I am so NOT All About that Beta


Editing. Betas. Ugh. UGH. I haven’t even had it difficult yet and I’m already faceplanting. I know why. I’m burnt out from the story. I spent too much time on it, too much time with it, and I don’t even want to look at it right now. It’s not my betas’ fault, and though I reiterate it at least twice in this video, I will say it again: I TRULY appreciate my betas, even the really harsh ones that I have not even begun to subject myself to.

Just to be clear, though, here’s what I am looking for when I am asking for a beta:


  • Point out where you get confused. This is a good flag that I might confuse others.
  • Point out awkward wording. If it reads uncomfortably or potentially offensive, let me know.
  • Tell me if a character is acting oddly. If a character is seemingly out of character (and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it), let me know.
  • Let me know if something is too much or too little. Am I using 100 words when I only need 25? Does something feel unnecessary or lacking?
  • Make suggestions! Let me know if you get a really good idea that would fit well, even if that means nixing an entire arc of the story.
  • Think like an agent/publisher. Does the first sentence/paragraph/chapter grab you? Ask me challenging questions, tell me if my work is too cliche or sounds rehashed from another work, make me defend myself.


  • Insult me
  • Share my work with others.
  • Be all praise or all criticism: I crave balance in all things. I need critique, but if all you have are negative criticisms I’m just going to feel beaten down. Tell me what strikes you positively, too. On the other hand, I love praise, but if you don’t point something out I’ll see you as a fangirl/fanboy and not a beta. I need your help, not your worship.
  • Reimagine my story. I’ve written it this way for a reason… don’t redirect me unless my work is complete shit. And if you think it’s complete shit, we probably shouldn’t be working together in the first place.

That said, it should also be noted that I am writing in what’s called “Third Person Limited” POV, which means that the words you read when you read the story are narrowed by the perceptions of the character you’re following. If Myen sees something and misinterprets it, she’s wrong, but she will believe she is correct. Therefore, that thing will always be misrepresented in her chapters according to how she sees it.

Keep in mind, too, that if something seems incomplete or confusing, I might have done it that way on purpose. I’ve been trying to write more purposefully vague, to reveal things later. I don’t want you to be so disoriented that you feel you need to stop reading, but I do want you to be unsure of certain aspects.

A suggestion for writers who are utilizing beta readers, based on this experience:

Give your story to your beta reader, make sure it’s clear what you expect of them, and don’t read a word they’ve suggested until they are finished and hand it back. Then, thank them for their input and guidance, profusely, and choose to use or deny whatever you see fit. Start conversations with them on points you’d like to discuss in more detail. Don’t breathe a word otherwise.

My two cents. I think I’m going to do that from now on.

On to the vlog:


About oneofthedragons

Samantha K. Balk and F. R. Donaldson met on An Archive of Our Own, one of the many fanfiction sites online, when Sam asked Frankie to illustrate the fanfiction that would one day lead to Sam's first novel. They've been friends ever since! This blog was created as a way to share the oftentimes difficult journey any new author experiences on the uncomfortable quest of an introvert for attention to his or her most personal work. It is meant to remind you that authors don't just appear fully fledged like a George R. R. Martin, that all of us start out unsure and feeling inadequate. Feel free to ask us anything. Sam: sammykaye9@gmail.com Frankie: reluctant.fraggle@gmail.com

Posted on December 9, 2014, in Information, Sam Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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