Hey there! I’m doing my own post for once. I am exhausted, the disease I fight is kicking me in the shins right now, so if this is a mess from an editorial standpoint, I’m writing about betaing, not editing. Very different things.
Beta? What the heck is a beta?
From the business dictionary: Second level, external pilot-test of a product (usually a software) before commercial quantity production. At the beta test stage, the product has already passed through the first-level, internal pilot-test (alpha test) and glaring defects have been removed.
Yeah, software. That isn’t exactly what an author’s beta does.
A writer’s beta gets the story during its first or second draft. And yes, the beta gets to read it before anyone else and pick apart plot holes, light editing (things like had instead of had not, or correct the species of mythical beast), and mainly inform the author what they liked and what didn’t work for them.
The trick is balance. If you don’t like something, don’t ignore it. The author isn’t asking you just to get a gold star. If something falls flat, or the character is two dimensional, let them know. They might disagree, and that is their right as the creator, but they might realize it is a low spot and try to fill it in. On the other hand, if something makes you laugh, comment on it. Everyone likes an atta boy or girl. Then again, the bit might not have been meant to be humorous. It’s all information.
I love betaing. However, I’ve found that the book is harder to read after each go through. And by the time the book is in print, it is possible the storyline is completely different than what the first go-around was like. At that point, I prefer to listen to the audio version if it’s available. If it’s in print, I wonder how the scene was changed or I look for something I liked that is now gone. It happens.
Because I’m fortunate to have become good friends with the people I beta for, I haven’t had to sign a non-disclosure contract. However, at least two of the authors do use them. Too many cases of things getting released before they should have. That is a good way of destroying a writer’s livelihood.
How do you become a beta? I used to teach at a university that didn’t use grades. Instead, we had to give feedback. That’s a lot of writing, pointing out things that are correct and incorrect, and giving props where they are deserved. From there I started to help with Fan Fiction. When I started my own writing, I got involved with writer’s workshops and I critiqued other people’s work, and they critiqued mine.
As to how I ended getting to read the NYT bestselling authors? Luck and the fact I had a bit of experience. You never know when a friend will hit the lists, and they are far more likely to sell if their books are not just edited, but beta’d by someone who got to test drive the manuscript first!
Mindy Mymudes is the author of Amazon bestselling children’s book GEORGE KNOWS from MuseItUp Press. GEORGE KNOWS also won the Predators and Editors Best Children’s book in 2014 and Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Best Children’s Book Grades 4th thru 6th. The second book of the Magical Drool Mysteries, TILLIE’S TALE, was released in March, 2015. The series stars the magical drool-producing basset hound, George. He knows it all, from the environment to history to magic. If he doesn’t know it, then it isn’t worth knowing. George knows!