Free week and I am going to ask my dear writing friends how they find what we call “Beta Readers”. I have not had great success with finding people who ‘get’ my kind of writing.
I have asked those who did not have experience with the type of article or poem I had written, nor did they have knowledge of the publication and target readership. The fault was mine for expecting them to understand. Several times I was told that I did it all wrong, that I did not follow ‘formula’. However, I had done my homework and was fairly secure that I had the tenor of the piece right for each publication, and of those times, I had been correct; my piece was published as I originally wrote it.
That has not been the case of one, which was fairly recent. But then, I have only offered it to a few publications, (so far). I did not write it with one particular publication in mind. Perhaps that is my problem. It is possible that I do better when I get into a publication and know it well enough to write something specifically for it. But nevertheless, the ‘beta reader’ for this one went out of bounds.
She was a friend of a friend on Facebook and asked to help with the project when mentioned it to our mutual friend. She said that she had experience in the genre (children’s) and in beta reading.
I should have asked for specifics.
This person re-wrote several parts that made the piece lose its meaning. It was based on a family experience and why change it when that was the story? The piece rhymed; she re-rhymed it and lost the meter.
And she let a family member of hers read it!
That is just not done. A writer should know that one does not allow another person to read an unpublished/non-copyrighted work without consent of the writer. I thought that she did not know this and I let it slide, however, she told me that she knew better, but did it anyway.
I learned more than one lesson from the experience.
As if that were not enough, even though I took a few of her suggestions, she got mad that I did not make all of her changes. I mean really angre.
Seriously, she then ‘unfriended’ me on FB.
Now another writer, an actual friend, has returned a piece to me and I am afraid that this person does not understand the concept of the piece. She wants me to change my POV. I had already considered and rejected it. If I go with the suggestion, I’d have to give away too much and I don’t see how the end can possibly play out. I would have to switch the POV at the very end and that is just not done, let alone awkward.
The ‘problems’ that the friend found with my dialogue and actions are qualities which are characteristics of the story. She crossed out my few descriptive words and added her own, which changed the atmosphere I was trying to convey. At one point, she added a long phrase which changed the protagonist’s attitude. Not only is the action out of character, the phraseology doesn’t fit in with the style I used for the rest of the story.
Plus, we disagree on one point of punctuation I used often. (I know that I am right; I even looked it up to verify it.)
I know that when I try to explain these points, I fear it will offend her and I may seem stubborn or arrogant. I don’t care for either of these probabilities. I am very concerned about this. Do any of you have this problem?
I am not sure that this person is familiar with the type of story which I showed to her or the type of publication I am aiming toward. Frankly, I wrote this piece with one publication in mind. I am fairly confident it will work as-is. I know the tenor of the magazine.
I beta read the first of a series for another writer and that woman was very grateful. I had her also read the children’s story and she helped, She also said that she owed me more. But how much more can I ask of a busy writer/mom? I don’t feel that I can ask her, since she has not asked me for more, either. I may call on her for a novel, but not the thriller short, because I know that she has no experience with them.
With poetry, I am OK with trusting myself. With non-fiction, I have people I can go to. But for longer fictional works, I know that I need at least one reliable person to keep me from getting lost or keep readers from getting lost. I think everyone needs to be sure that what they want to say is coming across clearly. It is so easy for a writer to have thoughts in their heads that don’t make it onto paper, to make assumptions that are clear to them that may not be to their readers. It is also very easy to make foolish mistakes, for instance, reworking a sentence or paragraph and leaving the original in place. I think we’ve all done that.
In the story I have been discussing, my beta reader changed a “look” to a “glance”, and it is a long look that I meant to impart. This did help me, though, since I realize that I have to add that the character had done more than glance, and had done it several times. I need to put that across… and do it in my own words.
Most family members will not be given my work to read because they are either too critical or not critical at all. One type crushes the spirit, the other is completely unhelpful, no matter how good the intentions.
My husband is good for short pieces, but I know better than to try to sit him down long or often enough for the romance novel I have long had in the works.( He is too familiar with the work above. He read through it and helped when it was a play.) I also have problems with him and family members if they think a character is based on them or if a story is based on an actually occurrence. With the first, they are upset if they aren’t portrayed as saints, and with the second, I chastised if I take poetic license.
This story is going to be a problem on both fronts!
So, I ask, how did you find beta readers who are in sync with you?