Post by Joy Pixley on May 19, 2016 22:13:43 GMT -6
So... I just agreed to beta read someone's novel. I know that other people do this and it's no big deal, but then other people jump out of planes and cave dive and have babies, so they really can't be trusted to judge these things.
I've been doing critiques for short stories and chapters for about two years now, and more intensely for the past couple months. But critiquing an entire book sounds so time-consuming. Part of my concern is that I give such very indepth and long reviews of short stories, so I'm clearly going to have to change my strategy if I'm going to get through a whole book in, oh, say less than a year!
Does anyone have advice on how to be a good beta reader?
I can't give any personal experience as I've never beta read an entire book either, only short stories. I guess if were me I would take notes on each chapter and would wait until I finished the book before actually writing the critique. I would guess that sometimes things that don't seem clear at the beginning might resolve themselves later. For me, I think having the big picture of the entire novel would be necessary before I got down to the nitty gritty stuff. Then I'd probably go chapter by chapter.
You could always ask the author what specific kind of feedback they want. Are they just looking for proofreaders? Catching spelling, punctuation and other grammatical errors is a lot easier than evaluating the overall tone, tempo and logic within the plot.
You could make a checklist of things to watch for; Everything from changes in point of view to poor dialogue.
It's a daunting task (although I volunteered to do this for you and I stand by that...lol) so I wish you the best. Let us all know how you approach it and how it goes. I'd love to get some feedback on your experience.
This is someone whose earlier chapters I've already critiqued through Critters Workshop, the online critique group I participate in. I had a lot of suggestions about plot holes, character development, and believability, and he responded positively to those and wanted more along those lines. But I'll proofread as I go too; I can't stop myself from noticing those things! In fact, I'm not sure how well I'd do if I had a specific list of things to look for and tried to keep myself from looking for or noticing everything else.
What I normally do when critiquing short stories or chapters is to use Word and make comments on the text and use track changes for typos as I go. Critters only accepts raw text format, so then I have to go back and summarize all my comments, which is useful, but also more than doubles the time it takes. It's really the main thing I dislike about Critters, that I have to keep explaining exactly what sentence or paragraph I mean for each comment, without the benefit of line numbers or even page numbers.
My plan for critiquing a whole book is to start with the same technique, but give the author the comments version, and only summarize and further describe the major points. That should save a lot of time, and that way he can see exactly where I was in the text when I started thinking that something was confusing.
Well, here's some advice about ASKING for a beta reader: don't do it unless your whole novel is ready. The man who asked me please-please-please to read his novel has totally ghosted on me after chapter 5. I'd already seen earlier versions of chapter 1-4 and critiqued them through Critters, so I was critiquing revised versions of them, plus the next chapter. I was expecting the rest of the chapters right away, and he never said why he hadn't sent them yet. Then a week after I sent him my last set of comments, he emailed saying thanks and that all the remaining chapters he'd send would be new. And then... crickets. I've emailed him twice since then asking what's up and haven't heard from him in almost a month.
Even if he resurfaces with the rest of the chapters now, this is very poor form. Badly done, sir.