keep hitting reset on that 1 story anyway, probably forever.

Fourthly, don't just dismiss ALL beta readers because of a few people. Yes there's some arses out there, there's also many people who mean well but ain't great critiquers. Listen but don't be endebted - Think of it like a board of directors....You hold 60% of the opinion, your betas hold 40%. At the end of the day they can consult and advice, but you hold the majority vote.

NB: I got an E and an F in English GCSE (dunno what the equivalent is in the US....whatever the 16 year old exams are). I failed big time. An english degree means nothing to me though, because have 20 years reading experience and around 600K written words under my belt (60% of my practice total)....What is an English degree going to add to that? We've all likely done half a dozens English degrees worth of reading, writing, analyzing and learning IN OUR SPARE TIME. Someone lobs the "I did english: You didn't" ball at you? Lose that person immediately.....
User avatar
Hillsy
 
Posts: 303
Joined: 09 Dec 2009, 02:33
Location: Gravesend, UK

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby sierramcconnell » 22 Jan 2013, 07:34

Hillsy wrote:Right........

......Firstly, sounds like you've got a problem with 1 person. Deal with that, hit reset, move on.

Secondly, and as ridiculous as this sounds, to me it seems like you need to learn how to workshop. Meaning - learning the weight and merit of critique/advice, how to sift the gold from the silt, and what that means to your novel. There's a ton of advice online for that.

Thirdly, if it's as good as you think YOU can make it, without making adjustments you don't believe in just because someone else says so, then give it one last quick line edit and send it out. Start something knew and forget about it....when the feedback comes in from publishers & agents, you'll have a better idea how close to the mark your own appraisal of your work is. Plus if you don't work on something new, you'll keep hitting reset on that 1 story anyway, probably forever.

Fourthly, don't just dismiss ALL beta readers because of a few people. Yes there's some arses out there, there's also many people who mean well but ain't great critiquers. Listen but don't be endebted - Think of it like a board of directors....You hold 60% of the opinion, your betas hold 40%. At the end of the day they can consult and advice, but you hold the majority vote.

NB: I got an E and an F in English GCSE (dunno what the equivalent is in the US....whatever the 16 year old exams are). I failed big time. An english degree means nothing to me though, because have 20 years reading experience and around 600K written words under my belt (60% of my practice total)....What is an English degree going to add to that? We've all likely done half a dozens English degrees worth of reading, writing, analyzing and learning IN OUR SPARE TIME. Someone lobs the "I did english: You didn't" ball at you? Lose that person immediately.....


THANK YOU. I think that's what it is exactly.

I'm not butthurt because I know it needs more work, but she was commenting "FIX THIS" and "I DON'T LIKE THIS". Uhm...first she's not offering an opinion, she's saying it's wrong with no argument whatsoever, and then she's telling me right out all these things other people like she hates. (And the things she likes are things I kinda want to change...) So, yes, I think it's just not a good fit and I did politely tell her so. I haven't received a response yet though... O_O

And when she pulled that degree card, I lol'd. Because I have a degree and a proficiency in Cisco Internetworking. You know what? I couldn't tell you the first thing about how to use a router past the physical application because I don't practice it.

I put an ad in the cp section of this forum because the people here have always been nice and the people on NaNo is sort of...hit and mostly miss.

I do have other things to work on...I have five other books fully summarized and lined out, ready to just go, and I like them much better.

My biggest problem is...this was my first finished novel and I hate to see it die...maybe I'm not mature enough in skill to complete it now. Maybe I should just set it in a drawer and when ready, START OVER. Because part of me wants to summarize and start from scratch because it would be easier than patching a patch, y'know?

I think I need someone to tell me "MOVE ON". Because when I think about it...I would feel so much freer if it would just goooo away.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.
User avatar
sierramcconnell
 
Posts: 670
Joined: 23 Aug 2010, 19:28
Location: BG, KY

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby dios4vida » 22 Jan 2013, 09:07

So I have some bullet-point thoughts that I want to say before I have anything coherent and/or new to add to the conversation:

First, Hillsy has amazing advice. Listen to it all.

Second, you seriously need to drop that one beta. They are poison to your writing. Someone who will dictate how your book should be written is not trying to help you. They are trying to take over. Don't let them. This is your work, not theirs. You have to find betas who will see the vision you have and try to make it the best it can be, without changing the voice/tone/theme/whatever. That is not easy to do. Those of us who have great critique partners are rather jealous of them (my critique partner, you no can has!) because, as Nathan says, they seriously are worth their weight in gold.

sierramcconnell wrote:My biggest problem is...this was my first finished novel and I hate to see it die...maybe I'm not mature enough in skill to complete it now. Maybe I should just set it in a drawer and when ready, START OVER. Because part of me wants to summarize and start from scratch because it would be easier than patching a patch, y'know?

I think I need someone to tell me "MOVE ON". Because when I think about it...I would feel so much freer if it would just goooo away.


