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Beta Readers > My beta reader is "correcting" my manuscript

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message 1: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Harry | 3 comments I'm a new writer; just finished my first book. I sent it to five beta readers a few weeks ago, and I'm awaiting their feedback. My problem is I feel like one of my beta readers is crossing the line. I sent him a list of questions, but it seems like he ignored it because he keeps repeatedly telling me that he will send me the "corrections" and feedback. Now I might be overreacting, but does being a beta reader mean that you also "correct" someone's work? I'm very new at this, so I have no idea what to think. I welcome feedback and comments, but when he phrased it like that, I feel somewhat like my work is being violated. I'd like to think that I'm not reacting this way because I don't handle criticisms well, but I don't seem to have this problem with my other beta readers.

Now I haven't seen his corrections, but from what he told me, he has corrected the tone that my characters used because he felt like they were Southern American or Europe or something along that line. I have no idea what's going on. Is this normal? What should I tell him? Or should I just quench my frustration and see his final feedback?


message 2: by Rebecka (new)

Rebecka Sheehan | 5 comments My beta readers will a lot of times comment phrases or sentences they may find are written weirdly. And offer samples that they seem might fit better. They shouldn’t go in and change your story to their liking. If your character sounds a certain nationality which you beta reader doesn’t like, he has all the right to feel that way but no right to change it or force you to change it.
The right thing for him is to offer you suggestions of what “he might have done” or what he would do differently.
I would wait for him to get back with the “corrections” and see exactly what he’s done. A good beta reader will give constructive criticism and offer solutions. They will highlight where they find something to be off. They are not to change anything. Only offer suggestions a feedback.
They are not editors and therefore should not attempt to “correct” your story by themselves.
It is YOUR STORY. No one else’s.


message 3: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Harry | 3 comments Rebecka wrote: "My beta readers will a lot of times comment phrases or sentences they may find are written weirdly. And offer samples that they seem might fit better. They shouldn’t go in and change your story to ..."

That's what I thought. That's why I thought it was off what he's doing. When I asked him about it the first time he said it, he said his boss used to give him corrections and a passive feedback when he read through his work. But I don't think he gets that he's a beta reader at this point, not exactly my boss or editor, and this is a novel, not exactly an article.


message 4: by Rebecka (new)

Rebecka Sheehan | 5 comments I would definitely wait until he’s done. Because it also sounds like he’s putting a lot of work into your manuscript. Which is very valuable.
For all you know, he’ll come back to you with great advice and suggestions for how you can write your story in the best possible way.
You will only know once he gets back to you.
Good beta readers take their work seriously and it sounds like he is. Just make sure he’s not changing “your style” because that would be wrong 😊
Good luck! Let me know !


message 5: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Harry | 3 comments Rebecka wrote: "I would definitely wait until he’s done. Because it also sounds like he’s putting a lot of work into your manuscript. Which is very valuable.
For all you know, he’ll come back to you with great ad..."


Thank you for the response. I didn't want to say anything to him lest I sound ungrateful because I am very grateful and thankful that he's doing this for me. Sending off my first novel to beta readers is just such a nerve-wracking experience. I'm glad there's so much support here.


message 6: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 69 comments Hi. Catherine,

I think Rebecka has it exactly right.

I have written a few novels and put them out to Beta readers (including professional Bet-reading), as well as beta-read many myself.

I am aware of the delicacy of the job.

Personally, I welcome even the most radical surgery on my work. It often opens my eyes to an angle that I would never have imagined without that help. But I am also aware that the writer is sovereign over the work, just as the reader is sovereign over his/her response to it.

Provided this beta-reader is balanced and competent, then I suggest you take his/her advice to heart. Consider carefully whether or not your work is already perfect, or could it perhaps be improved.

I have recently told my professional Beta that I want her to be brutal; beta-reading is all about refining the work, not stroking the ego.

So consider this Beta not as an adversary but as a collaborator, a friend who will say things that you need to hear. Then you can decide how much of that advice to take on board.

Keep on scribbling!


White Diamond Editing (wwwgoodreadscomwhitediamondedits) Hi Catherine,

I agree with Rebecka in that this is your story, no one else's and so any changes to the story itself should be conducted by you. A beta-reader, of course, can make suggestions, just as I do as an editor, but ultimately it is only an objective view of your novel that will help you rectify any areas that need improvement or reworking for flow or clarity etc.

As an editor I make corrections using Track Changes to a document to things such as spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as typos. Using Track Changes allows the author to either accept my suggestions or not - as it is their book, it is not my place to officially change anything. If I find issues with the plot, or characters, or flow of a paragraph, for example, I leave a comment in the margin that explains my issue and how the author could rectify it, which allows them to deal with the problem in their way using their own voice.

