This time last year I was still in "Internet Soul Mate" mode with the individual who ended up causing me so much pain that I almost wish I didn't have to think about them long enough to type this. During their second visit to my home, intimations of their true nature emerged and with-in weeks the emotional cruelty had started.
Here's the point: FSM and I originally bonded through beta-hood, moved on to email buddies, then gmail chat, and finally met in the flesh and were officially "real life friends." I consider their first stay-over at the apartment the beginning of Internet Soulmate-hood and the 2nd the beginning of the end.
Now, I have a secondary fandom (I'm not the sort of wench who abandons my show when things get tough.) including a bunch of new friends, some of whom span both fandoms. One of them is coming over next week. We've done some beta for each-other. We gmail chat almost every day.
I'm scared. I don't want to go through this again.
This one seems to be sane, decent etc, but I've been very careful not to let myself bond as intensely as I did with the other one. I don't sense large pointy object headed at my back or my heart. But one never knows, do one?
What do writers really want in a beta?
This is tangentially related to the above only in that one of the issues in the divorce was FSM deciding I was no longer the Beta of their dreams, apparently because I persisted in advising them that a few of their commas were extraneous. Apparently my notes ceased to be as gentle as the individual's tender sensibilities needed them to be.
In the run-up to the party, I did beta on several fics. Toward the end, I had a bit of a philosophical run-in with one of attendees. She implied that as a writer in my own right, I might be less inclined to do what was best for the story and more driven to try and get the writer to do it the way I would.
I do Beta the way I learned it from Beta Goddess Carol, which means I offer advice on grammar, spelling, word-choice, plotting, characterization and anything else that could be improved in any way IMAO. I always offer the option of telling me to sod off, but I usually stand by my suggestions and will go to the mats on certain points, usually word choices that sting my eyes, if necessary. I call it Full Metal Beta and I try to warn my beta-ees what they will be getting into before the process starts.
Anyway, the beta-ee in question seemed to feel that the beta's only function should be typo-checking and only that because of a language issue. There were phrases in the original that I was desperate to eradicate and the more I tried to do that the more they clung to them. (I also experienced this with FSM.) I think the story still came out better, but I don't think we'll be working together again.
Topics for discussion:
How much honesty do you want from your beta and how sugar-coated does it need to be?
What is the beta's function in your story life? Would you take a plot suggestion, change a phrase, give up your commas?
Do you think writers make bad betas for the reason described above?
How do you feel about working with tracked changes? There was also an issue of my not being able to explain how they could accept or reject the tracked changes in word because they were working in another country and the pull-down list looked different.
ETA: I've unlocked this post. The visit went fine and I'm hoping the future will not go the way of the past. Plus I want this post available so I can explain Full Metal Beta to potential beta-ees.