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The institution of the "Beta" - The Fandom Psychiatrist
October 14th, 2006
03:37 pm


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The institution of the "Beta"

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Date:October 16th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC)
I think a beta is many different things -- frequently not all in one person. A beta may...

1. Toss around ideas with the author, helping her find a direction for her plot, or suggesting elements she may have overlooked.

2. Look for insufficiencies in the story -- "You need more xxx, and you need to strengthen yyy, and I think zzz is much too vague.

3. Look for plot holes, or things that don't mesh. I see this as a little different from #2, more black and white. Like, I once noted that using one bedsheet was not enough to excape from a 3rd-floor window. Or, the OC has this characteristic early in the story, but the opposite later in the story. But that's more direct than #2, not as nebulous.

4. Fix grammar -- tenses, run-on sentences, overuse of passive verbs, etc.

5. Oversee appropriate language / local idiom use -- Doyle and Bodie will use a lift, Jim and Blair will use an elevator. For this, it's wise to have a beta who's a native in the particular style of English being used.

6. Recognize and fix spelling. Not different styles (honor/honour are equal in my eyes), but things like to/too/two, or site/cite/sight, or simple typos.

7. Give the author a second opinion of the effectiveness of the story, or if something feels "lacking".

As I said, not every person is equally adept at every beta skill. I'm pretty strong in 3, 4, 5, and 6, but absolutely lousy at 1, 2, and 7. Therefore the authors I beta for, have another beta who helps with those aspects.

Gatekeeper for an archive? As in, is this story worthy of being included? I would consider that a judge, rather than a beta, or just an "Archive Mom". Somebody has to make the decisions for a small archive, if it has standards more exclusive than "come one, come all". But, unless they make suggestions about the story, I wouldn't consider it to be "beta".
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