DocBenway's picture
DocBenway August 10, 2016 - 7:40am

All: 

I'm new, so this question has probably already been discussed 10,000 times.  Please forgive me. 

WHAT SPECIFIC FEEDBACK DO YOU ASK YOUR BETA READERS TO PROVIDE?  

I know that for many people if they are asked to discuss a text, they will feel at a loss.  What should they say?  What they do say can be general and/or vague.  

For this reason, in teaching, a best practice is to provide "focus questions," which give something specific for students to think about as they read.  That way, when it comes time to discuss, their responses will be more productive.

I have just finished my first novel and am beginning to think about handing it over to some beta readers.

Do any of you have specific things that you ask your beta readers to comment on?  I would be curious and grateful to know what those things are.

Thanks!     

 

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 10, 2016 - 7:48am

Personally, I want everything. Before I start asking questions I want to know if anything jarred them out of the story, parts they really liked, when they laughed, when they were anxoius... ALL of it. Little, big, suggestions because they don't think a character would do quite what they did... 

And I mean little- one tiny little bit of imagery that strikes. Or big- oh my god I can't believe she did that, this changes everything, my world is torn. (Isn't that the dream reaction?)

Then, after I can get some unbiased feedback, I might want specific questions answered to make sure something I'm attempting is working or not. That could be anything from predictions to "did you notice this one thing?" to whatever. (This often doesn't come out in their initial feedback, but was still very definitely there.)

I'm almost sure to want to ask WHY to a lot of their feedback, because you learn so much more with "why" than "what."

 

Also, this girl has a shpeal on it...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oPQoVeMIIc

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 10, 2016 - 8:50am

I was going to give you the ye ole, ask for grammar and punctuation, what they liked and didn't like, and so on. This is boring. You know this, you've read this, it's not beneficial.

So, let's dig a little.

I still believe that all writing should be entertaining and educational, dulce et utile (sweet and useful). Writing is also a unique perspective of the world. It is your perspective of the world. But it needs to be written for a reason. I firmly believe it needs to be written for a reason. It needs to be informative on some larger world issue. MANY people will argue against this idea. MANY. But think about your favorite stories. Were they just good, self enclosed, little moments of life, or maybe a big grandiose adventure that wasn't about something larger? Or did they touch on big world issues in a unique way, through the lens of someone you can relate to in some way? I'm not saying you need to write about it directly, but it needs to be cognizant when the story is being written. It's a thing we can't escape, and we are aware we can't escape it.

I often fail because I wrote a story I really liked but failed to ask why it's important that I write this story? I think if I don't ask that question, no matter what I write, however "good," it is still just wasting my reader's time.

So, with that in mind, ask questions of your reader that will give you the best possible shot of knowing whether the reader felt like their time was wasted.

This requires critical, honest readers. Smart readers. People you trust to be thoughtful about what they read.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 10, 2016 - 9:18am

When I was in school and was dissecting novels, I always thought, "No fucking way any one writes trying to deal with all these issues. It's just about X." It may not be how they wrote their first draft, but they were aware of these things by their final draft.

Now, I write with an idea in the back of mind that thinks, if someone were to be looking at this in school, and trying to determine if there is anything relevant in it, would they actually get anything from it?

So, ask your readers, "What is it about? What the themes used? Symbols? Are they used effectively? What's the plot? Ask all the questions you would if you were in school dissecting a novel.

If they can't answer any of them, either the writing is off, or they weren't paying attention. You'll need to decide that.

EDIT: This is double-edged. Specific questions gets you specific answers. General questions, general answers. Do you know what you want them to focus on, or are you open to whatever? Do you want to cast a net where you know there are fish, or are you just testing the water to see what turns up?

Anchoret's picture
Anchoret August 10, 2016 - 1:24pm

First, please:  What is the difference between a first reader and a beta reader?

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 10, 2016 - 4:04pm

I believe it's the same difference between a metal song and a punk song..?

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 11, 2016 - 4:17pm

A good beta-reader shouldn't need too much guidance, but I suppose it might depend on whether or not they're used to doing it, and possibly whether or not they're also writers themselves. They often just want to know how harsh you're okay with them being. That's an important thing to know, for them and for you. I think most writers want absolute honesty, but just worded in a way where it's constructive and based in something objective, and doesn't come off as abuse or subjective nonsense.