Hey Sierra - MOVE ON. First novels are notorious for being our little precious babies and we want to cuddle them and make them so perfect and we never want to put them away because they're so special and what if this new project takes away from that... This is normal. Been there, done that. I think everyone who has multiple novels under their belt around here can say the same. Completing your first novel is a total high, and you're so in love with the world you created and you're so afraid nothing will ever be as beloved to you as this first novel, but that isn't true. You love 99% of the novels you write. You get better with every novel you complete. Moving on to something else, and something else after that, will only improve your skills tenfold. Then, when you truly are ready to go back and look at that first novel, the huge icky problems you were so afraid to fix before won't be nearly as huge and icky. And then that beloved first novel will just be even better.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
User avatar
dios4vida
 
Posts: 1119
Joined: 22 Feb 2010, 14:08
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby sierramcconnell » 22 Jan 2013, 09:21

dios4vida wrote:So I have some bullet-point thoughts that I want to say before I have anything coherent and/or new to add to the conversation:

First, Hillsy has amazing advice. Listen to it all.

Second, you seriously need to drop that one beta. They are poison to your writing. Someone who will dictate how your book should be written is not trying to help you. They are trying to take over. Don't let them. This is your work, not theirs. You have to find betas who will see the vision you have and try to make it the best it can be, without changing the voice/tone/theme/whatever. That is not easy to do. Those of us who have great critique partners are rather jealous of them (my critique partner, you no can has!) because, as Nathan says, they seriously are worth their weight in gold.

sierramcconnell wrote:My biggest problem is...this was my first finished novel and I hate to see it die...maybe I'm not mature enough in skill to complete it now. Maybe I should just set it in a drawer and when ready, START OVER. Because part of me wants to summarize and start from scratch because it would be easier than patching a patch, y'know?

I think I need someone to tell me "MOVE ON". Because when I think about it...I would feel so much freer if it would just goooo away.


Hey Sierra - MOVE ON. First novels are notorious for being our little precious babies and we want to cuddle them and make them so perfect and we never want to put them away because they're so special and what if this new project takes away from that... This is normal. Been there, done that. I think everyone who has multiple novels under their belt around here can say the same. Completing your first novel is a total high, and you're so in love with the world you created and you're so afraid nothing will ever be as beloved to you as this first novel, but that isn't true. You love 99% of the novels you write. You get better with every novel you complete. Moving on to something else, and something else after that, will only improve your skills tenfold. Then, when you truly are ready to go back and look at that first novel, the huge icky problems you were so afraid to fix before won't be nearly as huge and icky. And then that beloved first novel will just be even better.


I have to agree about Hilsy having the best advice. Also, thank you! I needed that. I thought maybe I was just being a total bitch about how she was notating things, but I think she's fine and I'm fine, we're just not meant to work together.

The other day, I bought a notebook to write down everything I have in my head about the different worlds I've got around me.

I wrote the summary to the second and third books in another series I already wrote the first book to, the summary to two books in another series, and the summary to the first ever omg book I hand wrote over ten years ago and have wanted to rewrite.

I have other projects and I love each one dearly...I love this one, too...but I just don't think I'm ready to give it everything I have. Maybe I should work on the handwritten book, which had its problems, as well, but they were easier to correct. I have a full start to finish on all those books I mentioned, so why am I killing myself with this one? O_o

Yeah. I think it's time to write something else and stop wasting time. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.
User avatar
sierramcconnell
 
Posts: 670
Joined: 23 Aug 2010, 19:28
Location: BG, KY

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 22 Jan 2013, 10:38

I agree with all the advice that has been given. Huzzah! Great comments.

The only thing I'd add is to definately not give up on betas because they are AMAZING. It's too easy to be too close to your work and not see the problems in it. Having said that, betas come in all shapes and sizes and it's a good idea to approach them knowing exactly what you are looking for so you don't end up with someone you don't mesh well with. It may not even be that this reader was a bad one, just bad for you.

There are different kinds of beta readers and they all serve a purpose. Here are the 3 I like the best:

1) The reader reader, who is not a writer. This is someone who reads lots of books in your genre, but doesn't actually write them. They know what they like and have sampled enough to know what works in their favorite books and what doesn't. They might not be able to articulate this information, but they'll know it when they see it. These people are going to help you figure out which scenes are boring to the average reader and which are amazing, and they might surprise you. Take note of where in the story they have problems, but take their comments with a grain of salt. Like I said, they might only be able to say "I didn't like this scene," when maybe what they mean is that nothing happens, there's too much exposition, too much back story, whatever.

2) The writer reader, who is too much a writer. This is someone who will see the craft, the nitty gritty bits, and lose sight of the big overall enjoyment of the story. Pick one who writes in your genre. They'll help you fit your book into the formula of your genre, which sounds boring, but they'll make sure if you're writing a romance novel that you've got great romance. It can be surprising how easily we lose threads of our primary genre to secondary genres. These kind of critiquers will help with the overall big picture, but might miss nuances. They'll tell you about problems with character development and pacing, but may give crap advice on what you should actually DO to change it.

