A very happy birthday to tzikeh, my awesome beta and even awesomer friend!

31 May 2012 ·

Notes from a Beta: How to get a beta

tzikeh:

This is a really interesting question, because it’s not just a matter of finding a beta; it’s a matter of finding a beta who focuses on what it is you want from a beta, and has an approach to beta work that fits with your approach to writing.

In my experience, the first thing that fanfiction authors do when looking for a beta is post in lj comms or on tumblr. I have found that this isn’t an approach that yields good results, for several reasons.

One problem with this approach is that it is an open invitation to the bystander effect. In a nutshell, this is the phenomenon by which the more people who see something happening, the less likely any of them are going to take action. In a crowd, most people assume that someone else will deal with the problem, and therefore nobody steps up.

Another problem with this approach is how writers phrase their requests for betas. My observations of requests for betas are that they take this form: “Anyone interested in beta-ing a story? It’s X words long / the plot is Y / it’s a character/character story / etc.” These are all facts about the story, but they are not indicative of what the writer wants from a beta. Compare “I am looking for a beta who has extremely strong grammar skills, and would be willing to rip my story to shreds when it comes to grammatical errors.” That is more likely to get you a beta. “I am looking for someone who will give me some positive feedback on the good parts of my story, because that helps me keep going.” That is more likely to get you a beta.

Good betas, just like good writers, know their strong suits, and are going to be more inclined to respond to a request if the writer is looking for the talents that the beta possesses and the kind of work they enjoy doing.

My suggestion for the first step in finding a beta is to ask a friend in the fandom to look over your story—not necessarily to do any beta work, but just to read it. The first responsibility of a beta, when you’re starting out, is to get a second pair of eyes on the work. Since you’ve written the story, it’s lived in your head for a while, and one of the first things that happens when that’s true is that, when you read over the story, it will make sense in your head, even if it’s missing vital information, because you know far more about the characters and the plot than anyone who is reading it for the first time could possibly know. That second pair of eyes can catch things that don’t make sense because stuff that’s in your head never made it to the page. 

Read More

Behold the wisdom of my awesome beta.  Really good advice about finding a beta and figuring out what kind of beta you want or need.

28 February 2012 ·

notes from a beta: shaping a story vs. beta-ing a story

tzikeh:

raisealittlesand asked: What, if anything, is the difference between beta-ing a story from beginning to end for an author and brainstorming a story from beginning to end with an author? Is it just me and a few others who consider the brainstorming/pre-reading process to be just as important as a beta or are we just a bunch of whackjobs?

This is a great question—not just because it’s a question that I bet a lot of people have, but also because it allows me to clear up some terminology that causes the conflation of these ideas.

(I promise that your questions will be answered, but indulge me in my desire to define terms first.)

Okay: the term beta as it pertains to fanfiction.

Back before the World Wide Web existed (which, by the way, is not the same thing as the Internet), there was no such term as beta in fandom. This term grew out of the early computer age. If software or a website is “in beta stage,” (compare “in alpha stage”), that means that it isn’t ready for wide release yet. The programmers release that beta version of the program or website to the kingdoms of Nerdenstein and Geekiland (population: whoever wants to live there). The citizens of these kingdoms try out those versions, and report any bugs to the developers. In a sense, these beta users are unpaid testers, and are happy to be so.

This term slowly migrated to fandom. Any piece of online fanfiction that existed in draft form, but was not yet ready for general consumption (i.e. to be published on the Web) eventually took on the term “in beta.” Many writers would ask someone to look after their drafts—a second pair of eyes is a great help for a variety of reasons: emotional distance from the content; the ability to find spelling and grammar errors that the writer got so used to seeing that they missed them; etc. These people who helped authors by reading over the rough draft—the beta version of the story—became known as “beta readers.” Over time, the term was shortened to simply betas.

And this is how we have lost the understanding of the very specific role a beta serves, because the correct term for this person, as it applies to writing, is EDITOR.

You can see the difference now, yes?

So, to answer your question: no, the people who talk a writer through the process of creating a story are not betas. As far as I know, there is no name for them. If I had to choose a term, I might go with anything from “sounding boards” to “co-authors,” depending upon their level of participation in the process. If you are a proponent of modern writing theory (as I am), I would choose “zero-draft collaborators” above all other options.

Now, as to your second question: I can’t answer that with any authority, because whether the beta or the zero-draft collaborators are more important is a question that only the writer can answer for herself as it relates to her own skills and needs. However, I don’t think that you and your friends are whackjobs. :D

I hope that helps!

6 January 2012 ·

Meeting MadLori next Thursday for the first time ever

tzikeh:

If, after next Thursday, you never see me on tumblr again, you can safely assume that MadLori is an axe murderer.

omg excite I get to meet madlori and we are going to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and we are going to watch “The Reichenbach Fall” and we are probably going to work on the wedding story in the Performance in a Leading Role ‘verse and I WIN ALL THE THINGS

(unless she’s an axe murderer)

WHEEEEE FANGIRL WEEKEND.

5 January 2012 ·

Just popping in to say

IN ONE WEEK TZIKEH WILL BE ARRIVING HERE TO VISIT MEEEEEE AND SHE WILL BE HERE FOR THE WEEKEND AND EVERYTHING WILL BE FANGIRLING AND FANFIC AND NOTHING WILL HURRRRRRRT.

5 January 2012 ·

Antoine is at it again. Fuckin' Antoine.