I've had the best experiences with one-on-one feedback for feedback relationships with other writers. (The workshop here is also very helpful, but unfortunately you only get responses if you post 5,000 words or less at a time -- the shorter the better.) Another writer and I have been reading and giving feedback on each other's stuff for maybe 3 years. After a while, you kind of build up a relationship and know what to expect from each other. For new readers, I usually ask for marks on typos and anything that sounds clunky or just off for any reason. It's often best just to have them highlight those things than to burden them with trying to figure out what's gone wrong. Otherwise, I ask for notes on incongruities/contradictions, things that are hard to picture or confusing for any reason, and any dialogue that sounds unrealistic/unnatural. Also, wherever it gets boring, wherever it's exciting, wherever it makes you laugh. Otherwise, I just hope they give me feedback on what stands out to them, for good or for bad reasons. Usually, the more writing/literary knowledge they have, the more helpful their feedback will be.

If I know and trust the person and believe them to be smart, I'll ask for feedback on things that are more literary and conceptual, more to do with the meaning of the work, how that meaning is created, or how it could be better communicated.

@Anchoret I'm not really sure what a first reader is (just someone who reads your work for the first time?). A beta-reader is someone who an author confides their work in, who will follow the story usually to its completion, and who provides thorough comments and feedback on drafts and revisions. They're more or less an unpaid editor/critic/cheerleader.

Anchoret's picture
Anchoret August 11, 2016 - 9:58pm

> @Anchoret I'm not really sure what a first reader is (just someone who
> reads your work for the first time?)

I've seen this term used for at least three different roles in writing and publishing, one being essentially the same as "beta reader," which is new to me.

To answer the question, I think that good first readers are rarer than good writers and are probably not likely to be found for free, especially in a world where fiction editing pays better than fiction writing.  [Full disclosure:  I came here for no other reason than to search for short-fiction first readers of my own, for free. You've been warned.]

What I would seek is a hostile audit from an extremely competent and literate stranger who otherwise has no knowledge of nor interest in me, personally.  I would expect this to be at least as comprehensively rigorous and unforgiving as I could expect from the editor whose call it is to buy or burn the manuscript I submit. 

Anything less is a waste of time.  Think about it.

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 12, 2016 - 8:38am

^

Maybe to you, but a lot of people like beta readers who serve as cheerleaders at times. Encouragement can make a difference. They also might like brainstorming partners. 

And then, what if you want to test out your forshadowing? You don't need a stranger in order to test whether or not they figure out your mystery subplot with the clues you leave, whether or not you mislead them, etc etc etc... You also don't need a stranger to tell you when they were jarred from the story or confused by something you wrote (in a bad way). And they don't need to be extremely competent/literate either. In fact, odds are, most of your audience won't be if you publish.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 12, 2016 - 4:48pm

Yeah, I don't think hostility is ever necessary in critique. I can be rigorous and honest without being mean. Telling people what they're doing well can be just as important as pointing out where they have room for improvement. Being tactless with criticism discourages whoever you're supposedly trying to help, and it's more likely to close them off to actually hearing the criticism and benefiting from it. If anything, rudeness is a sign of a lazy critic who doesn't care about you or your work or whether you succeed, not of someone devoted and rigorous.

Your art is your baby. You want someone who gets it and will handle it with care, not someone who's going to yank it around by the ankles and violently shake it. Ego is always involved (I always think of this scene...), and we're all human beings with feelings. You can't get around that. I've never felt the need to be hostile with any criticisms I've given, and I've never felt constrained by trying to phrase things kindly. If anything, it makes me feel good to encourage other writers. I have accidentally been tactless before and upset someone, and it's a terrible feeling that I imagine only a sociopath or a narcissist wouldn't care about. I'd say a beta-reader or fellow writer friend who will tell you they think your writing is worthwhile and to hang in there when you're feeling discouraged is much more valuable than a pretentious literary prick who rips you to shreds with a page of footnotes.

It's important to build up a thick skin and learn to hear critique without taking it personally. But if someone is condescending to you when they critique your work, that's different. They're being a dick, not doing you a favor. There are plenty of beta-readers out there who will give you helpful, thorough, and brutally honest feedback without making you feel like a fool just because you're still learning, have room for improvement, or are still in the rough-draft stage and need extra eyes to spot problems.

Anchoret's picture
Anchoret August 12, 2016 - 5:06pm

> Yeah, I don't think hostility is ever necessary in critique

You misunderstand.  It's a term of art meaning a rigorous, thorough inspection with the sole intention of uncovering all problems.  It has nothing to do with "hostility" as such.

 

 

 

 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman August 12, 2016 - 5:30pm

I used some beta readers for a project, and it was super helpful. These were not necessarily writers, but they were all heavy readers. There's a definite difference in the feedback you get from readers as opposed to writers, but this can be a good thing, and I don't think that good critiques only come from writers. I found beta reader feedback was pretty good about catching stuff they did and didn't like, but they rarely offered solutions.

