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Betas

At the bottom of this little rant/piece of Aunty Al's sage advice, you will find a list of people who will be willing to beta your stories. But before you get there, you're going to have to listen to me. It's one of the perks of being 'staff'.

What is a beta? Well, in the simplest sense, betas are people who read through a story before it is posted to a mailing list or site, and comment on things that can be improved. However, the term 'beta' can mean anything between someone who just gives it the once over, spotting typos, to someone who does a thorough edit - sometimes more than once if the story is complex or long - and who will comment on plot, story flow, characterisation, continuity, grammar, sentence structure etc ad infinitum.

Finding a good beta, or even a beta who is good for you, is a combination of luck and judgement. Ideally you want to find someone who has strengths that compensate for your own weaknesses - if your story telling skills are strong but your grammar is a bit wonky, you may want someone who has an excellent grasp of grammar to tidy it up and point out where you're going wrong. Or you may have an excellent grasp of grammar but not be able to spot your own plotholes even with the aid of a magnifying lens and searchlight. Everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses in writing, and I cannot think of a single author in any fandom who cannot improve as a writer - and the best authors are always striving to do just that.

To help you decide who might be a good person to approach, here are some things you may like to consider:

i) decide what you actually want from a beta, and compare it to the strengths listed

ii) where the beta is also an author, check out their stories and see whether their view of the characters gels with yours. There's little point in having someone beta your story if they have diametrically opposed views of Sam to your own. Yes, you may think that he's a fluffywuffykins, but there's not much point in getting someone whose view of him is that he's borderline psychopathic to beta Fluffy!fic. There's nothing wrong with a different slant - it may get you thinking in directions that you may not have otherwise considered - but if it's that radically different, then the chances are that that way lies much pain - for both of you

iii) make what you want clear up front. If you only want someone to proofread, say so. This will avoid any hard feelings later and will save both of you wasted time. There are few things more frustrating as a beta than someone saying 'Oh... I didn't want you to comment on the plot' when you've spent hours carefully considering it from all angles and spotting things that don't work. Be honest. It's your story. Think about what you'll actually accept in terms of comments and be upfront about it. The flipside of this, of course, is that if you do ask for comments, and get them, sulk about it in private. It's never easy to accept constructive criticism, but it's essential if you want to improve. The best writer/beta relationships are built on mutual respect and honesty

iv) agree a turn-around period. Try not to be unrealistic. Yes, you're very happy that you finished a story and want to post it like right now, but is it really reasonable to insist that someone turn around a thirty page story overnight? And remember that betas have real lives too, so be prepared to look again if the agreed turn around period has passed with no sign of comments

v) proof read your story before you send it. Yes, if your chosen beta is very good, she will hopefully spot most glaring errors but at the end of the day it's your story and you want it to be as good as possible. Do not blame your beta for any errors. Betas are not superhuman and no one is capable of spotting every single error. And it is disheartening as a beta to receive a story that hasn't even been run through spellcheck - if the author can't be bothered to even do that, why should you? Besides, the more errors there are, the less likely you are to spot them all

vi) feel free to ignore anything your beta suggests because it is, after all, your story. But before you do that, think about why you're ignoring it. There's little excuse for ignoring grammatical suggestions unless you know they're wrong, in which case next time think about getting a beta who has a better grasp of grammar than you do, rather than worse. And why, exactly, are you ignoring the fact that Sam has broken both arms and legs and your beta then thinks that crawling up a mountainface with an unconscious Chris strapped to his back might be a leeeetle farfetched? They may have a point

vii) thank your beta, both privately and in the notes to your story. Really. Please, may I and thank you are the only currencies worth anything in fandom. And if you've found a beta worth her weight in gold, you want to keep him/her, don't you?

Betas

Name

e-mail

Gen

Adult

Slash

Strengths

Alyse

X
X
X

spelling, grammar, characterisation, plot, flow, continuity

Brenda

X
X
X

spelling, grammar, characterisation, foreign languages

Genie

X
X

spelling, characterisation, plot

Jeanny

X
X
X

spelling, proofreading

Rhianne

X
X
X

spelling, grammar, characterisation, plot, flow, continuity

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