Writers, by nature, keep a tight hold on their work. They obsessively craft and edit and rework until it’s just right (or, at least, just right now). So the thought of handing over your fanfiction to a beta reader for feedback can be, well, terrifying. There is plenty of advice to follow for how to be an effective beta reader, but what about some guidelines for writers? That’s where we come in. Here are some tips on how to talk to a beta reader about your fanfiction… without freaking out.
Before the Beta Read
When sending a beta your fic, be clear about what type of feedback you are looking for. Are you wanting overall thoughts on the story structure and pacing? Help with the dialogue and characterization? Line edits for spelling and grammar? Giving your beta clear guidelines helps them focus their efforts and avoid over-critiquing.
It can be scary to give your writing over to a second set of eyes. Your mind floods with self-doubt: What if they hate it? Did those last few chapters make sense? Am I a horrible writer? Stop. Breathe. Acknowledge the critical goblin on your shoulder and let it go. Don’t make excuses for your writing or lecture your beta reader about your perceived weaknesses. Saying things like, “I know I used way too many adverbs, but blah blah blah,” will taint your reader’s first impression of your work, which is the most valuable thing a beta can bring to the table. In most cases, your beta has no personal attachment to your work and they will not be “judging” you or your writing style. Give your reader the space to read and critique your work.
Tell The Truth
Be upfront about your writing experience. If this is your first fanfiction, let the reader know. If your beta is more familiar with the fandom than you, they will be able to help pinpoint the clichés present in a lot of first time fics. For instance, while Draco Malfoy’s “Scared Potter?” or Sam and Dean Winchester’s “Bitch. Jerk.” are great canon lines, they are often overused in fanfiction.
Discuss Technical Details
Tell the reader how you want to receive the corrections. Do you want comments in a separate document with chapter by chapter feedback? Do you want your beta to “track changes” in Google Docs? If there are errors, do you want your reader to “fix them” or merely point out the error?
Send the reader the best possible version of your fanfiction. Now, nobody is perfect. And if you wait to send the “perfect” story, you will be waiting forever. But be respectful of your beta’s time by sending them a decent draft of your fanfiction. It can mess with an editor’s rhythm to correct multiple spelling mistakes in one paragraph, or to perform mental gymnastics to fill in gaps. A good rule of thumb is to do one round of your own edits before you send it to a beta reader.
During the Beta Read
Give The Reader Space
Don’t interrupt your beta with ideas, updated drafts, or questions about how it’s going. Leave them to do their job. (Note: This doesn’t apply if a beta reader misses their deadline. In that case, send a polite email asking for an update on their progress.)
Work On Something Else
Having a beta go through your work is the perfect chance for you to step back and take a breather. Work on another story. Go camping. Read a book. Get some distance from your fanfic so that when you receive the edit, you can approach the story from a more objective viewpoint.
After the Beta Read
Don’t Make Things Personal
It’s important to remove personal feelings from the beta editing process. Take some time to absorb and reflect upon your reader’s comments. Don’t take offense to them. They are not personal attacks. In most cases, their intention is not to criticize your writing or be harsh.
It’s still your story. You do not have to make all (or any) of the changes your beta reader suggests. Write the story how you want to write it. It is also an option to have a second beta look over your story. If the two betas made similar points about certain sections, it might be a good idea to revisit portions of your work.
Remember, beta readers are volunteers and editing a fanfiction is a huge undertaking. Thank your beta for taking the time and effort to read your story. Even if you end up rejecting most of their edits, politely acknowledge them in the notes of your fanfiction.
Do you have any more tips on how to talk to a beta reader about your fanfiction?
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