If your beta-reader is doing things this way then I wouldn't be too worried as you will still have ultimate control over your own story. However, if they are physically going in and changing things in your novel without Track Changes then that is wrong. It is your novel and no one should alter anything other than you in your own style and voice, using a beta-reader's/editor's input as advice.

Putting your novel out there for the first time is incredibly nerve-wracking! I'm both an editor and an author so have experience on both sides of the fence! It takes time to harden to criticism, even the type that will make your novel better in the long run. Just try and make yourself aware of the processes involved as it will make the whole thing a little less unnerving. I would ask your beta-reader whether they are using Track Changes for the amendments they are making. If not and they are making the changes directly onto your novel, then I would not accept that as it is interfering with the author's (your) voice, which no professional should do.

I hope this advice helps and good luck with your book.

Jacqui


message 8: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 6 comments As with any feedback, you change what you agree with and ignore what you don't agree with. No matter what you think of his feedback, thank him for all the time and energy he put into the piece, and find a few gems he provided to comment on. If 2 or more beta readers comment on the same thing but you don't agree, they could be right and you might consider changes anyway.


message 9: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 69 comments When I beta-read, I make a completely new file of the book titled 'XYZ Beta comments' and leave the original file untouched. This makes it clear that I will be making comments, but not altering the writer's file.

When I comment, virtually all of my comments are in the margin. Very rarely I might tamper with the main text, but when I do (perhaps once in a typical book) I leave the writers original text in place but colour it red, and when I insert my alternative I colour that blue. That way it is obvious what is the original compared to my suggestion. And I add marginal notes explaining why I have been so presumptuous! So far no-one has shown offence, but that might just be because they are too polite.

Like all things in life, advice can be either welcome or unwelcome, can be delivered gently or imperiously. It is better if both adviser and hearer remain humble.


message 10: by Victorique (new)

Victorique Crawford (victoriquecrawford) | 11 comments It isn't all normal. Although I feel that the moment the beta is correcting your mistakes it has stepped into the line of editing. I have never tampered with the text of the author, I merely make suggestions, comments, offer insights and solutions according to how I view the book.

But as always, wait for the final feedback and see the result. And don't forget that it is your story at the end of the day, and you are free to accept suggestions or discard them.


message 11: by Chris (new)

Chris Liberty | 3 comments I'm a beta reader/editor, and when someone gives me a chapter or book, I'll go through it and correct whatever is wrong, such as the rules of writing: show don't tell, grammar, sentence structure, POV correction (yes, a few of them have no idea you can't change POVs without a scene break or a new chapter). Plus, I also suggest better words to use, and I point out any repetitious word usage.

Truth is, when it's all said and done, if there's something you don't like, reject it. Since this is the free beta reader category, you didn't pay the reader, so you're not losing anything.

If you prefer the book just be read with no correction, and for the readers to simply give you an overall view of the book, just say that. As an editor, it takes a LOT of time to go through someone's work, especially for free. So, if you're not looking for an editing job, just message and tell the reader that.


message 12: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 69 comments Chris wrote: "I'm a beta reader/editor, and when someone gives me a chapter or book, I'll go through it and correct whatever is wrong, such as the rules of writing: show don't tell, grammar, sentence structure, ..."

Hi Chris,

I know I'm the one 'out of step' here, but I have little time for this dogma about 'you can't change PoV without a scene change or a new chapter'. Why not? If it helps the reader understand in real time what two antagonists are thinking, then surely it helps understanding!

But that is where the penny finally dropped. When I talk about a reader being 'immersed', I mean 'immersed in the story, understanding it from a global perspective'. However, I gather that the current fashion is to 'immerse' the reader in a specific character instead.

Which is correct? My guess is that my view (being immersed in the story) is harking back to the times when everyone thought in term of an objective reality 'out there'. But in these post-modern times, the thinking seems to have switched over to the subjective being supreme.

One comparison is the classic Music Hall practice of the 'stage whisper' to the audience, which informed the audience of the agenda of the speaker. Music Hall is also out of fashion now.

But although this PoV 'Rule' is no more than current fashion, it is unfortunately the fashion that Editors and (to an even greater extent Agents) seem to demand that a writer obey. Much as agents proclaim they want 'fresh new voices', they only want them if they fit their pre-conceived checklist.

