Licking the Salt from the Biscuit of Life - How to Beta

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January 16th, 2008


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08:07 am - How to Beta
I've been having a discussion with [info]artistsonly about beta, and how valuable it is. Here are a few of my favorite links.

1. By [info]innerslytherin - Beta Reading

Specific feedback is more helpful than saying something is "good" or that "I like it."

Lots of good, practical, step by step advice on how to do or ask for a beta. Also a list of further beta links (one of which is below).

2. By [info]schemingreader - The Helpful Beta Reader

If you are the writer--you got free editing. The proper response is "thank you." I think you should probably warn your beta if you aren't going to do everything she suggests, so that you don't wind up making her feel like she worked for nothing. But aside from that--"thank you."

A good rundown on some of the different aspects to doing a beta - SPAG, canon, characterisation, POV, description and probably most important of all, encouragement.

3. By [info]laeladair - The Beta Reader - Unmasked

In general I recommend having at least two or more betas look over each story you write before it’s released to the public. In the best case scenario this gives you a few different opinions to draw from, and in the worst case it gives you a backup if one (or more) of your betas is too busy to get back to you.

Not all of your beta’s suggestions are going to be good. In fact, a great many of them will probably miss the mark — DON’T BE DISMISSIVE.... What you want to stay away from is scaring them into censoring their own feedback. Beta-readers are just as self-conscious as authors are and don’t like to be ridiculed or harassed for their opinions. My recommendation is to take everything they say with a smile as if you were going to go home that instant and act on every suggestion they gave you. Then, at a later point, you can decide what you will and will not use. Not only will this encourage your betas to be open and honest with you at all times, but it will keep you from talking about the story and influencing what they have to say through debate or discussion. Be honest and humble.


A nice long entry with lots of tips. I especially related to this one:

Post-criticism - Seethe in silence

The best thing you can do after getting your critique is, that’s right, nothing. Don’t act on it right away and, for the love of God, don’t respond with a comment, email, or IM unless you are 150% sure nothing negative or defensive is going to come across. Some people can transition flawlessly from the firing squad to the healing process but my guess is most people reading this can’t, myself included.


Oh, me neither. It usually takes me a couple of days before I'm out of my post-beta shellshock. But it's always worth it in the end.

(Indulge your wild theories here)

Comments:


From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 18th, 2008 02:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I followed you here from the BSH where, I have to admit, I really enjoy reading your fics. In fact, it was your first installment of 'Truly, Madly Fishy' that introduced me to the world of slash and Boosh Slash in particular! I'm so glad I followed that Google link....

However, I wanted to thank you for the last two posts here as I found them to be absolutely fascinating and very informative.

Although I think I understood the fact that really talented writers take their roles very seriously, I don't think I'd fully grasped how committed to research they were. I view you all with increased levels of respect and admiration now and can appreciate why it can sometimes take a long time to bring new chapters to an audience.

I have also learned a great deal about the importance of the beta. I knew in essence what their roles entailed but this post has made it so much clearer. Theirs is a vital job. Fics that have not seen a beta do sometimes contain errors that scream at you off the page - it kills the mood; rather like watching a film at the cinema when the house-lights come on at a vital point!

I've considered writing for BSH on several occasions and have started a couple of pieces, but now, having learned what I have today, I shall go back to them feeling wiser and more cautious - determined to 'show' and 'tell' and to avoid writing about orgasms at all costs!

Thanks again - oh, and I loved your 'collaboration' with easilyled on the Mistletoe fic. Inspired!

From leonleif on LJ
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:January 18th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Wow. What an amazing comment. I can't believe my fic was the first ever slashfic you read! Wow, I feel honoured, really I do. And you found my fics by using google? Really?

*goes off to try in amazement*

I couldn't. You must have been very determined.

Don't let lack of beta put you off writing. The first thing I posted was unbetaed, as is most people's. You have to have at least one fic up before most people want to beta for you. They want to see the goods, as it were. Or you can offer to do beta for other people first and then get beta in return. That works as well.

Yes, I take my fanfic seriously, in that I want it to be as good as I can make it. I like it too much to do otherwise. Though it's nowhere near as good as I want it to be.

The Mistletoe fic collaboration is still in progress - it's up to five chapters long now, and still growing. Easilyled's next chapter will be up on BSH very soon. The next two will be mine. You wouldn't believe how much fun they've been to write.

See you back over on LJ!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 19th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
(Link)
I really appreciate your reply and I thought you might like to know the following:-

I found Part One of TMF through Google at about the time it was written. (Was it April '07-ish?) Therefore it came up very early on in a general search for 'The Mighty Boosh'. I resisted it at first because I didn't actually know what 'slash' meant at that time and I was terrified (yes, terrified) of reading something that might equate to porn. I had to do a search for a definition of 'slash' before I went any further!! Can you believe it?

