When I offer to Beta Read for someone, especially someone you do not know, I am always filled with a sense of dread. Not only are you making comments on someone’s baby, you are doing it to a complete stranger. You can’t just say you like or dislike something; you have to back up your reasons in a logical manner.
Right now, I am beta reading for a few people. Some are short stories for friends, I know by now what to look for in their writings and how to prod them onward. One person is a friend from Twitter. The last is a complete stranger that I met on Absolute Write.
The short stories are not bad. I can usually pound them out in a few hours, but it depends on length and my time frame. When I go over a longer manuscript it can take days or even weeks to go over a project like necessary.
I sent my AW partner an email yesterday evening. She immediately responded with an IM wanting to discuss what I had put in the message. It was a great conversation over what my initial thoughts were on the first 28 pages. Too many holes in characterization was my main concern at that point. The writer was wanting the reader to fill in too many gaps then plug in info later. Then she told me that her previous beta reader had urged her to cut a lot in the first few chapters, namely character information. Ouch… the one thing I am really picky about.
From there I read the rest of the 40K she had sent. Some great lines are in there. Good descriptions, good characterizations, and smooth writing. On and off we would shoot off questions at each other and have a brief discussion. By the end of the night, I was feeling very comfortable.
I hope that my work helps her with her story. I am not finished. Last night was just an overview of what I read, not even the entire story actually. Tonight, going to do 10-20 pages at a time of critique. Tonight and tomorrow will be the hardest as the first chapters are jumpy and rough. Things smooth out after 50 pages.
And tonight I’ll ask if she wants to read something of mine.