Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beta Reading Etiquette


I watched two separate twitter feeds explode last night.  Both were on their own rant about manuscript critiques they had received. Normally this wouldn't bother me; I’d lurk and chuckle at the way we, as authors, tend to internalize things way to much.  But as I watched them progress, I got to thinking, or rather stewing, about Beta Reading Etiquette and the unspoken rules that I always try to play by.

  1. When you ask someone to critique your WIP, you expect them to not only point out the parts they loved, but also the scenes, bits of dialogue, character actions that had them confused or pulled out of the story.  If you are not looking for constructive feedback, then don’t ask someone to “critique” your manuscript.

  1. Always find something positive to say about the person’s manuscript.  Whether it be a thread, or a beautifully descriptive phrase, convincing voice, or just the concept in general, always find something positive to say.

  1. Don’t over reach when you get feedback.  Just because I say I don’t understand your character’s motivation in a specific scene does not mean that I think you character is a psychopathic, sexual deviant.  It simply means that I don’t get his motivation For. That. Particular. Scene.

  1. If you have a question about a piece of feedback either received or given, simply ask.  Twitter is not the place to air your grievances.  It is unprofessional and makes authors like myself question why we beta read at all. 

  1. Say thank you.  I've been on the receiving end of critiques that just didn't resonate with me or the vision for my manuscript.  That’s okay.  Readers are subjective; they bring their own set of personal experiences to every scene they read.  You may not agree with their opinions, but that doesn't excuse you from offering them a simple thank you.  The time we put into critiquing manuscripts is time spent away from our own projects.  Recognize and appreciate that.

My mom had a saying when we were growing up – Because Nice Matters.   I used to cringe every time I heard it as a kid, think she was being crony and overly naive.  I get it now, understand what she meant and how that simple principle can be applied to every thing we do.  That simple phrase – Because Nice Matters – applies here as well.  

15 comments:

  1. I really like all the points you made. Critiques aren't a personal attack on us or our story, the critiquer is just trying to help us make our story stronger. I also think that people need to read the critiques and let them stew for a while before saying or doing anything else. WHat may have seemed like an insult earlier may be sound advice later on.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are so right, Prerna. I think as writers we have a natural tendencies to internalize things that truly meant to be objective comments and taking a step back to let things sit before commenting is essential.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree! A good beta reader is invaluable. You might not have finished Strength, but the feedback you gave for the majority was spot-on. Plus, you connected with Wallace in a way that made me believe in my writing...and myself! I loved working with you.

    (Which is why you'll find your name in my Acknowledgements next March!)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Strength is a fantastic and beautifully written book. Had I not got agent revisions with a self-imposed deadline, I would have finished it in a heartbeat. Then again, not I have a surprise (the ending) waiting for me in March! Would be humbled if you let me read your next masterpiece.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can't imagine someone tweeting as they critique a manuscript or read a critique! Yikes. I'm always a fan of constructive criticism, and I choose my beta readers carefully. Even if I don't agree with their advice, I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment. Some of the stuff I read on twitter amazes me.

      Delete
  6. Good advice, Trisha. A critique is always a gift. Say thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, a simple thank you can go a long way!

      Delete
  7. Excellent points~ beta reading is a big responsibility, but so is the manner in which you receive a beta's feedback.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't have said it better, Jess. We have all been on the receiving end of feedback that we didn't expect, and it hurts. . . we naturally want people to love our manuscripts. But we need to take a step back, process the feedback, and ask intelligent, well thought out questions to the critiquer as opposed to lashing out.

      Delete
  8. Great advice, and I can say you follow them well! I know I always look forward to getting your critique because I can see the time you put into it. You always find something you liked, and point out those rough spots I need to smooth out.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ah thanks Mary :) Right back out you. Without your advice, me manuscripts would never be what they are today.

    ReplyDelete