My overall, guiding thing was, "I want you to tell me how this made you feel. Even if you have no rational explanation for why, I want to know how the sections made you feel, or if they didn't make you feel anything, I want to know that."

One thing that helped readers was having set intervals to provide feedback. So at certain chapters or breaks, to say, "If you could just write a little paragraph at the end of each chapter, that would be really helpful." I think this kept them from reading straight through and not really remembering what had happened previously.

Another thing, I asked them to pull out favorite sections, paragraphs, lines, and to also list some sections, paragraphs, or lines that they wouldn't miss if they didn't make the final product. I actually made a sheet with space for dozens of these, and made it sort of a challenge to fill these keep/toss lists. 

Overall, I don't think that people who like your work will always be positive about your work, and they can provide really good help. Sometimes it's good to have people who see the things about your work that make it good, believe in the work overall, and want to help you enhance and highlight the best bits.  

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 12, 2016 - 5:36pm

Yeah, I meant that "rigorous" as dictionary defined may not be what you're after in a beta reader. The average person who buys my book (or doesn't!) some day won't be rigorous, and I'm very interested in how they take things.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 13, 2016 - 11:10am

For some reason I have this feeling, an inkling, that a first reader is the person you go and select to be that reviewer, critic, the person you trust to know you and what you're looking for. They are more specific, they are in essence are helping you shape your thoughts in a direct manner.

A beta reader on the other hand is like a blind submission. "Here, read this, tell me what you think." You don't get to steer the dialogue. The person randomly just gives you their opinion on the story. They barely know you, you barely know them, and you hope for the best.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 13, 2016 - 7:58pm

If my recall is on target, Stephen King in "On Writing" called his wife Tabitha his "first reader". He spoke of her above all others as the voice he most wants to hear talk to him about his work. I don't remember if he talked about "beta" readers. 

DocBenway's picture
DocBenway August 19, 2016 - 10:54am

Thanks everyone for the responses.  Based on some of the comments provided, as well as a blog I found by a writer named Jami Gold, I created the following for my future beta readers.

BETA READER GUIDELINES

Thank you very much for agreeing to be a beta reader on this writing project.  The feedback you provide may become instrumental to the success of this story. 

For each chapter please respond using at least FOUR of the following.  You may use the sentence stems to guide your responses.  The GOAL is to improve the story.  Try to provide more constructive feedback than praise, but don’t entirely forget about praise.  Constructive feedback = better writing.  Praise = the motivation to keep trying to make it better.  

At the end, feel free to make some extemporaneous comments. 

*CONFUSION:  I don’t understand [whatever it is].
*INTENTION: The [character, setting, tone, etc.] comes across as [depressing, important, feisty, stupid, etc.].  Was that your intention?
*WRONG INTENTION:  The [character, setting, tone, etc.] comes across as [depressing, important, feisty, stupid, etc.].  I think it should be [blank].     
*MISSING INFO:  How did [the character] do [blank]? 
*INCONSISTENCY/CONTRADICTION: Wasn’t the [character, plot point, etc.] in Chapter [blank] different because [blank]?
*GOAL/MOTIVATION: [Character’s name] goal/motivation seems so be [blank].  Is that correct?
*HISTORICAL OR FACTUAL DETAIL: You wrote [blank] but it should really be [blank]? 
*STYLE/GRAMMAR/PUNCTUATION:  You wrote [blank].  You should try/use [blank] instead.
*DIALOGUE: I noticed [blank] about the dialogue.  I think that [blank].  
*EMOTIONAL RESPONSE:  In this section I felt the emotional response of [blank].  I feel [blank] about that.
*NOTICED: [Blank] really stuck out to me in this section.
*TENSION/SUSPENSE: In this section I [did or did not] feel [tension or suspense].  I think [blank] about that. 
*THEME/SYMBOL: I noticed the theme or symbol of [blank] because [blank].  It feel [blank] about that.
*FAVORITES WRITING:  [Section, paragraph, line, etc.] was [blank].  I feel [blank] about that. 
*STRENGTHS:  I really liked [blank] because [blank].  

ADDITIONAL FEEDBACK:


 

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 19, 2016 - 3:04pm

Just my opinion: You might want to try to rephrase this so that it reads more like requests/suggestions than commands/instructions? Honestly, I'd refrain from writing these out as guidelines and just be personable and frank. Tell your readers, these are the things I'm really interested in hearing about, so if you could give me comments and notes on these, I'd really appreciate it. The sentence stems are a bit patronizing. You could just give examples, and probably should only for the ones that need examples (e.g., I might not know what you mean by "intention" without examples, but, "strengths": I don't think anyone needs a sentence stem to know how to tell you what they think the strengths of your story are).

