As promised, here are some guidelines/tips for prospective betas. I thought I would put it up now so that people have time to think about it and make good decisions when it is time to jump onto the new list here at the verse.
So you wanna be a beta….
If you are considering joining the list of BSV betas, or planning to remain on the list after Dia revamps (*snort*) the format, here are some things to consider:
1. If the little bio/blurb that you put up about yourself is full of typos, misspelled words, punctuation and/or grammatical errors, how likely are you to attract good writers? Please, please, proofread your own words! I’ve been part-way through the old list, and trust me, it’s a pretty frightening sight in spots.
2. Be perfectly honest with both yourself and your prospective “clients”. If your own beta has to correct your vocabulary or grammar or punctuation – whatever - on a regular basis, should you really be offering to do that service for someone else? If you aren’t sure how polished your language skills are, check out some of the online grammar sites, look through the memories on Riters_R_Us, look into the BSV forum for recommended help sites. Look around on these sites and ask yourself if you a) understand what they’re talking about and b) could pass a test on the information there. If the answer is “no”, then do not present yourself as an expert on writing mechanics.
3. Instead, offer your services in other areas. Perhaps you are very detail-oriented and never miss a typo or a plot hole. Good for you! Make that your selling point. Maybe you wouldn’t know punctuation if you fell over it, but you have a large and varied vocabulary. Offer your assistance as a talking thesaurus or dictionary. (Again, being honest with yourself about what you really know or how willing you are to take the time to look it up if you aren’t sure.)
4. Many people love to read, and have wonderful imaginations but no desire or skill with which to set their ideas down on paper (so to speak). There are others who have perfectly wonderful mechanical writing skills and not a shred of originality to their names. Sometimes these two types of people find each other and a wonderful partnership is born. There are some great fics out there that are basically collaborations between two (or more) people. Don’t be afraid to suggest this to a writer. If you have to basically re-write the entire story to make it palatable, you deserve some credit.
5. If you do have to re-write the chapters each time, and if the writer doesn’t seem to be trying to learn anything (assuming you have tried to teach her), don’t be afraid to take a hard line. You are volunteering your time and energy to do a service for the writer and she should not be taking advantage.
6. Try not to be offended if a writer uses more than one beta (see above for the various skills that may be needed). It’s all in the interest of producing the best work possible.
7. If, during the process of doing one chapter, you find that you are making the same corrections over and over (thus indicating that they are not typos but a lack of knowledge about the mechanics involved), please explain the correction and the reason for it to your writer. Ideally, each chapter that she sends you will have fewer and fewer mistakes in it as the lessons you have been teaching are absorbed and put into use.
8. Be sure that you and your writer have a clear understanding of what is expected by both parties. If she just wants to know about her typos and nothing else, you will have to bite your tongue (figuratively speaking) when you see grammar errors or logic holes in the plot. By the same token, if she is coming to you for real guidance, you will have to be prepared to spend a good amount of time on her chapters – being sure that you haven’t missed something, that you can explain why a particular sentence or plot line is bothering you, and that you can offer some suggestions for fixing it.
9. It is always good to differentiate between mechanical corrections – which must and should be done – and your suggestions as to how to make something read a bit more smoothly, or how and when to fill a plot hole. It is easy to frighten a new writer away if she thinks you are going to be re-writing her story for her. At the same time, no one is being helped if you are offering false praise for work that really needs….work. It can be a tricky line to walk. Betas who can walk that line and help writers to improve while not injuring their feelings are doing the fandom a wonderful service.
Being a beta can be very rewarding – whether you are catching typos for an award-winning author or teaching a newbie how to improve her characterizations and dialogue. But, it is a commitment of both time and energy and should not be taken lightly. I’m very afraid that a lot of people volunteer to beta just to get a first look at a story’s new chapters, or to see their name in the author’s notes at the beginning, and that is so unfair to the authors who are seeking good help with their fics.