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How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 16th, 2010, 1:02 pm
by stephmcgee
Maybe this isn't the right place for it, but I'm new. How do y'all go about choosing a beta? I've recently asked a close writing friend to beta for me, and sent the ms to my brother for non-writerly feedback.

But I've never reached the beta stage before this and I'm worried. I don't know if my one beta is going to read beyond what I sent her as a test. But I don't know how else to find a beta. I've not shared much of my actual writing with others before and a lot of the writing friends I've made don't write in my genre.

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 16th, 2010, 1:12 pm
by heather_hangs_it
What is your genre? Mind sharing?

And 'All Things Feedback' would be a good forum to check out for this particular issue.

~heather

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 16th, 2010, 1:13 pm
by stephmcgee
The current book is contemporary/urban fantasy. (Adult, not YA.)

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 16th, 2010, 1:45 pm
by dios4vida
Make sure it's someone that you trust - that's the most important thing. You need to have the kind of relationship where criticism won't hurt and you both know you can be brutally honest with each other.

Other qualities I think are important:

An interest in your genre (though it doesn't have to be their main interest, just enough so that they know what's cliched or trite)
Well-read
Good command of the English language
Committed to helping the ms be the best it can be, not to spare your feelings or make you feel good about yourself
Willing to put in the time and effort to really read it, so you aren't waiting forever for feedback while they make excuses

That's all I can think of right now, but there's a lot more.

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 16th, 2010, 2:09 pm
by cheekychook
There's a thread on this site for people who are seeking a critique partner---you can post there and describe what you're looking for and what you're offering in return. Or you can read on this forum for a while and find a poster who seems to have either a similar style/viewpoint/genre to you then PM that person and ask if they're interested in swapping chapters. That's how I found my critique partner and she's amazing---don't know what I'd do without her! Good luck to you!

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 16th, 2010, 5:07 pm
by AnimaDictio
Go for someone intelligent, someone who actually reads books. A writer would be best, I think.

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 24th, 2010, 10:16 am
by sierramcconnell
I come from the NaNo forums because that was one of the places I was first enticed to finally get over my fear of writing. They have a place specifically for finding betas. I don't recommend having someone close to you do it for you, because they're too invested in you. You'll get one of two responses:

1. "oh, it's wonderful"
2. CLAWS

Two was what I got, and what set up that fear of writing. It took years to get over because my friend ripped the heck out of my book. In retrospect, yes, it was a first draft and needed some work, but she was a critical beta. She gave me the what for on it and I trusted her, so I thought I was such a terrible writer I never again deserved to pick up a pen.

Find someone you can somewhat trust, but someone not emotionally invested in you. Someone who can give you honest feedback that you can share opinions with, but that you won't be afraid to talk to if you need to discuss something. Someone, that if you need to break with, you're not afraid of losing.

Re: How do you pick a beta?

Posted: August 24th, 2010, 8:26 pm
by karenbb
Close friends are good for one thing--staying close. In other words, they will have a very hard time giving you real feedback. I have close friends read my stuff all the time and many have learned to be critical but it's taken time. You need to find a critique partner and as cheekychook so adeptly pointed out, the NB forums are a great place to find someone. Find a person who writes in a similar genre (doesn't have to be exactly the same) and who is at a similar point with their WIP. I also think it's important to find someone who is up for the same amount of work as you are--if you're going to do ten pages a week, it's going to take a really long time to get through your book. My stupendous critique partner and I have been known to do 100 pages in a week because we both like to work a lot.

Once you find someone, you need to encourage them to be honest and then you have to get ready for the honesty. It stings the first few times but you build up a good callous and then it hardly hurts at all the fiftieth time. Seriously...you're never going to get better writing in a vacuum. You need to let people tear your stuff apart so you can put it back together. It's really hard, but think of it this way--if your book gets published, the whole world is going to be giving you feedback and you might not like much of it. Better get that out of the way now!

Lastly, be sure you reciprocate with your critique partner. Give them the same honesty they have given you--pay close attention to their work and help them make it the best it can be. When the relationship works, it's awesome.