Become a Beta-reader
beta-reader - n. 1. A person who acts as a proofreader and/or editor for another person's written work
I call my beta-readers BetaWolves and I run a mailing list called BetaWolf for them. These dedicated people have helped me become a better writer by giving me critical feedback for my stories regarding typos, grammatical errors, characterization, dialogue, plot, pacing, and more.
If you would like to become one of my BetaWolves, please scroll down for more information.
However, you don't have to become a BetaWolf in order to give me this type of feedback. Just fill out and submit the BetaWolf Feedback Form (available to members only) and you'll be helping me to make my stories the best they can be.
If for any reason you don't want to use the form, or you're not a member, you may use the Text Version of the form. Simply click on the link, copy the text into your e-mail, fill out the form, and send it to:
Feedback at kodiwolf dot com (change 'at' to '@' and 'dot' to '.' and remove all spaces)
Also, I'd appreciate it if you would select the first line of the form (BetaWolf Feedback - Critique for ) and use it as the subject line of your e-mail, making sure to finish it with the title of the story you're critiquing.
Before submitting your critique, please be sure to read Section 8B of the Terms of Service. Submitting your critique constitutes your assertion that you have read and understand the Terms of Service and accept them. If you do not agree to be bound by the Terms of Service, you must not use the form.
Become a BetaWolf
BetaWolf Membership is free and provides complete access to the story you sign up for in return for your hard work critiquing it. Each story has its own BetaWolf list, so you may choose to beta-read only a single story, several stories, or everything on the site. Story material is available in several forms, including story text in the e-mail announcement, Web pages on the site, and Microsoft Word 2007 .docx files you may download. You also have a choice in where you wish to participate in the beta-reading process, i.e., first drafts, final versions only, etc.
In general, beta-reading involves me sending material to the list and you critiquing/proofing that material and returning your feedback within a specified amount of time. As mentioned above, you choose which story(s) you want to work on, decide which format will work best for you, and choose when in the process you would like to receive material.
Story-related material, such as timelines, outlines, and character bios, may also be available, so if you're spoiler-sensitive and only wish to read the story text, i.e., see only what the general reader would, you'll need to police yourself regarding that extra information (just don't visit those links).
I may also request live chats with the group (or with you in particular) if I feel a real-time discussion will be more useful to me than e-mailing back and forth, though you may choose not to participate.
Also, just to clarify, the BetaWolf list is not an actual mailing list like you may be used to. I send e-mails individually to you and others in the group. This means when you reply, your e-mail will go directly to me. No one else will see your comments and you will not be able to see the comments of others.
Please see How BetaWolf Works for a more detailed account, and then return here to continue reading.
What can I say? They're very high. But they're also flexible. If you can spell like a dictionary and spot a typo at twenty paces, that's fine. I hate typos and want them eradicated from my work. On the other hand, I really don't care if English is your second language and you wouldn't know a grammatical error if it walked up and hit you on the head. If you can understand a story written in English and enjoy it or dislike it and articulate in English why you enjoyed it or disliked it, that's more than acceptable. As long as I feel like you're trying your best and I'm getting something out of your comments, we should get along fine.
Just don't expect to be allowed to read my stories for free in return for a comment like, "It was great. Can't wait for the next chapter." That will not fly with me. I put a huge amount of effort into my writing and expect a similar effort in your critique.
If you can't find anything wrong with a chapter/story, meaning it's perfect, then I expect to be told what's so perfect about it. Which scenes really worked for you and why? Did something make you laugh out loud? Shed a tear? Get your heart thumping? Turn you on? Then tell me about it. I expect more than a one-paragraph critique, never mind a one-sentence one. If you literally cannot come up with a single thing, good or bad, to say about a chapter/story, then either you're not really interested in the story, in which case you should ask to be removed from the story's list, or you're not a very good beta-reader and again you should ask to be removed from the story's list. (By the way, if a story/chapter isn't holding your interest, that's definitely something to comment on and any suggestions for improvement will be greatly appreciated.)
What I'm really hoping to accomplish with requiring that you at least write about why you liked certain things if you can't find anything wrong is that I think as you write about the good things, you'll find yourself remembering those niggling little problems you pushed aside or ignored in order to continue with the story. Also, since you're required to write something in-depth regardless of whether you find anything wrong, you'll hopefully be on the lookout for the tiniest little thing in order to fill out your critique as much as possible.
Also, by telling me how a scene worked for you, I'm hoping I'll get clued in on whether I got across what I was trying to. Because even if you don't know something's wrong, if you say a scene made you think or feel such-and-such, and I was going for a different reaction, that's vital information I wouldn't get otherwise. So hopefully, you can understand my position and why I'm asking for so much.
But the simple fact is that I don't have to let you read my stories for free and you don't have to proof my work. I'm looking for help to improve my abilities as a writer, but I'm not rich and can't afford to hire a professional editor, so I'm using the barter system by offering free access to my stories in return for your critiques. If at any time I don't feel I'm getting what I need out of your efforts, I will revoke that access. I also realize beta-reading is time-consuming and difficult work. If you don't feel you're getting enough compensation for your efforts or you don't have the time to put towards reading my work and commenting on it with careful thought and consideration, then don't. This is intended to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. If that stops being the case, either party can call it quits.
I also expect complete honesty in your critique. Don't hedge or beat around the bush or try to soften your critique. You won't hurt my feelings (provided you discuss my work, not me) by telling me you don't like something I've written. I can't improve if I don't know something's wrong. The fastest way to annoy me is to tell me after the fact, "Oh, I thought of mentioning that, but I didn't think it was important/I didn't want to hurt your feelings." If you think of it, I expect to be told about it. (Seriously, if it flits through your mind, just mention it. I can't stress this enough.)
Further Required Reading
This is just a basic list of things to look for when beta-reading (it is by no means complete). If you can't do everything listed, that's fine, but you should be able to do more than a couple items. Just remember, if you can't find anything wrong, just write about what you thought of the chapter/story, how it made you feel, what you liked or didn't like, where you think it's going, etc.
I've created several tutorials to help you style your feedback in a way that will make it easy for me to use. Please read through each tutorial to help you decide which format will work best for you and to be sure you're providing your feedback the way I want. Since the whole point of the exercise is to create feedback that I can use, don't gloss over this part. If the feedback is the most important thing, the way that feedback is presented is a close second.
How to Apply
Well, if I haven't scared you off by now... :)
Due to my forms being spammed, I've protected them behind membership access, so if you're not a member, you'll need to sign up for the 7-Day Free Pass before you click on the link below. The pass is free and only allows access to the BetaWolf Enrollment Application for one week (more than enough time for you to fill it out and submit it).
If you need help with signing up for the free pass, please see the How do I become a member? section of the Help/FAQ page. Though it's geared toward helping you sign up for a Site or Story Membership, the information should still be applicable.
Either way, you'll receive an answer within two weeks.
If your application is denied, I'm sorry. Please don't try to apply again. And don't ask me why. My reasons are my own and are not up for debate, not to mention I'd rather put the time and energy it would take me to write an explanation into my stories.
If your application makes it through the initial screening process, you'll receive an e-mail explaining the next step, which will test your beta-reading abilities. If you fail, see above. If you pass, you'll receive an e-mail with your BetaWolf Membership details and your first assignment.