By the time my beta sees a chapter, I’ve already been over it a few times and my pre-reader has read it, so there shouldn’t be continuity problems or other things relating to the storyline, phrasing, descriptions, etc. I mostly expect my beta to fix grammar and punctuation mistakes, point out weird phrasing, and let me know if something isn’t working. Using the review tab in Microsoft Word, we track all changes, and she makes all of her edits. Comments are inserted as notes. This way, it doesn’t affect my document and I have to approve all of her edits. This is the easiest method I’ve found for doing this.
It’s really important to me that my beta “likes” my story. If she doesn’t care about it, she won’t be able to tell if at any point I’m derailing from the set path. Also, I don’t want anyone to “suffer” through my stuff just because they took on the task.
As for the method, before asking her to beta my chapters, I gchatted with her and gave her the story outline. Once she confirmed that she found it interesting enough, I sent her the first chapter. We went from there. She’s awesome, by the way!
Erika does grammar, punctuation, all the technical stuff. Suzy does the continuity and consistency stuff. LB and Beegurl do both as well, but in a different way. I get more raw critique from them, as opposed to technical stuff from the others. And when they say it takes a village…I believe it.
As far as providing my beta with anything, it’s pretty much just the doc attached to an email and a big thank you. Occasionally I send baked goods. Through the mail, of course. (I really didn’t understand the question:)
I expect honesty, first and foremost. When I start a new beta-writer relationship, the first thing I tell them is that I don’t need my ego stroked. Honestly, if every chapter comes back with “this is SO AMAZING” on it, I’m not really getting anything out of that. I write to improve my craft; you do that by making mistakes and learning from them. I want my betas and readers to feel comfortable enough with me to point out areas that need improvement. And yes, I’ve gotten comments from a beta that say, “WHAT were you thinking … this is terrible.” When I read that, I think, “This person knows I can do better, and they expect better from me.” It challenges me to go back and do better. My writing is better for their honesty and openness.
I don’t really have expectations of her, she’s just totally awesome. She keeps me in line, whether it’s a plot that can go off on a tangent or grammatically (lol). I give her my outline and whatever else she needs to know my story.
My routine is to send out the rough draft to the whole team. I have one beta and three pre-readers. My pre-readers will generally read over and tell me if the story makes sense and flows. If they spot a technical error, they point it out but I don’t expect them to get all of them.
I take what they say and re-edit my rough draft and then send it to my beta again. She does the fine tuning, grammatically and flow wise.
The thing I love about my team is that they are good, quick to return to me, and they don’t take umbrage if I don’t accept all of their advice.
Basically for me it’s grammatical, but she will also edit for flow/content. A great beta will be just as invested in your story as you are. I pretty much just give her the chapter, and maybe a few notes if there’s an area I feel may need extra help.
I expect to be told if there’s some glaring grammatical error, but more than that, I expect my beta to tell me if my plot is having issues, if my characters aren’t acting the way they expect. I appreciate story feedback more than grammatical, if that makes sense.
In two words, out of my beta I expect “constructive criticism.”
First of all, since I’m not English native speaker (I’m 100% Italian), my betas have to edit a lot to make my strange ItalEnglish more “English”
But the thing I most appreciate is getting comments about what works and what sucks in my stories. It helps me a lot if the beta provides examples, and if her advice is related to a particular part of the chapter. E. g., instead of “be more descriptive,” for me it works better if the beta says “Before this dialogue, I’d like to get a perspective. Give us a description.”
When I work with Project Team Beta, I scrupulously fill their questionnaire, with questions about chapter concerns and overall concerns.
As a general advice, *talk* with your betas! Don’t be shy, tell them what you want to improve in the chapter, in the story and, in general, in your writing. And then, have a thick skin! Some lessons hurt, but they might be the most useful to actually improve as a writer!
My beta checks for grammar and segmented phrases, as well as errors or confusing context of the story. We work in Word docs, where she can tag in comments (something as simple as “I like this part!” or “This is confusing- who is talking here?”) and tracks changes in the document, allowing me to accept or deny each change.
My beta is great at leaving comments and suggestions rather than making corrections herself, so that I can see where the reader may have a difficult time, or where I need to make changes. I like that she doesn’t change much more than my pirate speak or adds an “n” to “the” because it should be “then”. It leaves the document fairly pristine so I have the ability to be creative with the changes rather than accept her color in words. Some betas simply write in suggestions, but this can often color the chapter differently.
Biggest thing for me is to make sure the story makes sense. I get so bogged down in the details sometimes, I need someone to look at it from the big picture with fresh eyes. And then of course, there’s catching any grammar and spelling errors.