Monday, March 7, 2011

Critique Buddies and Beta Readers

Is there a difference?

You're darn tootin' there is. Don't worry...until a few months ago, I didn't know it either. Heck--I had no idea what a Beta was. I thought it had something to do with sororities :) Go figure. So for those of you who might not know, I'm going to give a brief definition.

Beta Reader:  Someone who will read your writing with a critical eye.
Critique Buddy: They read, they need these people too!

Until recently, I didn't have a Beta Reader. I was part of a writing community and I posted some stuff there. I got a boatload of comments (all different kinds) and that's what I thought good critique was. I mean, a lot of them were quite in depth and they were from some pretty amazing writers. So that's good enough, right?


Let's start with Critique Buddies. There are all kinds but I've narrowed them down to a few categories.

Ha ha, we all know these. We've probably even been these. The ones who leave all the 'LOL's  and :)'s and OMG's! *see also: yay! wow! good job! so good!* And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love these types of comments because they are the exact reactions I want to get from future readers when my book hits shelves. I want them to get giddy with excitement over a character, or a scene (the entire book). You know how there is no such thing as a stupid question? Well, there is no such thing as a lame comment.
No, they're not detailed. They don't help you fix spelling/grammar errors. But they keep your motivation going and you off the ledge when you're feeling a bit blue. They are the ones who boost your confidence when you need it most.

Not the kind you're thinking heh heh. The good kind. These are the ones who were (most often) there from the very beginning. They read your first chapter, horrible as it may have been, and continued to read. They're also the ones who will clog your Twitter, Facebook, and any other page you have with stuff like: "Where is the next chapter?" "Are you writing?" "You'd better be writing!"
They're also the ones who won't take any of your lazy day crap. If you're trying to get away with not writing, or verbose writing that has no place in your story--these are the ppl you want on your team. They don't put up with it :)

They'll comment once in awhile. Maybe correct a few things here and there. Sometimes they even tell you something pretty in depth, but overall--they just read. They're not detail oriented or anything like that, but they area valuable to you because they see your story as the whole it is. Not the bits and pieces. They are your future customers.

And then there are Beta Readers.

A beta is someone who will know your story almost as well as you do. They know what it's about, your characters, and where you are planning on going with it. Being a beta/having a beta is an investment. They invest in you as much as you do them. It takes time and patience. Not everyone can fill this role. If you are a beta, then be an honest one. Even if  you know it might be a little painful for your partner to hear. Honesty is something we as writers really need to have. Especially when it comes to our work.
Also, along with the rough critique they may give sometimes, they take the time to point out the things they love about your work. And believe me, that small :) or 'I thought this was a great line' goes a long way when you're trying to wrap your mind around harsher edits. Lol.

Another blogger very aptly described these as 'toxic' betas. The ones who suck you dry because it tickles them pink. They're the ones who get all defensive when you critique their work, but get pissed off when you don't think their criticism is right. And if you do (lordy forbid) critique their work, they take disgusting amounts of time to point out how you don't know the genre, or the craft, enough to do so.
Bad betas are also ones who will tear your MS apart chapter by chapter without remorse. And then not even offer you the slightest bit of advice as how to fix it.

There is a HUGE difference between: "this needs work" and "you suck"

Do not be a bad beta!!!

So who is not beta material?

Your mother is NOT a beta reader. She is bias. Let's face it. :) She loves you too much.

Your spouse is NOt a beta reader. No matter how much they support you, or say they do--unless they are also a writer, they won't understand. No I'm not dissing those of you who have wonderfully supportive husbands/wives. Supportive is an entirely different concept.

Your best friend is NOT a beta reader. Same as above. They obviously love you and will overlook things to see the good in what you write. Not helpful. Sweet...but not helpful.

So what about y'all? Do you have a beta reader(s)? If so, are they good or bad?
Are you a beta? you not have one at all?

Happy Writing!


  1. Hm. Interesting piece here, Ree. The pic was hilarious. As a beta (a rookie at best) and a general feedbacker, I've looked at some good reads and some bad. Can't say I've ever had a bad beta. Maybe a few critical comments but they had their reasons and, in the end, were dead on.

    My expirience with beta-ing and feedbackers has been excellent!

    (I should really start broadening my beta horizons See if anyone else needs a beta-reader.)

  2. I love this blog, Ree. Very well explained, and a lot of it I know all too well. LOL.

    Currently, I have five beta's, but only one is actually betaing now, as I write. I have multiple crit partners as well. At least three are stalkers, and two are cheerleaders. Funny thing is, the one beta who is doing it now is my BFF. This is normally a mistake, I know, but she knows how to be objective and cut stuff even if I like it.

    I am also a beta. I have in the order of 6 books on my betaing list at any given time. I love it. It helps me to improve my own work while helping other writers. Betas and crit partners really should be a staple of every writer's creative process.

    Great post, Ree. Looking forward to the ext one.


  3. I'm more of a cheerleader and semi-beta. Besides you, Ree, I don't have a Beta myself. I'm too slow a writer for it right now. Lol. This is very interesting though. I like how you broke it up into categories.

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