If I agreed to be a betareader and got that in my inbox, I might find it a little condescending and constricting to have the writer lay out instructions and a format for my notes. I have my own ways of marking things up, and this could sound like you think that your betareader won't know how to comment on things on their own otherwise. You're asking me for my expertise, but then you're telling me how to do the job you've already entrusted me to do. Y'know? Also, a lot of them do this for fun or for practice. You don't want to take the freedom out of it and turn it into a school assignment that they get nothing for handed out by a teacher they've never signed up to be tutored by. This sounds like you're going to grade them and might even bust out an exam on them at the end to make sure they were paying attention. The feeling of autonomy and being valued for your knowledge and expertise is pretty important to this unpaid job. The feeling of commanding authority. The instructions are kind of a needle popping that balloon.

I also wouldn't want to beta for someone who isn't personable with me. D: It seems... unappreciative of all the time and effort and personal attention I'm giving the writer. It's tons of energy, and it's super personal to get that critically intimate with one author's work, so I'd feel really weird and almsot snubbed if they were impersonal with me. Even on the workshop here where I'm getting points for the reviews I leave, if I write a really long and detailed line-by-line and 2-3 pages of comments in the body of my review, and then the writer doesn't even respond with just a sentence of acknowledgement, I do make a little pissy mental note to myself of it ("Well, you're kinda rude, username1234. I guess I'll think twice about it before I leave super awesome feedback for another one of your stories again."). I'm also just kinda stoked when the author responds in a personable way if they found what I wrote helpful; it's social, it's rewarding. Also, betareaders who are also writers and betareaders who are just really good at what they do are an easily alienated bunch, I think. We know our time is worth something. These days, unless it's a friend or I'm excited about the story, I will only give feedback for feedback or feedback for workshop points. Even with friends and stories I'm excited about, I will only give feedback on so many chapters before I start to prod them, like, hey... You wanna maybe read mine too? If I'm helping a total stranger out, I want them to appreciate me in either kindness or cash. I'm learning all your characters' names and quirks and the ins and outs of this world you've built and what it all means and probably also a lot about who you are as a person and what your artistic vision is. At the very least, I want the writer to learn and use my first name. If they wrote to me and it was an impersonal plural address to me and several other people, or something that sounds pre-written and like it was sent to several other people, I'd probably walk and not feel bad and just say, good luck to you and your twenty other beta readers. Maybe they need grade school level instructions to evaluate a piece of writing; I don't.

(But I'm also kind of feisty and "Latin-tempered," I'm told.)

Just keep it personable, frank, and light-hearted. You are going to have to write something like this to cut and paste to each reader, but you don't have to make it sound like it's a message you're just cutting and pasting to multiple people. Unless you're paying these people, you just might wanna try to catch and keep the flies with honey, not vinegar and impersonal memos.

I hope that helps/makes sense.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 19, 2016 - 4:15pm

What I thought when i first read the "template" a couple posts above is: you could ask for all that stuff after the person reads it in your own way. In fact, you might get better responses by having them go in unbiased.

I also thought that the rigid structure, and perhaps the phrasing of the demands, (I'm going to call them), would have me thinking "who the hell is this guy?" and "wait, is he paying me?" Just saying.

DocBenway's picture
DocBenway August 19, 2016 - 5:00pm

The template wouldn't be the only form of communication.  I would also talk to the person, communicate via email, offer to beta read for them.  Of course it would be personable!  I'm a personable guy.  The guidlines would not be the ONLY thing I'd give them, hit it and quit it style. 

A couple of points about the template I designed.  

[1] They are called "guidelines," which is rather different than "rules."  I suggest that they focus on at least four of the subjects listed on the sheet, and that they may use the template if they like.  That is hardly "rigid" as it provides lots of soft language that provides ample wiggle room and flexibility.     

[2] I primarily designed the beta template for inexperienced beta readers.  Namely, those who have never done it before.  I did not want, say, a friend, to read my novel and then say, "Oh, its good," and then blank on what other types of things to say.  The template sugestions help focus the reader, also making them feel more confidant in the process as well as what I'd like to learn.    

[3] I wrote it partly for myself to clarify the types of things I'd like to potentially get feedback about.

[4] If someone thinks I'm an asshole because of my template, they are in no way obliged to provide feedback.     

[5] I want wanted to create a ratio the weighs more heavily towards constructive feedback as opposed to praise, 

[6] The template is all encompassing enough that it anticipates most kind of feedback one could possibly provide.  That said, one refers to the examples [stems] if one needs examples.  If not, they get ignored.  Even so, it makes clear that I'd like a least four different types of comments per chapter.

Hope that clarifies a bit what my process was.

So far my template beta readers on this site are trashing it.  What, no discussions of its strenghts?! 