  • me: ANTOINE IS AT IT AGAIN.
  • MadLori: WHAT THE FUCK DOES HE WANT NOW
  • me: HE WANTS TO THWART JOHN AND SHERLOCK'S TRU LURVE
  • MadLori: them's fightin' words, Antoine.
  • me: HE DOES NOT LIKE THE CONTRACTION "WHAT'LL," IN "WHAT'LL YOU DO?"--HE SUGGESTS "WHO'LL," AS IN "WHO'LL YOU DO?"
  • MadLori: SHERLOCK WILL NOT BE DOING ANYONE BUT JOHN
  • MadLori: OVER AND OVER IN EVERY POSITION IMAGINABLE
  • me: Go jump in a lake, Antoine.
  • me: Take a long walk off a short pier, Antoine.
  • me: okay you know what I need a "FUCKIN' ANTOINE" tag.
  • me: Fuckin' Antoine. Cock-blocker.
  • (Antoine is our name for Googledocs' spellchecker - here is my first post about Antoine, from the chat where we named him, when I was crying with laughter...http: //madlori.tumblr.com/post/15003109422/fucking-antoine-what-an-idiot)

2 January 2012 ·

Kill It With Fire: The Tale of the Chapter That Wasn’t

(rebloobing because I worked really hard on writing it so there)

madlori:

Sometimes people send me messages asking for writing advice, which I’m happy to offer inasmuch as I have any worth listening to. I would never claim to be an expert; in fact, I rather think that in writing there are no experts, just people who’ve written more than others. All I can do is share what experience has taught me, which may or may not be the same things that experience has taught other writers.

Which is why I thought this (really long, difficult) post might be of interest to some of you.

Faulker once said “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” Film directors also know this; there is a filmmaking adage that says you must be prepared to cut your favorite scene. This is never easy, but every time I have made myself do it, I’ve been glad and the story has been stronger.

Last night, I cut 10,000 words from “Performance in a Leading Role.” No, I did not stick an extra zero in there by accident. I killed an entire chapter. To paraphrase Rose Tyler, this is the story of how that chapter died.

Read More

22 December 2011 ·

Kill It With Fire: The Tale of the Chapter That Wasn’t

Sometimes people send me messages asking for writing advice, which I’m happy to offer inasmuch as I have any worth listening to. I would never claim to be an expert; in fact, I rather think that in writing there are no experts, just people who’ve written more than others. All I can do is share what experience has taught me, which may or may not be the same things that experience has taught other writers.

Which is why I thought this (really long, difficult) post might be of interest to some of you.

Faulker once said “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” Film directors also know this; there is a filmmaking adage that says you must be prepared to cut your favorite scene. This is never easy, but every time I have made myself do it, I’ve been glad and the story has been stronger.

Last night, I cut 10,000 words from “Performance in a Leading Role.” No, I did not stick an extra zero in there by accident. I killed an entire chapter. To paraphrase Rose Tyler, this is the story of how that chapter died.

Read More

22 December 2011 ·

In which Super Beta and I discover a site all about formalwear

  • (Super Beta and I are, yes, discussing tuxedoes for certain men to wear to the Oscars)
  • Me: HIGH BUTTONING FORMAL VESTS ARE DEFINITELY NOT CLASSIC
  • i am vindicated
  • Super Beta: wow
  • this site is huge
  • Me: I know. It's like suit porn
  • Super Beta: I...can't look away
  • Me: did you know that formalwear purists match their sock garters to their braces? I didn't know.
  • Super Beta: I could see Sherlock adding a formal white evening scarf
  • Me: NO SCARVES
  • Super Beta: omg instructions on the many ways to fold a pocket-square
  • Me: I'm stepping away
  • Super Beta: COLLAPSIBLE OPERA TOP HAT
  • dead
  • omg

6 December 2011 ·

tzikeh:

“For God’s sake. She’s on Rockstar again, isn’t she?”
“The ‘again’ implies that she was ever off it.”

          — Chapter 17, Performance in a Leading Role


I just want it on the record that SuperBeta IS a Rockstar.

5 December 2011 ·

Why me and Super Beta get along so well.

  • [please note that I was under the impression that there was only one more DA episode when in fact there are two more, plus Christmas special. Also, we only talk in all caps when we are in fangirl flail mode. Which is, admittedly, a lot of the time.]
  • MadLori: THIS SUNDAY IS THE LAST DOWNTON ABBEY
  • tzikeh: I KNOW
  • MadLori: I CAN'T
  • tzikeh: WHY, CRUEL WORLD
  • MadLori: I NO LONGER CAN
  • tzikeh: NOOOOOO
  • MadLori: I HAVE LOST THE ABILITY TO CAN
  • tzikeh: CANNING IS OVER FOREVER
  • MadLori: NEVER AGAIN WILL A CAN
  • WITNESS ALL THE CAN THAT I DO NOT HAVE
  • tzikeh: WE WON'T SURVIVE A NUCLEAR BLAST
  • AS WE WILL HAVE NO CANS
  • MadLori: reaching.
  • tzikeh: hmph.

30 October 2011 ·

Who is the MadLori?

I'm Lori. I'm 40, a scientist and a freelance writer). Fanfiction is my drug of choice. This is where I dump all my obsessive fannishness along with whatever else strikes me. At the moment the dominant fandom is Sherlock. That can change at anytime. Be warned. Eye protection should be worn in this area.

I am also a crafter and I have an Etsy store.

You're probably after fic. My fic can be found here at AO3 or here at LJ. The LJ post is more complete for now. Moving fic over to AO3 is a pain in my hinder. I also have some stuff at ff.net under MadLori as well.

I have published one novel, a gay romantic thriller, under my pseudonym. You can buy it here or at Amazon.

MadLori's FAQ
Please check here before submitting a question, it may be answered in this post.

Any information about fic updates can be found by going to the "my fic" tag here or the [name of fic] tag.

Click HERE to submit an Ask. If you have questions about the "screw writing strong women" quote, please consult my FAQ before sending an Ask.

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