By Lunacy -
Last modified: November 03 2012 12:33:13

For those of you who are new to the beta reading process here are some suggestions to hopefully assist you in helping our bards continue to produce the best fan fiction on the Net:

1. First of all, make sure to read the excellent article THE ART OF CRITIQUING. A collaborative effort between several of the best bards in the Xenaverse and some of our most active readers, this document contains a wealth of information on how to offer criticism, what to specifically look for in fan fiction, narrative and technical issues to consider, etc. Although written with Xena fanfic in mind, the tips and suggestions are often appropriate regarding of what fiction you're beta reading.

2. Often the people who will contact you will be new bards whose first stories may not be the best fiction you will ever read. At times the stories may be downright awful. As a beta reader/editor I recommend you tackle situations like this with honesty but a little tact as well. You want to help bards improve their writing if possible but you also don't want to completely discourage them. I've known bards whose first stories were not the greatest who have since written some excellent tales. Whenever possible it's good to praise whatever strengths you do see in the writing while offering criticism. Sometimes those first drafts are really rough but with a little help from good beta readers they can improve quite a bit.

3. Always try to provide bards with SUBSTANTIAL feedback. Explain WHY you feel a certain way about a story. If you like a character - what is it about the character that you like? If you don't think something in the story is believable - what is it that makes you feel that way? Keeping in mind that we are dealing with fan fiction based on a TV series, it is valid for you to comment on whether the characterizations and situations are in keeping with those depicted on the show.

4. It is IMPERATIVE as a beta reader that you provide PROMPT feedback - ideally within a day or two unless the fiction is very lengthy and the bard can wait a longer time to hear from you. Writers have periods of creative inspiration during which they often are at peak performance. If they have to continuously put this urge to write on hold because they haven't heard from beta readers it can dampen their creativity potentially resulting in weaker stories. By including yourself in the Beta Readers Directory you are indicating to bards that you can provide prompt feedback. If at any time you are already too busy beta reading for others or have personal/professional commitments that will make it impossible for you to provide prompt feedback please e-mail me at and I will remove you from the directory. You can be reinstated at any time by simply e-mailing me again.

5. Always remember that you are a beta reader NOT a co-author. The story you are beta reading is NOT your own. Not everything in there needs to be exactly as you would write it. With just about every piece of fan fiction out there - even the best of stories - you will always come across things that you would have changed if you had been writing the story but the fact of the matter is that you were not. Suggestions are a very valid and important part of beta reading - rewriting a story the way you want to see it is NOT. When you don't think something is working in a story tell the author why you feel like that and then perhaps offer one or more possible solutions but don't rewrite the story and send it back to the writer the way you want it to read. Rewriting is the bard's job. Also don't get offended if the bard doesn't take your suggestions. Keep in mind that the bard may be listening to feedback from other beta readers who may not have felt about the story the same way you did. Ultimately it is the writer's prerogative to either act on any suggestions or not.

6. NEVER share a story you are beta reading with others. The decision to release a story to a wider audience or to eventually make it available on the Web should be the bard's and the bard's alone. Bards often make a lot of changes in their fiction while it is being beta read. As a beta reader they are trusting you NOT to share these rougher drafts of their stories.

7. How to actually edit stories via e-mail is a matter of personal taste. There is no set way of doing this. The bard you work with may prefer you to do it a certain way or maybe you have your own method you're comfortable with. Here's how I do it in case you have never edited via e-mail and want some ideas how to do it:

First of all, when I receive a story or a chapter via e-mail and I'm ready to provide feedback I hit the REPLY function. In most e-mail programs doing this will copy the original message into your reply but will put a ">" symbol at the beginning of each line to indicate what the original message was. Here's an example of what some fiction would look like in an e-mail reply:

Now if you notice above two terms are in bold and are underlined (that's not how they will look like in e-mail - I just made the terms stand out here so they'd be obvious to you). These are the terms I'm going to suggest a change in so here's the message I send back to the bard: To make the suggested change stand out I capitalize it. I don't send back the ENTIRE story - just the sentences which involve a change. Also I leave the original sentences the bard sent me with the ">" at the beginning so the bard can tell which are his/her sentences and which sentences are my feedback. The trick in editing fiction via e-mail is to leave enough of a section so the bard you're working with can find it in the original file and to make any changes you're suggesting somehow stand out.

Hope this helps :-)


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