My first steps into BSH were very, very cautious. Now? Well now I'm a hardened reader of anything and everything on the BSH! No; not hardened because I can still be shocked - I particularly find the self-harm fics a bit difficult to reconcile with my view of Vince/Noel. And I haven't ventured any further afield yet as I'm not sure how I feel about other fandoms.

I'm so pleased that there's more in the pipeline from you and Easilyled; I really can't wait. You both write so honestly and with such boldness that your fics do seriously stand out above the rest.

So, before you think I'm stalking you, I'll say "Cheerio" and thanks for the reply and the encouragement!

Leonleif on LJ
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:January 20th, 2008 10:42 am (UTC)
(Link)
I found Part One of TMF through Google at about the time it was written. (Was it April '07-ish?) Therefore it came up very early on in a general search for 'The Mighty Boosh'.

Ah, that explains it. I'm still amazed though. I didn't know BSH entries came up so easily on google. I suppose there wasn't much else going on, Boosh wise, at the time.

No; not hardened because I can still be shocked

Oh, I'm shocked all the time! I find RPS fics in particular very hard to handle. I know with The Boosh there's not much difference between Noel/Julian and Vince/Howard, really, but in my mind there is. Even with disclaimers, I don't like fictionalising the real people unless it's obviously crackfic or AU or something. It makes me too uncomfortable.

I can understand you being very cautious about the slash. I was too! When I first discovered slash (in the Harry Potter fandom) my reaction was - why do they have to turn everything into porn? What is it with the internet? I spent quite a while doing genfic art and then writing before I went anywhere near the slash. And now I'm hardened, as you say. *grin* Thanks very much for your lovely compliment. I do try to be emotionally truthful when I write, even though my Booshfics are a pile of silliness.

And I like Booshslash very much but I'm still careful about which of my RL friends I tell. Some people are amused by what I do, some are frankly appalled. I think everyone who's into slash has had bad experiences when telling RL friends.

As for searching for fanfic terms like slash - ah, Wikipedia. It's very useful isn't it? I'm always using it when I come across a new term so that I don't look a fool online. This is what dictionaries and encyclopedias should be for - for looking up the definitions for sexual practices! That's how I learnt what the words slash, BDSM, vore and many others meant. So handy.

Don't worry about stalking me. You can stay over here if you want, open an account, even - it's free! I wasn't chasing you away.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 21st, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks again for another fabulous response.

I didn't know BSH entries came up so easily on google.

I've thought about this some more since reading your reply and what I must have done was Googled Mighty Boosh under the 'Advanced' -> 'Blogs' search. I was curious at the time to know who else was out there who might be a fan and similarly minded. Hope that clears it up!

As for searching for fanfic terms like slash - ah, Wikipedia.
That's how I learnt what the words slash, BDSM, vore and many others meant. So handy.

There - you see. You've given me two new terms to look up straight away!
Shall be even better informed by the end of the day.

And as for you posting on fanfiction.net; for what it's worth, I personally think your work is far too good. On the other hand, I suppose by posting there you may cause other writers to 'up their game' which wouldn't be a bad thing.

Happy writings!

leonleif on LJ
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:January 21st, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Re: fanfiction.net
I've since decided to post to skyehawke - this is my acccount there. It's another multi-fandom archive, but invite only, and I just a few minutes ago got an invite from the lovely [info]schemingreader. I've got nothing up there yet, but I shall have soon.

Re: vore and BDSM.
Hope you're not too brain burnt by the end of reading those definitions. Vore in particular is a WTF?! moment.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 22nd, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hearty congratulations!
That's such good news!
Am scurrying over to skehawke after this - do I have to enrol or is it open to general riff-raff?
But my! Haven't you been busy of late?! And everyone a winner, too!

leonleif on LJ
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:January 22nd, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Anyone can read at skyehawke, I just went over to check. Actually, I remember that from before. I used to read other people's stuff there before myself. You can even leave reviews etc without being a member, which is nice. Not that I did, ha.

Yes, I've been busy - but writing silly anon kink fics. And not the stuff I SHOULD have been doing. Oops.

Ta.
From:[info]dark_safari
Date:January 22nd, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
And as for you posting on fanfiction.net; for what it's worth, I personally think your work is far too good. On the other hand, I suppose by posting there you may cause other writers to 'up their game' which wouldn't be a bad thing.

IAWTC. I generally find ffnet to be of inferior quality. The BSH archive blows it out of the water, in terms of writing.
[User Picture]
From:[info]accio_arse
Date:January 22nd, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Your comment probably wouldn't havd made me laugh, except that I got it just as I posted another crazy porny fic to that anon Boosh kink.

I don't feel very high quality at the minute. No sireeee.
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(Link)
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