~ Beta Reader Job Description ~
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This Beta Reader Job Description was contributed by the Canadian Uber Addicts.

This document was kindly facilitated by the CAU Members who contributed to it
(Lori Lake, LA Tucker, KG et al), and the CUA Owner/Moderator.

1. A beta reader, first and foremost, is there to make sure the story gets better. The beta should NOT think that everything that the writer pens is gold. Far from it. They should be able to look at it with a ruthless, critical eye. No ego petting, no 'gee, yer swell.'

2. A beta reader should have endless courage and patience, but draw the line and not take no for an answer. They must be brave enough to suggest grammar, spelling, sentence structure changes, and stick to their guns -- again, make the story better in its final form. (if I see a story that professes to have been 'beta-ed,' and has beaucoup mistakes in its final form, the writer doesn't have a beta reader on board -- they have an adoring, scaredy cat fan club member.)

3. A beta reader should be prepared to nit pick, be hyper vigilant. They need to watch for the tiniest of plot development gaffes. Holes in the plot? Character development seem a little sketchy? Does the writer need to explain more about something, or is a word, sentence, paragraph unwieldy and clumsy?

  • Hey, you forgot......(whatever)....
  • How come this happens here but then later, you never refer back to it?
  • For continuity purposes, shouldn't her shirt be the same color through the whole scene?
  • Whatever happened to this person/place/thing/action/etc.? I want to know more!
  • This part doesn't flow.....do you want it that way?
  • When...X...happened, I got very upset in this way....
  • I really liked how this part went.....
  • Oh my god, you missed this major plot point/theme/etc....
  • This whole section is clunky and the dialogue/narration isn't well-executed.
  • I was bored during this part here.....
  • Beta readers need to have the confidence to suggest wholesale changes.

  • 4. A beta reader should own a thesaurus. If a writer is over using a phrase, or a word -- the redhead, raven haired, quirked an eyebrow, feral, bundle of nerves, pebbled nipple -- they'd better get it out and use it. Some writers are so plot driven that they don't think about the wording it takes to drive the plot, and resort to using over worked phrases. Over and over again.

    5. A beta reader should be able to weed out cliches and stomp them into oblivion. 'She was so excited, she forgot to breathe.' STOMP. 'Her mouth went dry and she was unable to form words.' STOMP.

    6. A beta reader should commit themselves to being there for the course of the story -- from beginning to end. And be prepared to read and weed a chapter over and over and over and over, fine tuning it to a luster, not a mere quick dusting.

    7. A beta reader should not want to be loved and appreciated during the writing process. They might be loved because they are a friend, lover or super fan. But all in all, they will be loved the most if the story reads extremely well and the writer receives next to no complaints about continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, dialogue, flow, & completeness.

    8. The beta reader has to be more aware, more articulate and more observant than the writer themselves. The writer is the idea person, the fantasy creator, the plot inventor. The beta reader has to be vigilant to a fault -- pushing the writer to better the story -- constantly and consistently.

    9. The beta reader is allowed to suggest plot/character development, etc. but must remember, this is the author's story. Be prepared to argue, and have a thick skin. Be prepared to suggest things and have them shot down. Be prepared to take a stand if you think the author is wrong.
  • This part doesn't flow.....do you want it that way?
  • When...X...happened, I got very upset in this way....
  • I really liked how this part went.....
  • Oh my god, you missed this major plot point/theme/etc....
  • This whole section is clunky and the dialogue/narration isn't well-executed.
  • I was bored during this part here.....

  • 10. The beta reader needs to be descriptive. 'This is good.' 'This sucks.' 'I like it.' These are not helpful descriptive phrases. Author needs to know why ... something is great or lousy. Use descriptive phrases such as: This sex scene sounds like NC-17 and the rest of the story reads 'G' rated. Or: The U/G character sounds exactly like the one in __________. Or: if you're introducing this supporting character, then give them a personality other than just 'evil.' If an author goes off on a wordy tangent, get the red pencil out and cut out the crapola. If a joke falls flat, don't laugh and say its good enough. If a sex scene sounds adolescent or even worse, like hard core porn and is done with lots of anatomically correct terms, erase it and smack the author upside the head with a virtual copy of the 'Joy of Lesbian Sex.'

    This list is not all inclusive of the things an author needs in a good beta reader. Not at all. But in the end, the author has to trust and believe in the judgment and skills of their beta reader. It should be somewhat of a partnership, one providing the ideas, the other making sure those ideas reach the final reader in the best possible form.

    Remember, the beta is not working in the guise of being a cheerleader and fan. That job is taken by the readers when the story is posted.

    Be brave, stalwart, diligent, thoughtful and a bit of a pain in the ass. The writer, in the end, will love you for it.

    A really good beta will also think independently, and may have story ideas to contribute

    About the Canadian Uber Addicts....

    This group, which discusses all the ubers, all the time, is not just a 'praise the bards' group but a group which, with good manners in place and in mind, freely discusses what works or what doesn't work, updates, stories, characters and shares opinions, ideas and favourites (and sometimes, not-so-favourites too). Several new bards have tested their wings within this group; several established bards interact with their fans through this group. A number of the Addicts have volunteered to be beta readers.

    The Canadian Uber Addicts is just what it says (except you don't have to be a Canadian to join) ~ fans of ubers, all the ubers, all the bards ~ and are quick with recommendations, links and honest feedback and input. The group is also very pro-active in promoting the bards/authors throughout the uberverse and published authors, frequently reaching out to local bookstores to encourage them to carry ubers in the fervent belief that this genre deserves more attention and acclaim than what it presently enjoys. Members of the group communicate recommendations to publishers as well as suggesting distribution channels and bookstore networks.

    You can subscribe to the Canadian Uber Addicts Yahoo group by sending an email to: Canadian_Uber_Addicts-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or for more information, feel free to contact the owner/moderator at debra.butler@attcanada.ca

    Beta Volunteer's Page

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