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 19, 2016 - 6:22pm

It's not that your template is bad; this is more of a phrasing and presentation issue. So far, you have 2 unbiased people who have no vested interest in this telling you the wording is a bit off-putting. Sometimes, words evoke feelings and things that we don't intend at all, and we only discover that by getting outside eyes/ears to tell us how they sound. I think this is one of those times. I like the template, it's very comprehensive, but your wording on the initial prompt would make me feel weird if I were your beta-reader. That's the truth of it. I'm only suggesting changes because I want you to get good help from your betareaders for your project, and not end up having people turned off and backing out. Otherwise, I wouldn't say anything at all. I'm sure Thuggish feels the same.

I'd just rephrase some things to be more conversational and to use, not softer language, but more direct and personal language. You're using a lot of passive voice and the imperative mood. There are no "I"'s at all, which is making it feel really impersonal. Having "GUIDELINES" at the top unfortunately doesn't soften "For each chapter please respond using at least FOUR of the following," although I understand that your intention isn't to be "rigid". We artsy types tend to be a sensitive, temperamental people. Just think of the way that you cater your language to them/us as like the way women have to talk in the workplace. lol.

If I were you, I'd change it around kinda like this (I might've/probably made typos):

Hi there! Thanks so much for agreeing to be a beta reader on my writing project. I value your feedback and I think it will be really important to the success of my story.

When it comes to leaving comments, if you're maybe not sure about where to start or are new to betareading, I came up with a list of things that I'm interested in fixing up to help focus your reading (only if you need/want!). I'd really appreciate it if, for each chapter, you could go through this list and try to give me some comments on maybe at least 4-5 of each of these? I've tried to give some examples/sentence stems to help show what I'm looking/hoping for. I'd really like to improve this story, so I'm hoping for more constructive feedback than praise. But if there are things that you like, I'd certainly love to hear about those too. Constructive feedback = better writing. Praise = the motivation to keep trying to make it better.

To me, the friendly, personable language would make me feel more engaged and invested in helping the person. It makes them seem more down to earth and on level with me. I'd feel more like we're talking in an intimate, conversational way, and I can be myself and share my thoughts with them, and it'll maybe be fun to work on this. We're in it together, working on it together. The passive voice and imperative mood, on the other hand, feels removed. It is the same language that's used in homework prompts. It doesn't give off a good vibe, and it doesn't make me feel energized or invested in helping this person out. It feels like an impersonal voice is placing a series of tasks onto me. It sounds corporate, for lack of a better word.

"I suggest that they focus on at least four of the subjects listed on the sheet, and that they may use the template if they like."

I get it, but those things are really getting buried under the passive voice (it's technically active voice, but it's faux-active; you talk about the story being improved but never mention yourself, "I", the subject doing the improving: "The GOAL is to improve the story" vs "My goal is to improve the story") and imperative mood. Where you wrote, "For each chapter please respond using at least FOUR of the following.  You may use the sentence stems to guide your responses." It sounds more like you're saying, "You will do X. You may do X in this manner, or you may do it in this other manner." It doesn't really sound like you're saying something like, "hey, if you want, here's a template you can use to help you out!" See what we mean?

I also really, really don't think you should include examples/stems for the things like Strengths and Favorites. It comes off wrong because the example isn't needed, kinda like explaining to someone how to turn a light switch on/off would come off wrong even if you're genuinely just trying to be helpful. :( Just mention that those two are things that you want to hear about. You don't have to break it down. You could even just have: *FAVORITE (sections/paragraphs/lines)? *STRENGTHS?

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 19, 2016 - 6:17pm

I hope I'm being helpful and not just discouraging... Your list is very comprehensive and breaks things down really well, which is good, but you can even just keep it super simple too. On one of my posts on the workshop, when I was specifying what kinda feedback I wanted, I wrote:

I know about some things in here that need work, but I'm just so close to the writing still right now that I can't effectively revise it. There's probably a bunch of other stuff that's still invisible to me though.

Some things I'd be glad for notes/comments on:

    Typos
    Clunky prose (anything that just sounds off/bad/repetitive)
    Incongruities/contradictions
    Parts that are difficult to visualize & things that need more detail
    Unnatural sounding dialogue
    Are there are parts where you lose interest / parts that grab and hold your attention?
    Do you feel emotionally invested in these characters? Why/Why not?
    Would you keep reading if this were a book in your hands? Why/Why not?

Open to any suggestions/criticism/encouragement! I want to hear about any area where there's room for improvement.

I left it fairly open and I was actually really happy with the feedback I got. People pointed out things to me that I didn't even think about or realize were issues. There was only 1 person out of 6 who was unhelpful. Short and sweet works sometimes!

