Monday, January 31, 2011

How careful of a reader are you?

Beta readers, like writers, each have their own strengths and weaknesses. As writers, it can be hard to pick betas who best suit what we're looking for in critique. I personally am not picky about my betas because I appreciate and value any critique, but I have heard of writers (and writer's) groups who do. To each his own, and I can see the reasoning, but I know that I can't pick the people who would buy my (eventual) book, so why bother trying to make sure only certain types of people can read it beforehand?

Thinking about betas has recently made ma analyze what kinds of betas are out there, and what kind of beta I am.

I think there are these major categories of beta reader:

The commercial reader:

This reader reads your book as if they picked it up in the bookstore. They read quickly, and tend to offer over-arching critique instead of specific examples.

The helpful reader:

This reader gives lots of notes, and has lots to say overall. They may fix typos or offer story critique, but either way you're sure to have lots to sift through.

The copyeditor:

This type of reader goes through your manuscript meticulously, giving as near to line edits and continuity critiques as possible.

Of course, readers can be in more than one of these categories, and I've probably missed some. But my overall point is that different readers have different styles, and it's up to you to decide which type you want to be, and which tye you'd rather use as a writer, if any, though I will again say that there is value in all of them.

I personally tend to be a copyeditor toward the beginning of the story, drifting toward helpful and then commercial through the majority of the MS (especially if the story is compelling and interesting). Usually, this tends to come across as "I loved this" and not much else. It's certainly true! I do love, love, love the stories I've read. But I tend to get caught up in the experience over the writing and I know some high-quality writers, so there isn't much to make notes on, a lot ofe time. Still, I am trying to work on staying careful longer, and offer more helpful notes.

What kind of beta are you? Do you have any suggestions for types of betas I missed?

(Once again posted from my phone so apologies for any typos!)


K. Marie Criddle said...

I'm the same way: I love getting caught up in the stories and just speeding through a manuscript, very commercial-esque. When I CAN'T read it quickly, that's a sure sign there's a few things I can make notes on and go all copy-editory.

If given an actual printer manuscript to work with, however, I do tend to sketch things out and doodle my notes (and dragons) in the margin. Lo, that is how I roll.

Adam Heine said...

I try to be the helpful reader, but yeah, if I get caught up in the story I'm quickly dropped to commercial.

C. N. Nevets said...

I always try ask at the outset, "What are you looking or from me?" and then match what I say to those expectations. I take it pretty hardcore seriously, and am so much of a rule monkey that if I even get close to straying from their expectations, I feel immense guilt.

Typically I read it like I'm analyzing literature. I definitely never read it like I'm just reading it for fun, and I definitely never copy-edit unless I've been asked to.

I guess that falls somewhere under the helpful umbrella.

Susan R. Mills said...

It depends on the situation. I always ask the person what kind of critique they are looking for and then I do my best to deliver. My natural instinct is to line edit and then offer overal suggestions, but sometimes a person doesn't want that.

Unknown said...

I think I used to be a lot more meticulous in hunting for errors and things that can be improved on. Now I really only look for things that pull me out. (that is I don't have to look for them because they will pull me out and then make me think about why and I will make a note of it) Every once in a while I'll try to pull myself out and anylize what I've read so far but it can be difficult not to get caught up in the story. I guess I BETA pretty much the same as I edit my own work.