dear_fanlanders (dear_fanlanders) wrote in fan_landers,

Bottom Line for Busy Beta

Dear Fan Landers,

I recently began working with a beta reader on a very, very long story that has a deadline for posting. I explained to my new beta reader, right at the beginning, that I was really looking for someone who could provide a quick turn-around time, because I have a fairly limited window to post chapters. She had stated that it wouldn't be a problem, and I suspect that ordinarily, it wouldn't be.

However, after waiting nearly three weeks for the first set of chapters to be returned due to real life issues on her end, I've now been informed that she should be able to start the second set (five chapters) in two or three weeks.

I am grateful for what she's done, and understand that her RL obligations must come first. If I weren't working with a deadline, I would be more than happy to just wait patiently. But I have a few dozen more chapters to have beta-read and posted within the next seven weeks, and it's just not going to happen moving at this pace. She and I get along very well and have become friends, and I'd rather not offend or upset her if I can avoid it, especially as the delays are really due to circumstances beyond her control, but I feel a bit stuck right now.

Is there any polite way to say, "I'm sorry, you're just not doing this quickly enough for me," without sounding entirely ungrateful and rude?

Wary of the Ever-Looming Deadline

Dear Wary,

The most important aspect of the beta/betaee relationship is communication. In the best and most lasting relationships that form between a beta and an author, honesty and an understanding of the expectations on either side are key.

As the author, you need to be clear about what you expect to gain from the process, what methods work best for you, and what level of depth you are looking for. For instance, if a story requires only a quick typo-spotting and clarity check, then you won't be helped by an essay that delves into the socio-political questions inherent in your story structure! Equally, a beta who points out a few typos when you've asked whether the very underpinnings of your plot make sense is not helpful.

Your beta must also be ready to declare what she can offer, what formats she is comfortable working with, and the evel of commitment she can expect to maintain over a long-term project. Some betas prefer to work only with finished stories while others are adept at guiding WiPs; some can edit through beta-filter posts while others require a word doc to be effective; and some can toss off an amazingly insightful beta in mere hours, while others take time to craft their responses.

Just as you (quite rightly) do not blame your beta for having real life issues that need tending to, she should not blame you for your fannish deadline.

You needn't worry, though, Wary, because you have already struck the exact right tone in your example email. First, email is more personal than a PM or lj comment. Second, you can detail each of the issues as you've written them here. You can express your gratitude for what your beta has accomplished, your appreciation of the relationship thus formed, and finish with a gentle explanation that you would be willing to work with her longer were it not for the timeline imposed on you. Think of your beta! Her real life complications may well have left her with a sense of guilt over being unable to finish her critique for you, making it another stressor in her life. This email might lift the burden off her shoulders as much as yours.

A good beta knows that the author is looking for suggestions only, and that it is up to the author whether she will accept and act on what the beta has said. In this case, you are thanking your beta for her effort, but expressing that you won't be able to make changes based on her suggestions due to time constraints. If you express your regrets well, then it will be another honest, open communication that allows a beta/betaee relationship to flourish.

Good luck, Wary!

Fan Landers
Tags: betas, critiques
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