i am also the beta from hell, so people should know what they are getting into when they ask me to beta for them.
A beta, in my opinion, is someone extremely similar to a professional editor, only they dont get paid to put up with my whiney, needy self. They read through my stories several times, and need to be prepared to be barraged with nitpicky questions about plot and characters.
A beta can start off simple. Run that sucker through the spell check/grammer check before you do anything else. chances are, ive missed something obvious and stupid. also, you might have a more customized dictionary than i do.
now, read it. skim for meaning as you are going. if you notice something massivly out of place, make a note. you can do this a number of ways. before i discovered the cool "highlight changes" feature of Word, i just divided the whole thing up into chunks and talked about each chunk individually.
dont just say "this line sucks" HELP ME. is it awkward? out of characters? exposition? too wordy? offer suggestions and options, as well as explanations of why you dont like it/like it. also try and note anything that stands out as fabulous or very strong. it helps to know what works and what doesnt.
now, reread it again, much slower. note any misspelled common words (there, their, theyre) or names that slipped by both sets of radar. those you dont really NEED to mark, unless its something you arent sure of. mostly, just change them. i wont notice, and will appreciate the help.
now, once more, read it through, skimming again. anything you missed, i missed, or you have formed an opinion of a line you either liked or disliked, let me know. sometimes, if im worried about missing grammer or spelling or something, ill read the damn thing backwards so i dont get caught up in the story and can concentrate on the words.
save it, email it back.
chances are, with me, youre going to get it sent back for another run. this way, you can read the changes and tell me if it helped or if the new stuff is out of character, doesnt flow, whatever.
this is also where i attack with random questions. "does this plot point make sense?" "is this too obvious?" "does this particular line that im not happy with sound stupid?"
this is generally when my betas decide they hate me and run away with no forwarding address. or they are fabulous, answer my questions and pet me a little for such hard work.
obviously, i like the faboo ones better. the ones who stick with me usually get nifty thank yous in the author notes..unless i ditz out and completely forget, which has happened (hi, Kara, id really like to say thanks for beta'ing the HP fic. really.)
a beta has to put up with a lot from me, and i dont blame you if you just decided that joining the circus as the performing bear would be safer and less traumatic than beta'ing for me. and generally, now a days, its easier for me to go unbeta'd on my short stuff. and seeing as i write a majority of shorts, i dont often need a beta.
but when i do, or when someone asks me to beta, i figure you might wanna know what you're going to have to deal with. Me. and im scary. i dont pull punches. i try to say things nicely, but if it doesnt work, it doesnt work. i dont care if you are my very best friend.
also, i dont expect all my beta advice to be taken. but i do expect some of it. and at least say thanks.
of course, im bad about some of this. i realized after i posted All Gone Aside, that i had managed to post the unbeta'd version with the correct ending. so i had to go back through and locate all those tenses that kara was nice enough to fix me for. *headdesk*
wow, this was..really obnoxious. and long. cant forget long.
what do you expect out of a beta for yourself? idle curiousity, but indulge me. please?