Thursday, August 19, 2010

Battle of the Betas!

Well, I think that blog title may just be teensy bit misleading. It's just ... look at this:
At this point you're probably wondering what I'm even talking about. Well, a few days ago a call went out, or, should I say, a tweet went out from @Kate_Hart...

How do you beta? Anyone else want to participate in a blog activity w/ me, @ImSarahEnni& @kathleenpeacock?

So now where does that leave us? Well, as part of this little blog activity, we're gonna take a look at how differently everyone's beta style is on the same piece of work. Thanks so much to Sarahfor being brave enough to volunteer her first page for all of us to crit!

This is really something to keep in mind when you're out there looking for crit partners and beta readers. From those of us participating in this little blog experiment, you'll see just how differently our styles are in critting. And because Blogger and Word don't seem to want to talk to each other ... I've had to tweak with how to show my crits:

If Hana Larkhill had her way, her father’s body would be in a sailboat, rope and a flute in his hands, and she would watch him embark one last time toward the unknown at the eternal curve of the earth. [Wow, holy long first sentence… Sugg: cutting it into two?] Instead James Larkhill lay in a sterile metal box at Faraday’s Funeral Home. Someone who did it for a living had caked his face with makeup. [This sentence read awkwardly to me. While it makes sense, it doesn’t flow well as well as it could into the next line. Sugg: combining this with next sentence and determining what is really important to keep.] His delicate freckles were powdered out of existence. An old blue suit bound his body; even the strawberry gold of his curls had faded.

Hana’s mother, Noa Larkhill, hasn’t fought these depressing conventions. But she had insisted on an open casket. James’ [OK, so should this be “James’s?” I’ve seen it both ways showing ownership, but I believe it should be ‘s for singular and s’ for plurals] face and shoulders were in tact and the suit covered his abdomen. But Hana felt the looming specter [while I really like “looming specter,” it makes sentence read a little flower, imo] of his ruined lower body, smashed into irreparable pieces by an anonymous fender. [great visual in this sentence!]

Faraday’s was cold, clean and modern—everything was black or stainless steel. Everything had razor-sharp edges. It was the kind of place that gave Hana the feeling she was being blown through by unseen drafts [LOVE this! Spooky J]. She longed for home. For his family, James had provided [This phrasing takes me out of the moment. If Hana is the narrator, why doesn’t she just talk about the house? All the details given afterwards I really like, but this beginning is distracting. Not sure if this is supposed to be 3rd party omniscient?] a house with a door that shrunk up in the winter and bloated until it wedged in the door frame in the summer, a house with stairs that had predictable creaks and groans, a house that moved around them like a familiar friend.

James’ death three days earlier had crushed Hana underneath deep, prolonged silence. Her mother, whose loudest expression to this point had always been in the strength of her brush strokes on canvas, rocked and wailed.[I’m totally confused by this line. How did her dad’s death crush her under deep silence if her mother was wailing? Was Hana the one completely silent? Or the atmosphere? Does that make sense?] Hana felt like a ghost, alone and unseen [really like this, visual and descriptive! Nice!!], holding her mother’s tiny shaking limbs [is she holding just her mother’s limbs or her mother’s whole body? Sometimes phrasing can be taken too literally and then it just sounds weird. Just saying.] in a room full of people that, at least today, felt like strangers.

Firstly, thanks so much for sharing your work with us, Sarah! I hope you find my feedback useful. Overall, I really like where the story’s going and am definitely interested in the spooky elements that are so clearly hinting at what’s to come! Great job!

Keep in mind, this is just one page of a manuscript, so there may be things out of context and what not. Hopefully, if you're out there looking for a beta/crit partner, this will help remind you that everyone crits a little differently and no matter what, everyone's experience and styles are a bit different. :)

Take a look at these other beta perspectives on Sarah's manuscript page:


Carolyn V. said...

I love that! How interesting to see how others crit. Thanks!

Meredith said...

Great crit! I see we had several thoughts that were similar.

Amanda said...

Great post! I love how you make sure to note the positive as well! It helps take away the sting that inevitably follows a crit. Though I have to say that after time, and once you're comfortable with your crit partner, that goes away. :) If you help someone to succeed, you'll eventually find your own success!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! I love seeing examples of how people do things.

Definitely adding what you liked helps to ease the blow of suggestions to change.

Nice job!

Kathleen said...

Great crit! It's so interesting to see which things we agreed on (like the first sentence) and where we differed (like the bit about the drafts).

WindyA said...

@Carolyn - I totally agree! Everyone has a different take, so always remember that it all comes down to opinions.

@Meredith - it's interesting to see everyone's feedback! The similarities and differences.

@Amanda - To be an effective beta, I think you need to remember the positive feedback is just as important as the needs improvement stuff.

@lbdiamond - I have that same fascination! I always wonder what other people think too!

@Kathleen - I concur :)

Alicia Gregoire said...

Funny - I think I'm the only one who didn't have a problem with the length of the opening sentence. I thought it worked, but I did love Kate's suggestion of sticking it at the end of the paragraph to illustrate the difference between what Hana and her mother wanted.

Cory said...

I had the same thought on specter. :D Nice crit!

Sarah Enni said...

I love seeing the things that pretty much everyone agrees on, it is so helpful! Love the crit.

I read a blog post recently about just avoiding giving any character a name that ends with 'S' for this exact reason! And I seriously went back and forth between styles through the whole thing, it's terrible. I might just rename him Fred. lol

Kate Hart said...

My son's name is Thomas and I go back and forth between adding the possessive s. I usually don't just b/c I don't like it and I'm stubborn. LOL

I like how you add "sugg:" to your ideas-- that little touch gives everything a slightly more positive feel.

ali said...

Very cool experiment! Of course, I love the way you critique Windy. ;)

T. Anne said...

That's fun to see. Not so fun when it shows up in your inbox ;) I do love my beta's though. Right now I've switched to a personal editor. I had her go through a couple MS's. I'd love to learn to self edit as well.

Nichole Giles said...

This is a great idea. You're a great crit partner, and I'm not just saying that so you'll be nice to me next time we meet. Really!