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 19, 2016 - 7:49pm

Is it me or is this all getting a bit nutty?

DocBenway's picture
DocBenway August 20, 2016 - 5:08am

I appreciated the feedback.  This is my first lesson in having beta readers.  Seeing a pattern and being open to revision based on that feedback.   

Maybe what I can do is ask the potential beta reader if they'd like suggestions for how to respond.  If the beta reader is experienced, we can verbally discuss the nature of the feedback or I can provide them something similar to the short and sweet version you shared.  If the beta reader feels unsure of the process, I can give them the long sheet to help guide their responses if that makes them feel more comfortable. 

 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 20, 2016 - 7:45am

#overthinking

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 20, 2016 - 3:49pm

Yep! It will go fine, and it'll be easy and all come naturally once you're talking one on one with them.. Personable is better. They will probably not need help, but will just ask you what you want them to focus on.

Thuggish: is someone not being familiar with something and wanting help figuring out how to approach it really that offensive to you that you need to use sarcastic, nonfunctional hashtags to make them feel stupid? Jesus. :/ This forum is dead because you guys are so friggin' rude to everyone sometimes.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 21, 2016 - 8:40am

There was no sarcasm in my #hashtag. I'm just being silly while making a point. Last time you went off the deep end on something you perceived insulting from me you were exactly one-hundred-eighty-degrees in the wrong direction.

I'm telling you, you gotta lighten up.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 21, 2016 - 3:31pm

I don't gotta lighten up. You're a dick sometimes. If you say something rude, it's not my responsibility to be obliging. If you're not trying to be rude but aren't socially literate enough to know that you are being rude (which seems to be the case 90% of the time we butt heads), again, that's not my problem... Part of being a person is figuring out through trial and error what is rude based on the reactions of the people you do/say the thing to, and then you don't do/say that thing that way anymore. Ignoring somebody's entire post and writing "#overthinking" right after it looks rude to other people with eyes. You gotta figure it out, dude.

This is educational: https://youtu.be/18y6vteoaQY?t=1m36s

Normally, people just say "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way," instead of "You're wrong!"... ;)

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 21, 2016 - 4:02pm

I like you fine, enjoy our back and forths, like the stuff you post, and still like you fine and the same as always right now and believe you're not trying and don't try to be rude, but you deflect responsibility instead of just saying "oops sorry" (how much effort/pride does that really take?) and that doesn't fly with me. If and when you say rude things, I'm not going to go, "Oh, that feels really rude and insulting, but I'm probably just wrong!" I'm a grown ass woman, not a little bitch. If you're rude, I will say so. If that makes me crazy off the deep end, then I'm crazy off the deep end.

I don't listen to anyone being rude unless I'm on the clock, in uniform, out on the sales floor, and definitely getting paid. Pay me and I'll lighten up in a jiffy. :p

We have somebody else who's not me, you, Jose, or Dwayne or the 1-2 other regulars posting with sincere curiosity and desire for meaningful discussion, and you go: "#overthinking" to them. lol. Just, why...

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 21, 2016 - 6:55pm

Quite frankly, I'll say "sorry I didn't mean it that way" to some people if I actually phrase something in a way that a person could reasonably misconstrue. But not you, not with the way you are or have been. Oh, and I haven't heard you apologize for going off the deep end either, and god dayam did you ever. For, what any unbiased (i.e. not you) person can see, truly, nothing.

If you find somethign like "#overthinking" to be that rude, if your skin is that thin, if you refuse to even consider that someone like me is being anything other than your immediate and evidently emotional reaction tells you, there's no helping. 

How you could not read "#overthinking" and see it as the equivalent of me saying "I think you're overthinking this" is beyond me. It's just a cutesy almost-poetic way to say the same thing. Just so you know.

You're right about one thing, I am a dick sometimes. But you haven't seen it yet. Your definition of "dick" must be anything that doesn't tiptoe around your delicate sensibilities if you really find "#overthinking" to be all that big a deal. Or worth mentioning at all.

Being a dick will involve taking a deliberate shot at you or someone for the purposes of insult, most likely. Being a dick can also be blatant disregard of something in a harmful manner. And so on. Being a dick really isn't leaving a silly little one-word post that actually makes a point if you look.

Side question- do you actively notice "microaggressions" in your daily life? Honestly curioius.

Anyway, you say you're a grown-ass woman, but I'm not seeing it. Two degrees or not. (That was me being a dick. For illustrative purposes.)

Teachable moment, your words give it all away. "...that feels insulting..." I suggest that you set your feelings aside, they can be very deceptive. Consider something that rubs you the wrong way in a more rational way, from all angles, think to yourself how many different things it could mean... maybe make a list... then ask yourself if allllll the preceding context really points toward rude and insulting behavior. 