Anyway, enough raging against an uncaring world. I think all a new writer can do is warp and twist a new novel to fit into this straightjacket, get it published, and when he/she has had that first novel published there might be a bit more license for future books to push the current mind-numbing orthodoxy a bit harder.
.


message 13: by Kathy (last edited Dec 08, 2018 04:21AM) (new)

Kathy Golden | 298 comments Mod
Tito,

I agree with you as far as POV is concerned. Granted, it takes skill to handle changes in POV in the same scene, but it's doable, and I have seen it done well. At the same time, I've seen it done badly, especially if there is too much head-hopping.

So I think, if the writer feels that changing POV in the same scene more closely connects readers with the story, the writer, who is seeking help from the many free betareaders we have in our group, can just asks those readers how the changes in POV are working for them.

Personally, as a reader, I often find it disconnecting to have to wait until the next chapter or scene or whatever to know what one of the MC's (main characters) is thinking or feeling.

In addition, I don't care to have lots of POVs in a story, but I know that many of the epics require such, and these characters generally have their own chapters. But if the book in question is something that features two main characters, I find the strongest reader connection results from staying as much as possible with just those two POVs.

To start a new chapter just to get into another character's head can be disruptive. I've seen too many scenes essentially sliced open right at the point where readers are emotionally engaged, just so the author can change POV. It's better to just use those asterisks or curly-cues or something to signal a change in POV within the same chapter and/or scene. Readers are used to those now and know what they mean.


message 14: by Tito (new)

Tito Athano (bobspringett) | 69 comments Kathy wrote: "Tito,

I agree with you as far as POV is concerned. Granted, it takes skill to handle changes in POV in the same scene, but it's doable, and I have seen it done well. At the same time, I've seen it..."


Well said, Kathy.

Some techniques I have adopted is to give a dialogue from one PoV, and then have the other side disclose his contrasting PoV by discussing the outcome with an associate, or making a diary note, or when the PoV character is obviously absent and the second character is alone he can ruminate. This is, in effect, a rapid change of scene within the chapter and usually needs a transition paragraph, so there can be no confusion of characters.

These things can be done smoothly but it's not easy. I still find it less 'immersive' than holding to what I call a 'God's Eye' PoV that relays what both are thinking in real time. Even comics for twelve-year-olds have thought bubbles so the kids can know what each protagonist has in mind, but it seems Agents don't think novel readers are up to that standard!

But you gotta write to the audience, not God, so I consider it a necessary evil.


message 15: by Chris (last edited Dec 08, 2018 04:04PM) (new)

Chris Liberty | 3 comments Kathy wrote: "Tito,

I agree with you as far as POV is concerned. Granted, it takes skill to handle changes in POV in the same scene, but it's doable, and I have seen it done well. At the same time, I've seen it..."


Kathy,

I understand your feelings, but when all is said and done, if an author is looking to have their book picked up by a literary agent--very hard to do--and a publisher take on the cost of publishing and marketing it--even harder to accomplish--it's expected they follow the rules of writing.

Truth is, when I started writing, I was headhopping all over the place in the same scene, because it made sense the reader would want to know what each character was thinking. However, I was slammed by three literary agents as a bad writer for doing that and not using scene breaks (yes, they actually said that in the rejection letter. lol)

The best thing I found for an author to do, because it worked for me, was to send out the book to be edited, and get a professional's view of it. Let's face it, these days, anyone can self-publish, and if the book works good for the author as is, then go with it and see what happens.

An interesting bit of trivia is "50 Shades of Gray" was actually self-published and did astronomically well. I've never read that book, so I don't know if she followed the rules of writing, but damn, she made it clear you don't need agents or publishers to make a fortune. A publisher actually crawled to her asking for the rights to publish it, so don't ever let anyone say you can't succeed.


message 16: by El (new)

El | 2 comments Honestly, you should be thrilled, he is putting in a lot of work. I know as a first-time author it can hurt your feelings when people correct your work but you need to learn how to accept criticism (I've been there). We are so close to our work that we often miss a lot of our mistakes. So long as you have an original copy of your book, who cares? Worst-case scenario you completely disregard his suggestions, best-case scenario he leveled up your novel.


message 17: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 27 comments I have beta read for a few writers....typically, I don't change a lot, however, I will make suggestions when a phrase just doesn't flow well or doesn't quite sound right. I have also 'schooled' a writer on writing a drunk persons speech, each time the character was drunk, it was noted in the story, but when she wrote the dialog for this character, she basically just chopped up all the words (shortened them) with apostrophes in place of letters. Our minds are trained to look for certain letters in words and after a bit it began to give me a headache. I suggested that maybe one or two words were only slightly altered, since the narrative had already told us she was drunk. I don't think she liked my criticism, but she had a good story to tell, and I just wanted readers to be able to read it.
So, after that lengthy story, the point is, I agree with Rebecka, wait and see what he's done and what he says.
I hope it works out for you.


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