Beta-reading services

I am willing to beta-read stories of any length about Saitou and Sano (in a romantic relationship with each other, I mean). If you are writing such a fic and looking for a beta-reader, consider the following points:

* I mostly exist on weekends. These are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for me.

* I cannot guarantee a timely return. Not saying I’ll never get back to you, but a beta-reading project is always going to be a lower priority than my own writing. If your excitement about posting is akin to walking on live coals, I may not be a good choice for you.

* I don’t like to be left hanging. Am I an asshole for saying this right after the previous point? Anyway, I get pretty invested in a project I’m taking part in — especially if it’s about Saitou and Sano — even if I’m only on its periphery; so, though I’m happy to beta-read chapters of fics one at a time as you write them, if you think there’s a good chance you’re going to lose interest in this story or otherwise get pulled away from it and never finish, maybe don’t contact me. Obviously the unexpected happens, and sometimes we just can’t finish projects we start; that’s normal. But if you have a history of abandoned stories (such as the Saitou/Sano subfandom is rife with), I’d rather not get involved.

* Having a beta-reader does not negate the need for actual work, and should not be seen as a cheap way to avoid the effort of proper editing. A beta-reader’s job is to provide a second set of eyes and a second opinion. I may catch typos you missed, or point out perceived problems that you, as the author, may be too close to the narrative to recognize. I may express my opinion on how I believe sentences and passages could be better formulated. I may have comments on characterization, flow, message, and tone that you may wish to take into consideration. I may do all of this and more, but there’s one thing I should not be expected to do.

Yes, the term “beta” equates to “second.” That means your beta-reader is (probably) the second person to read your story. It does not mean that when a beta-reader goes through your fic, it’s the second time anyone has ever done so. A beta-reader’s job is not to point out all the glaringly obvious problems of a first draft.

You should be editing your story multiple times, proof-reading the crap out of it, before you hand it off to someone else. Essentially, your story should be as ready for public consumption as you can render it before your beta-reader sees it.

* You should probably like my writing. I believe very strongly in the subjective nature of art and, beyond a certain basic grammatical point, of what constitutes “good” writing. As such, I feel that some alignment of tastes is important between an author and beta-reader.

My opinions on writing are often going to come from my own experience and style. Therefore, if you’re not particularly fond of my writing, you will probably disagree with a lot of my comments, since they will be written with my own sensibilities in mind, and you may not benefit much from having them.

* This process should be an exchange of ideas. If I say, “I don’t like how this sentence is worded, and think it would be better if XYZ,” that’s my opinion. It is no poor reflection on your intellect or writing abilities if you disagree, choose to disregard that opinion, and leave the sentence the way it is.

However, if you’ve engaged my services, I do appreciate an explanation of a decision to disregard my opinion — a conversation about the story and your formulation of it rather than the feeling that I’m throwing would-be-constructive criticism at a brick wall to no purpose. It doesn’t have to be a month-long debate or anything; a perfectly adequate response to, “I think the repetition in this sentence is jarring rather than emphatic,” might be, “I disagree; I think the repetition is exactly enough to make my point, all the more so because it’s jarring.”

* I really, really, really hate yaoi tropes and stereotypes. See this post for some details. I don’t want to get into another rant here, so suffice it to say that when it comes to characters, I prefer people to cliches and stereotypes, and when it comes to character interactions, I prefer relationships to cliches and stereotypes.

Another thing you might want to think about is how overused (and how drenched in yaoi tropes and stereotypes) the plot you’re diving into is. Now, obviously, if you haven’t encountered this particular story before, you have no idea how overused it might be. But I promise that “Character Y gets kidnapped/raped/murdered, Character X has to rescue/protect/avenge him, and healing sex ensues” is a very, very overused plot in gay fanfiction.

Oh, and by the way, “Character X becomes aware of a rapist/murderer whose victims resemble Character Y, and must protect Character Y from that” is not only an overused plot device in gay fanfiction in general, but has been used at least four times within the confines of Saitou/Sano fic specifically.

* I’m not very fond of graphic sex. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying it’s immoral to write graphic sex or some nonsense like that, but I often consider it poor art, particularly in shorter stories. I’m not talking about PWP’s here… if you’ve written a story exclusively about a sexual encounter, that’s a different ballgame. I’m still not all that into it, but if I know going in that something is a PWP, I can at least adjust my expectations.

In stories with a, you know, story, sex scenes are often drastically different in descriptive style from the rest of the fic, because it’s rare to have any other scene with the minute level of detail or the number (and type) of synonyms that explicit sex demands. And that difference often makes for a scene that feels gratingly out of place to no particular benefit.

I feel that for sexual acts to merit detailed description, that description needs to directly contribute to relationship-building or characterization. I might accept tone or theme too under some circumstances. If it’s possible for you to excise the entire scene and, proceeding with only the knowledge that the characters had sex rather than the in-depth details of the encounter, have lost nothing from those story elements aforementioned, I’d really rather you did.

So if you want to send me a 5,000 word story wherein 3,000 words are graphic sex, you can probably guess what my very first and probably biggest criticism is going to be. (Well, if it’s a PWP, I’m going to wonder what the 2,000 words extraneous to the sex are doing there.) Just keep in mind that this is all my opinion, and if you’re confident that your sex scene makes for a better story, don’t let me discourage you. Which brings me to my final point…

* If you’re not confident in your writing abilities, why are you writing? Yep, I’m going to be an asshole again here, but seriously. If you think all your stories are terrible, and all that can ever come of my beta-reading them is a reinforcement of everything you do wrong, I’m not going to be much help to you. Why are you doing this anyway, in that case?

OK, addendum: if you lack confidence but are trying to build your confidence, and think the private review of a beta-reader is a good step to take before posting to a cruel and unfair world, that’s a totally valid answer to my bolded question above. Just let me know beforehand, OK? I’ll try to be less of an asshole.

I mean, I try not to be an asshole with my comments in the first place, but it doesn’t always work. I think of myself as a fairly kind person in general, but I’m also very picky (sometimes harshly so) about prose. So, yeah, confidence is important.

If you got through all of this and still think I might be of some assistance with your project, email me at noirefee at gmail dot com. If you just have casual questions or comments, or discussion points on writing or whatever, feel free to post them below.

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