 

Also, let's just start a new thread, maybe call it "The Official Bethwenn Hates Thuggish Thread" so we (meaning you, I don't start this shit) stop hijacking perfectly good threads. I mean, here we are, having gone from what you (and probably only you) found insulting in one measly little post... to having 5 posts, and unless you start the new thread, will probably be 6 or more, that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. Just start the thread next time you get mad, update whenever you get mad, it'll go to the top, and we can hash out your feelings there instead.

#seriously

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 22, 2016 - 8:01am

I think you should lighten up. You're going off the deep end.

I wouldn't know what a microaggression looks like to notice it. Is that a side effect of imaginary gluten intolerance?

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 22, 2016 - 2:41pm

Am I the only who senses a romance blossoming before our very eyes?!!!!

It's so exciting......

 

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 22, 2016 - 3:51pm

I can't resist the ones that talk down to me. Just tell me you like Lynch, Bergman, and Tarkovsky and know all the words to Tom Waits' Blue Valentine, and I'm yours.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman August 22, 2016 - 10:15pm

I LOVE Jane Lynch.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 23, 2016 - 7:22am

#backpedaling

#downplaying

But seriously, new thread, come on.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 23, 2016 - 6:36pm

You're being a little angry boy about someone telling you that you were rude. So unflattering. How are we supposed to get married now?

"I'M NOT RUDE!!!!!!!! I'M NEVER RUDE!!!! YOU HAVEN'T SEEN RUDE!!!! #HASHTAG #HASHTAG #HASHTAG!!! You're just a hysterical, sensitive girl! Their delicate ovaries control their brains and their periods attract BEARS! #womansplaining! #microaggressions! #neverrude!!!!!!!"

“But seriously, new thread, come on”: DocBenway isn't coming back, Thuggish. He's gone. We ruined it. He's off looking for betareaders now who aren't rude dicks or feisty yapping chihuahuas. He's gone, like all of the others. They're never coming back. You could make a new thread, but it's just us, in forum purgatory, eternally butting heads over nothing... Forever...

 

@helpfulsnowman, She's fun but I meant David Lynch. :D

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 23, 2016 - 7:42pm

Let's see...

The first time I can #offthedeepend you, I said, and I quote...

^i think someone likes my have them argue idea..?

As in... hey, look, we're kind of on the same page. As in... oh, your beloved professor and I seem to have a similar method that we like. As in... pointing out common ground!

Your response? To go on a three paragraph, three-hundred-sixty-word tirade that was full of biting sarcasm and unveiled insult, in which you referenced all sorts of irrelevant subject matter, I can only assume, to show us all how wonderfully educated you are. As well as work in the fact that you have two degrees. (We're all very impressed by the way.) (#sarcasm)

 

Then, the second time I can #offthedeepend you, I say the following, and I quote...

#overthinking

As in... I think you're overthinking this. As in... maybe you're being too structured. As in... just a quick little reply, the meaning of which was easy enough to discern, in a funny, silly, playful little way.

Your response? To accuse me of trying to make him feel stupid. To then leave two posts insisting that your interpretation of my "rudeness" and whatever else has to be correct. Even though I point out that it wasn't. You insist that there's no possible way that anything other than your extremely negative view of what i said could be correct. That somehow "#overthinking" is going to chase away a guy from an anonymous online forum, even when said guy actually mentioned that during feedback he preferred criticism over praise, because of my, what? Incredibly terrible bullying?

All from a little one-word #hashtag response?

All the while leaving mild hints at sexism throughout.

 

Yeah... You're totally not overreacting. It would be impossible that you actually chased him off. You've been totally rational this entire time.

#wow

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 23, 2016 - 7:51pm

Oh, you should still start that thread though. Because I honestly don't think you'll be able to help yourself in the future. And it's not just about hijacking this post, but potentially any post that may come.

#stillbeingserious

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 24, 2016 - 8:07pm

lol...

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 25, 2016 - 7:45am

#avoidance

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 25, 2016 - 4:10pm

So did we differentiate first reader from beta reader? 

Did we establish that the first reader is the trusted cohort and the beta reader is the knowledgeable random?

 

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman August 25, 2016 - 5:55pm

I don't think we did. 

I always thought of a beta reader as just that, a READER as opposed to necessarily being another writer. Someone you give a book to in order to find out their opinion on it, as a reader, and whether they enjoy it or what they don't like. Sort of a mini focus group but, you know, not totally moronic.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 25, 2016 - 6:06pm

I don't think there really is a set definitional difference between first reader and beta reader. Kind of like flaws vs. handicaps. But if we could all decide on one it might be helpful.

