Guest Blog with @sirra_girl

Before I took to Twitter and started blogging, I’d never heard of Alpha or Beta readers. While Americans are familiar with the terms, I’m not sure how many on this side of the water are. So I’ve asked writer and editor Suah (@sirra_girl) to explain the difference.

The Proper Etiquette Toward Alpha/Beta Readers

This post may come across as a bit didactic, but I must address this sensitive issue. By now, all writers are familiar with what Beta/Alpha readers do and how invaluable they are to us. But in case you’re not quite sure what they are and how to distinguish between them, here’s a short explanation.

Alpha Readers: They will read your manuscript and offer you a quick, general feedbacks focusing on the large picture. They’ll mainly point out problems with plot, pacing, character development, and overall voice.

Beta Readers: These are the people who will undoubtably pick apart at your writing and take a long time doing it. Their feedbacks are usually extensive and can include line by line critique that addresses typos, grammar errors, syntax errors, as wells as all the things alpha readers offer.

Whether you’re dealing with alpha or beta readers, you have to remember this. They are doing you a favor by devoting their time to offer advice. So when they get back to you, be gracious. Their opinions may come from a subjective point of view, and they might not even be right. Still, it’s very douchey not to appreciate or acknowledge their time and work.

On a side note, I once received great feedback from now a good friend and a former literary agent intern. Her comments were in red, and I understood why it was appropriate. Now, I also write my comments in red, which I call my bloodbath. Why? Because it makes your heart bleed to read it as it makes mine bleed to give it. I know how hard it is to do what you do and how vulnerable it feels to share your work only to be criticized. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy stabbing people’s hearts with my remarks.

Okay, back to the etiquette. There’s a room for constructive and even not so constructive criticism when it comes to writing. You need the fresh and objective insight into your work to apply to your revision. I think that could only make you a better writer, no? And another thing, please send the “ready” material. Don’t send the 1st draft of 20. Meanwhile, learn the proper etiquette for your alpha/beta readers. Learn to grow a thicker skin. Learn to be thankful.  To use a layman’s term, be non-douchey; be cool. Tata~

Bio. This is the part where I’m supposed to list my creds using 3 P.O.V. Some can get away with it by not sounding narcissistic, but I’m not sure if I could. So, here goes. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems in 2 1/2 years rather than 4 because I like to get things done fast. Obviously, my degree has nothing to do with writing. That part came after I stumbled upon a translation job where I worked on over 100 movies, books, essays, legal and corporate documents/contracts. And that ultimately led me to writing and editing novels. But my heart is with music and reading as I love nothing more than to play piano or violin and bury my nose in a good book. If you want to contact me, you can do one of two things.

Visit me on my writing blog: http://sirragirl.blogspot.com/

Or

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/sirra_girl

If you need my editing service, visit my editor blog here: http://sirraedits.wordpress.com/

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9 comments on “Guest Blog with @sirra_girl

  1. writerlyderv says:

    Never knew about that. Which do you think is preferable, @irra_girl, alpha or beta readers?

  2. kenradaniels says:

    Nice reminder. I seldom beta anymore, after several writers were very rude about my criticisms when I went out of my way to be constructive, helpful and tactful.

    I might question a reader about a particular remark and how they think I can improve, but I certainly never call their opinion nonsense or wrong-headed.

    Writers must remember that their beta readers are doing them a huge favor, usually for no compensation unless reads and crits are traded. Not to mention, most comments are meant only in the spirit of helping the writer make the piece better.

  3. Louise says:

    I tend to take feedback, whether beta or alpha, as if someone else places a mirror over my work and sees things that I cannot see. Whether it is because you get over familiar with your own words, or there are pointers which you need to be aware of, but either way, chances are you will get something positive out of it that will improve your draft!

  4. Su says:

    Thanks for your comments. Most of the writers have been beta/alpha readers themselves for another writer. That’s what writers do. We swap and critique each other’s works in the hopes that we can offer some insight to improve our skills. So it’s nice when the people involved can be respectful of one another. No stabby.

    Sirra Girl (Suah)

  5. Lee Prewett says:

    Writers need NOT to treat their writing as their babies, but rather as a product that must have exacting quality. Toyota, for example, routinely listens to criticism about its Camry and works to ensure the highest possible outcome in the next round. It’s how they’ve gotten a stranglehold on that market segment. If you cannot accept a frank review of your writing, you have no business calling yourself a writer. Writers are not cap-wearing, java freaks composing on their iPhones and calling themselves cutting edge. Writers WORK their art doggedly pursuing perfection. Moreover, listening to frank, or sometimes harsh, criticism will “grow” you as a writer by challenging your perspectives, but also by compelling you to improve your quality. I “lost” a client who did not want to hear the first draft of his novel was not publication-ready. He wanted to hear “Yup, it’s ready!” and instead got “This needs serious revision.” To him a couple of typos were no big deal (there were hundred per chapter). To him, the moronic character names, that would bring unwelcome derisive laughter in print, needed no rethinking. To him, the mind-deadening reliance on passive verb constructions, was just fine (Active verb use was easy to count. There were that few.). He deluded himself into thinking he was brilliant, despite the 100+ rejection letters he’d gotten for his novels, and went the self-publishing route horrid errors and all to prove them wrong. Why??? Why not use alpha readers to test the message and then refine it? Why not use beta readers to further test the message and bleed over the mechanics? Why then not seek the most brutal editor to make sure the final piece is error free?

  6. sirraedits says:

    Hi. I forgot to answer the first question. I don’t have preference when it comes to critiquing. It’s just another step in editing for me and for everyone else, I assume. It all depends how much time you’re willing to put in to someone else’s work. I didn’t know that my European friends were not familar with these terms, so I’m going to spend a few minutes to explain the roles of these readers.

    The first stage of editing is getting critiqued by alpha readers. They’ll read your MS and give you a broad feedback regarding plot, characters, and over all coherency/flow. Basically, they’re general readers who give a long and brutally honest feedback. This is where you find out if your story makes sense and if it’s interesting enough to be a book.

    The next part is for beta readers, who in most part act as an editor. They’ll spend much more time doing line by line critique and will give you a comprehensive feedback regarding grammar/punctuation/syntax issues, plot/character issues, tense issues, the voice, as well as answering any questions you might have for them. This is where your MS will go under scrutiny, so to speak. That’s why you should be grateful if you find yourself a good beta reader.

    Most will stop right there and revise/rewrite the MS themselves, applying everything they learned from the feedback. Some, however, will go a step further and hire a professional editor to “polish” the MS. It isn’t necessary, but it does shape your MS into something ready to send off to a literary agency or a publisher. This is to ensure that your MS is completely error-free and is in the best shape it could be. The bad part? It’s an out of pocket cost for you.

    I hope this clears up any questions our European friends might have had, and I hope this post was helpful for the rest. Mr. Lee, you’re always so insightful and wise. This is why I have so much respect for you as an editor. Anyone would benefit from hiring you for their works. Derek, thank you so much for letting me do a guest post on your wonderful blog. Your music and your posts are always so pleasant and interesting. See you all on Twitter~

  7. Hi Suah,

    I love getting feedback too, I never take anything personal. I am jus t thankful to anyone who would spend their time reading my words.

    Best
    Michelle

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