3) The anal retentive, detail-oriented, should come with a warning label critiquer. These people don't care about the sandwhich rule and they'll probably say things that'll hurt your feelings, but they'll pick up on your overuse of a certain word, any grammar problems you might have, and whether parts of your writing are just not as strong as others. A lot of people don't want these types to critique their work because they'll rarely have nice things to say and you'll feel completely torn up after they've taken a red pen to your manuscript, but these people have loads of merit. They love their craft and they don't want to see subpar stories out in the world. Take advantage of this passion, even if it hurts. Their comments are usually not wrong, even if we really wish they were. These types of critiquers don't need interpretations because they'll tell you exactly what they mean, but just because they don't say nice stuff doesn't mean there isn't nice stuff, they just don't see the value in pointing out the nice stuff. You can't improve something that's already good!


I also approach new beta readers with a list of expectations for them, so they know what I want from them up front. I ONLY beta read with people who read or write in my genre. I think this is important because someone who doesn't read or write YA are going to have problems with nuances of the genre. I ask them them to elaborate if something doesn't work for them. I give them a list of specific big picture items I want them to pay attention to - chapter transitions, character development, subplots, pacing, voice...etc. If there's something I'm not sure about, like my gut tells me I'm weak somewhere, I ask them to keep an eye on that as well. I give them a deadline. Then when I get all their comments back I add them to one master edit copy of my manuscript. This is time consuming but it lets me see on every page what every beta reader commented on. This usually helps me see problems they each noticed, even if they can't agree on what the problem is exactly.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
 
Posts: 1624
Joined: 02 Apr 2010, 20:07
Location: Omaha, NE

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby sierramcconnell » 22 Jan 2013, 11:42

Sommer Leigh wrote:I also approach new beta readers with a list of expectations for them, so they know what I want from them up front. I ONLY beta read with people who read or write in my genre. I think this is important because someone who doesn't read or write YA are going to have problems with nuances of the genre. I ask them them to elaborate if something doesn't work for them. I give them a list of specific big picture items I want them to pay attention to - chapter transitions, character development, subplots, pacing, voice...etc. If there's something I'm not sure about, like my gut tells me I'm weak somewhere, I ask them to keep an eye on that as well. I give them a deadline. Then when I get all their comments back I add them to one master edit copy of my manuscript. This is time consuming but it lets me see on every page what every beta reader commented on. This usually helps me see problems they each noticed, even if they can't agree on what the problem is exactly.


The funny thing is, I had it listed in the Fantasy section, and she even said "I'm not a fan of high fantasy but I'll give it a go". She didn't seem to understand a lot of how the writing works.

I line everything out for them, but I'm leery about deadlines because one person yelled at me that "you should be happy I'm doing this for free" when I asked what happened to her after three months of no word.

I'm not good at dealing with people...that's the biggest thing.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.
User avatar
sierramcconnell
 
Posts: 670
Joined: 23 Aug 2010, 19:28
Location: BG, KY

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby Collectonian » 22 Jan 2013, 12:15

I think everyone already gave a lot of great advice, so I'll just add that if you are looking for critiques, maybe sign up with Critique Circle and Scribophile. I've gotten great feedback for stuff on both sites. I like Scribophile's format better (and you can do more as a free member + they allow posting of erotica), while CC seems to have more active members maybe.
Collectonian
 
Posts: 159
Joined: 17 Feb 2011, 14:42

Re: Do you have to listen to /everything/ a beta says?

Postby polymath » 22 Jan 2013, 17:08

Welcome back from the land of crippling existential crises, sierramcconnell.

Listen, yes. Do? Never. Underlying unjustly imperative comments are germs, gems, nuggets of aesthetic hunches lacking enlightenment, always, that surrender to deciphering. Besides, the hunches might be on point but rarely offer solutions worthy of application. Besides, until shortcomings are reconciled, there's an infinity of creative, original, personal choices to try, try, try and select from.

Draft writing captures an inspiration. Reworking clarifies intent and meaning for audience accessibility and appeal. Critiquers are a beta audience. They don't often say what they mean or mean what they say. They may impose their creative vision on yours. Deny that last, cordially. But decipher what they mean, what they missed from what they comment upon. Adjust for clearer intent and meaning that an audience can access and comprehend and find appealing.

Audition new beta readers. A proficient beta reader rigorously avoids imperative commentary. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Writer development stages:
Mechanical style development, beginning writers, usually in grade school but continuing throughout life.
Craft development, intermediate writers, anytime but usually later in grade school and beyond.
Voice development, advanced writers, anytime but usually after exhausting experience with craft development.
Audience appeal development, winning writers, invariably later than other developments on the poet's journey, rare, priceless.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1801
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel


Return to All Things Writing

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests

cron