New Projects (Beta Reading)

As many of you have seen my reading has been put on hold with exception of audible books for the last couple of weeks.

The reason for this is that I’ve taken the opportunity to beta read for an author friend of mine.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience of working with the author to provide feedback on a first (rough) draft of their book. Seeing the book evolve from a rough draft to a more polished draft has been quite the entertaining and enlightening experience.

I’ve learned a few lessons in beta reading (both past and present), and there are some that I was taught before I ever beta read. I thought I would pass some tips along.

  • Get a clear picture of what the author wants you to do at the beginning.
    • If the author isn’t sure what they want, helping them is difficult. Do they just want an opinion on the book, or do they want you to point out major typos and discrepancies in the flow of the book (is the character laying on the ground, then magically standing in the next sentence or is the character inside a room then outside the room and then back inside within the space of a few sentences without ever exiting or entering the room).
      • Knowing what the author expects from you gives both you and the author a good experience.
    • How much do they want you to read before consulting with them? Sometimes the author wants you to go through the entire book and come back with your notes. Sometimes they only want a few chapters at a time.
    • What is their timeline?
      • Can you commit to their timeline? Sometimes their time line requires you to do 20+ pages a day while others it’s 5 chapters a week. Knowing their timeline and working within it is important. If you can’t commit to their timeline tell them. They can find someone who can and will likely come back because you let them know in advance you couldn’t do what they expected. If you don’t meet their deadlines it’s unlikely they will use you again in the future.
  • Don’t try to change the author’s wording.
    • While some think ‘Duh‘ at this, there are times when you feel something could be worded better. Trying to change it for the author does a disservice to both the author and their readers. Instead tell the author that the wording is confusing, or that the paragraph needs reworked. This forces the author to take a deeper look into their writing. What comes back is often better than what you would have changed it to at the beginning.
  • Don’t get cocky when they take your suggestions.
    • Sometimes you make a suggestion and the author changes their story accordingly. Don’t start thinking that the author will take all of your suggestions. This leads into the next section:
  • Don’t get discouraged if the author doesn’t take your suggestions.
    • Making suggestions on how they can change a sentence can help the author. There are times I suggest a change, and the author I’ve been working with has rejected the suggestion.  Sometimes talking to them helps you understand their reasoning, and you change your view. Sometime they see your what you’re saying and change it. Other times you reach a compromise. Here is a conversation between me and the author I’m working with on one example where I’ve made a comment on something.  The conversation has been shared with his consent (and some redaction as to not give the story line away).
      Me:
      exiguous
      I think you’re trying too hardAuthor:
      No. I like the word leave me alone
      That’s the only one word I’ve used in the entire book that’s fancy
      Leave exiguous aloneMe:
      I can’t. It’s been bugging me.Author:
      Heidi no I’m not deleting it

      Me:
      I am an encyclopedia of rare words and I had to Google it!

      Author:
      That means I did my job right. You’re just tickled because You didn’t know what it meant!!

      Me:
      Did you use a thesaurus to look it up?

      Author:
      I was looking for small and compact and there it was.
      And I liked how it sounds

      Me:
      Let me stew on it. I may have a way that you can use it and not piss off readers

      Author:
      How is it pissing off anyone Heidi. Leave it

      Me:
      Major pet peeve:
      having to Google word after word in a book to find the meanings

      Author:
      That’s good!

      Me:
      I know a LOT of people on good reads mark down for it.

      Author:
      It’s new and like helps readers learn words.

      Me:
      if it’s your only fancy word like that it will be okay, but seeing over and over in a book is distracting.

      Author:
      That’s the only word in the book. You mean to tell me they’ll mark me down for just one word?

      Me:
      For one instance no, but for multiple instances yes.

      Author:
      Have you seen Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
      That author uses a ton of fancy words. I had to DNF .
      But yet she’s famous. I was just confused with what was going on and the amount of words she was using.

      Author:
      That’s the only one I use. Promise

      Me:
      famous she may be, but DNF due to having to look up lots of words and not understanding the story line from it hurts them. As long as your careful about it I’ll stop picking on exiguous. If I start finding more I’m going to really give you crap. I’ve DNF a few books for it and I don’t want you having DNFs because you’re trying too hard…

      Author:
      I have to try hard to make it. Heidi I like exiguous. I can see ███ (Character’s name) saying it

      Me:
      I can too. I still think there may be a better way for him to use it though.
      Give me a second to think.

      Author:
      Okay

      Me:
      He was right. The house was elegant outside, but as he walked around he found it to be plain and serviceable. The rooms were exiguous. ██████ ███ █ █████ ███ ██ ██████ ██ ████████ ███ ████ ██ ██ ███ ███ ████ ████ ███ █████████ ███ ███████ ██ ███ ███ ██████ ███ ████ ███ █ ██ ███ ███████. (Redaction for spoilers)
      That lets him use the word, and it gives a reason why it’s used.

      Author:
      Omg no

      Me:
      why?

      Author:
      Leave out the ████ ███ ██████ part
      Just have him say the rooms were exiguous
      He was right. The house was elegant outside, but as he walked around he found it to be plain and serviceable. The rooms were exiguous.
      Okay you know what you did? bring back up ████ (minor character’s name)
      I wouldn’t say it’s ███████ I would think he’d chuckle to himself from the memory it’s like bittersweet

      Author:
      Just leave a note and i’ll change it.

  • Have fun and enjoy it.
    • Seriously here. If you’re so stressed out about working on a rough draft with an author, neither you or the author are going to enjoy the experience.
    • I’ve always found copy editing to be relaxing, so going through a book sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph with a fine tooth comb has been a lot of fun for me. I know other people who would go crazy at this type of task.
  • It’s slow and tedious, but the payout is two fold.
    • You help the author make their book the best it can be, and you expand your knowledge of the writing process while gaining skills that can be used later.

I am finishing up the Audible version of Struck by Amanda Carlson this week and will have my review of that up soon. 🙂

Happy reading!

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