BSV Forum - Writing - Beta

Falling On Deaf Ears

Jun 13 2007 04:02 pm   #1FetchingMadScientist

I need some help.  I have an author that I beta'd a fic for.  The story was full of verb tense mistakes, which I tried to fix.  I gave her suggestions, but left it to the author to make the actual changes.

The author posted the fic with some of the changes I suggested, others were left alone.

Judging from reader comments, the mistakes were noticed.  I noticed them too, and I'm embarrassed by it.

What would you do? Do I work with this author again? 

"Never a fetching mad scientist about when you need one." -Spike
Jun 13 2007 10:11 pm   #2eve


I think I know who you are talking about and i know her former beta, if you both want it i could try to get you two in contact (Please don't beta that sentence ) maybe she could answer some of your questions. I know that she gave up.

Jun 14 2007 02:48 am   #3slaymesoftly

I think, with your name going on it as the beta, you have every right to call her on the lack of followthrough.  You might tell her about the "rule of three" that some betas use:  first time - make the corrections; second time - explain the rule(s) for the changes; third time - ask the writer what she doesn't understand about the rule and reexplain it - and if there is a fourth time, you cut her loose.  That applies to the same kinds of mistakes, obviously.  Unless your writer has some sort of problem that prevents him/her from recognizing certain errors (a dsylexic who always switches letters around or something like that) and you two have discussed it, I think a refusal to learn and get better is just laziness and taking advantage of the beta.

Ooo, that sounded mean, didn't it?  I don't mean it to be, but I know how frustrating it is to spend a lot of time on a chapter only to find that the author didn't bother to follow through or even ask you about the changes. And it's embarrassing to find your name on a fic that has a lot of errors.

I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Jun 15 2007 02:39 am   #4DreamsofSpike

I'm just throwing my opinion in here, but I think it does make a difference what the type of corrections are. If it's something that's simply a cut-and-dried issue of correct or incorrect, then the writer needs to make the changes.

However, there are some things that are a matter of personal style. For example, I tend to use a lot of  -- 's to emphasize words or phrases...I've had more than one beta replace those with ...'s. To me, that's a matter of a personal choice, and I've never had a beta get upset with me because I change it. Another writing style tends to be wordy, and I've really got no inclination to change me, that comes down to style...

I think that if it is something that is a matter of your own personal style, the writer should still tell the beta their reasoning for *not* making the changes, and see if they can come to some sort of arrangement. If there is something they absolutely cannot agree on, then perhaps the writer should put some kind of A/N up that says something to the effect of "any remaining errors are my fault, not the fault of my beta "


Jun 15 2007 01:01 pm   #5slaymesoftly

I agree with Dos - there is a difference between incorrect usuage and writing style.  A beta has to be able/willing to work with and around a writer's style as long as it isn't so "creative" as to be unreadable.  However, if the author is going to be creative, she at least needs to know that she is doing so and which rule she is breaking.  About the only thing  that allows for much flexibililty is punctuation; as long as the technically incorrect punctuation doesn't affect the clarity and there is a specific reason for using it. 

Communication is the key - the beta and the author need to have an understanding about which changes are incorrect and should be changed, and which comments are only suggestions (awkwardly worded sentences, overly frequent use of a word,  an OOC bit of dialogue - stuff like that).  If the beta doesn't feel that the author is even considering the suggestions (which can and should be discussed), then she has to decide if she wants to continue having her name on the fic.  If the author isn't correcting the genuine errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling and won't discuss it with the beta, then I'd cut her loose. 

I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Jun 15 2007 05:22 pm   #6Always_jbj

If the author isn't correcting the genuine errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling and won't discuss it with the beta, then I'd cut her loose. 

Gee, I'm glad you're not MY beta--oh, hang on... LOL


And I agree whole-heartedly!

Aim from the heart
Some will love and some will curse you, baby
You can go to war
But only if you have to 

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Jun 16 2007 01:20 am   #7Spikez_tart
Ooo, that sounded mean, didn't it?

Slay - I don't think you're mean.  Editing is hard, hard work.  What's the point if the writer won't listen to non-stylistic corrections?  Also, a Mean Beta is the best Beta you can have.  Writers should be worshipping at the feet of their betas, sending tidy sums of cash and chocolate to show their appreciation.

Having done editing for four different people now, I've come to the conclusion that being a beta was more beneficial for me than for them.  Eventually, you have to learn to edit your own work.  I'm thinking of giving my current writers an old chapter of mine to work on so they can get the hang of it instead of relying on me.

Also, way tired of correcting changes that can be caught by Word's spelling program.  Woof.





If we want her to be exactly she'll never be exactly I know the only really real Buffy is really Buffy and she's gone' who?
Jun 16 2007 10:19 am   #8eve

Also, way tired of correcting changes that can be caught by Word's spelling program.  Woof.

If they know how to activate the auto grammar and spell check in word. *head desk* You get the chapter, open it and there are green and red lines all over the place. I think I was too forgiving as a beta when it came down to the mistakes that were made over and over again. One beta-job ruined me for all other beta stuff lol. I would do too many changes if I ever beta something again, because I'm used to not only check the spelling pp but also to rewrite or fill up the chapters too much. The author was happy about that. Also I'm German, so English is just my second language, which should automatically disqualify me as a beta. I don't even want to know the mistakes I made in this post.

Jun 16 2007 03:13 pm   #9slaymesoftly

LOL, eve - your English is way better than my German!  I'm amazed by anyone who can write anything more elaborate than a grocery store list in another language!

And, yes, Word isn't perfect by any means - but it will flag spelling errors, most punctuation errors and awkwardly worded sentences - and it even offers suggested changes. Anybody whose chapter is covered with green and red squiggly lines should let Word do the edit for them and then send it to the beta for a final polish and to catch the things Word didn't (like use of the wrong homophone - peek/peak/pique, their, there, they're; or a typo that makes a real word - he when it should be she, stuff like that). The tools are there to make the beta's life much easier.

At the same time, a beta who just runs a chapter through spell and grammar check probably isn't doing her job either....

I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Jun 16 2007 05:26 pm   #10eve

Thanks slaymesoftly

Word is by no means perfect but it helps. It helped me beta too, not that I only send the chapters through a spell or grammar check I wouldn't have needed 4 hours for that. *sigh* But unfortunately word can't help you when the characters sound off or the plot got holes, for that the author and the beta need to have a good connection on a personal level, so they can openly discuss that stuff. So just like everywhere in life, communication sometimes really is the key.

One program that also helped me was a recommendation from Deedo. You all probably know it already, but I'll post the link below. It really helped me when I beta'd or wrote my own stuff and was lost for words and looking for synonyms and such. And it's FREE

Jun 16 2007 08:34 pm   #11slaymesoftly

Hey, Eve, that's a good link - it needs to be in the forum posts for writing tips. *hint, hint*  Thanks! 

And, yes, you're correct that spell and grammar checks are not going to help you with bad dialogue or OOC characters and those can be very touchy subjects. At that point you are criticising the author's actual writing and they can be very testy about that.  Good communication is vital, as is mutual respect for each other's opinions, since chracterization can be in the eye of the beholder.  At a minimum, you should be able to have a dialogue about it and at least get the author to think about your comments and perhaps take another look at her story and ask herself if you could be on to something.

I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.