Thursday, December 6, 2012

Beta Reading, proceed with caution.

Welcome to the wonderful world of beta-reading, where one goes about critiquing another's much loved masterpiece of a MS, while they try to make sense of your chicken scratch piece of *beep. (Or at least this is how I feel every time I add a new beta to my repertoire.) And it's rainbows and butterflies and everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

It most often does not end like this.

Now, don't me wrong, I luv readin'. Been doing it since I first picked up that, 'I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always', book. But critiquing someone else's work, that they've put time, sweat, money and tears into... it's intimidating. I never know if I'm being too harsh, or too soft, or too repetitive ;)

I try to be honest. But honestly, my honesty is not something everyone wants to hear. I know what I like, punchy dialogue, dark themes, high concepts, plot twist after plot twist, and most importantly real-feeling characters. Characters who jump off the page because they are so like that *sshole lifeguard you worked with during your summer job at 'Ragin' Rapids'. Or that ridiculously peppy barista who serves your coffee every morning with a complimentary life story snippet.

You know, Real People.

Real people swear.
Real people blurt things without thinking whether or not it's insulting.
Real people think/talk/do sexy time, and it's not always glamorized.
Real people are obnoxious.
Real people sometimes make you hate people.

This is my biggest thing when I'm beta-ing someone else's work, and the biggest issue other beta's have had with my work. I'm not the expert when it comes to prose, grammar, technical sh*t, but I do know people. Teenagers specifically. I live in a house full of them, and 'twas not too long ago I was a part of their ranks. So when I advise a beta that a particular scene doesn't feel real to me, it's because they are wading in the shallow waters of teenage hell, too afraid to dive down into the total depravity it really is. (Okay so I'm exaggerating... slightly.)

In summary, Beta Reader etiquette is this: If my advice seems sh*tty to you, just let me know and we can part ways. No hard feelings.

If I'm coming across as a jerk on twitter... still let me know. No hard feelings.

I really don't have feelings. :)

End rant.

PS. To all my beta-readers past and present I love you, even when you're mean.


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