Maybe a beta reader is like a beta tester- the design/work is still in progress. You want their feedback on something incomplete.

The first reader is the first one to read the complete work? (Or so you hope.)

... does that work?

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 25, 2016 - 6:23pm

I'm good.

I think it's all hovering around the same two piles. 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 25, 2016 - 7:29pm

So I guess the next question is: is there any difference between what you'd want from the two?

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 25, 2016 - 8:39pm

I can't seem to find anything on the term "first reader" when I Google it by itself, but I did find the aforementioned Stephen King quote about his wife as his first reader here. (Thanks to Gail for mentioning it! You're the best.)

... every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, "I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?" For me that first reader is my wife. ... In her role as critic and first reader, Tabby often makes me think of a story I read about Alfred Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville. Ms. Reville was the equivalent of Hitch's first reader, a sharp-eyed critic who was totally unimpressed with the suspense-master's growing reputation as an auteur. ... In addition to Tabby's first read, I usually send manuscripts to between four and eight other people who have critiqued my stories over the years. Many writing texts caution against asking friends to read your stuff ... The idea has some validity, but I don't think an unbiased opinion is exactly what I'm looking for.

So, yep, sounds like a first reader is definitely personally close to the author. Someone who knows you and your work and knows what you can do and how your story should be and how you want it to be. I didn't know but I have a first reader: my older sister. First readers are blessings. Beta readers you can find anywhere.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 25, 2016 - 11:57pm

So, basically, we are all beta-readers offering advice in the workshop. 

So, the goal of this place, these forums, should be to develop friendships where I/you may want to write a story FOR someone, ie, they are your target audience, because you think they'd like it. Thus, they would be your first reader, the person vital to you continuing a work or making significant changes based on their opinion/tastes. 

So a first reader is in essence a beta reader as well, but a beta reader isn't necessarily a first reader.

 

(AND, just don't. I get we write stories for ourselves and blah blah blah. Move on to the next level. I said move on.) 

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow August 26, 2016 - 7:25am

Ok, just to complicate things... workshop members can be very different from beta readers (and maybe first readers too).

It's been a while since I read 'On Writing', but I think he gives his wife the first draft. To me that's nuts, because I'm a pantser. My first draft is all over the place. Then I totally rewrite with the second draft, then rewrite and polish for the third before I show it to anyone. But I think in his case, the first reader is someone like an agent or a partner who, as bethwenn says, knows his work and can look past the rough edges. They evaluate the high-level stuff.

In a workshop, well, it depends on what stage someone is at as a writer. You might be helping them with technical stuff - dialogue, grammar, the writing. You're typically taking a close look at a snippet of the work (if it's a novel).

Beta readers are there to respond like a reader. This section doesn't make sense, I don't believe this character would behave in that way, this part I liked, it dragged towards the end, etc.

My feeling is that a lot of people go straight to beta readers when they should have had someone look at the book at an earlier stage and should have workshopped it and generally worked on their craft.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break August 26, 2016 - 8:00am

Coming in late on this, but Fred Venturini and I just did a beta reader feedback exchange for our upcoming works. Basically, we each read the other person's manuscript, provided notes, did some LBL action in the margins, gave thoughts on the works in regards to plotting, character, arc, etc.

I think the main difference between a beta and a first reader is that the beta reader is expected to tear the work to shreds. The first reader will more or less provide feedback in generalities. I consider my girlfriend a first reader. Fred, being an author on the Picador label, is expected to be able to get down and dirty on the feedback he provides.

That's just my two cents on it anyway.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 26, 2016 - 8:17am

(AND, just don't. I get we write stories for ourselves and blah blah blah. Move on to the next level. I said move on.)

I was so going to...

But I think we only partially write stories for ourselves. At least I do. If we want to share them, we write them for other people too. And if you think about it... you really can't write a plot twist, a mystery thread, or whatever, just for ourselves, beause we kind of know what happens. And we all want to get that big strong emotional reaction from the reader, do we not?

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow August 26, 2016 - 8:34am

There are probably 2 kinds of beta reader. Someone like a fellow writer, who will have the skills and the interest required to critique everything (because that's a lot of work). And then a friend who will just read like a reader.. I do think it's worth having both. You want someone who can pull the thing to pieces and someone who will help you to get a feel for how the book will go down with the people who buy books.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman August 31, 2016 - 4:54pm

Hey everyone, I was reading this column today that Raine Winters put up on this very site, and I felt like it talked quite a bit about the kinds of readers I consider beta readers. Her angle on it is the non-writer spouse, but a couple of her points really made me think of this discussion.

Check it out. What do you think?