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Differences between a critique partner and beta partner

I've written fan fiction for years and in that genre we've used beta readers. Wonderful, skilled people who like me write short stories, poems, novella's, novels, but their purpose is to help us build our story without editing it for us.

You're probably thinking, I know this already. I have a beta reader that works with me or for me as the case may be. I thought I knew it to. Until I got a real eye-opening heads up.

I have an awesome beta reader, she's thorough, she's tough, and she's honest - perhaps a bit too honest at times- but that's another story. We've worked together before on projects and I wouldn't trade her help for the world.

But, I've come to learn that any good writer must have a critque partner. Ha, you say, it's the same thing. Nope, it is not. A critique partner is very much like an editor. They catch the errors that you the author have missed before you send it to a beta reader. There are several very well thought out, lengthy job descriptions for each one and I won't get into that. I will however submit to you this tasty tid-bit. If you've got a work done, if it's been looked at by you and you've done more rewrites than there are road bumps on a backwoods road, and you're happy with it...

Take a deep breath and find yourself a really good critique partner to look it over and point out any and all errors that you've missed. Do your rewrites, polish it until it's brighter than Las Vegas's strip at midnight, then find yourself a beta reader.

Pish posh you say. They're the same person. They could be but remember this. If you send something to a beta reader to be betaed and it takes her longer than say 72 hours to read the thing...you need a critique partner.

This week I'm going to try and do a whole series on the benefits of both, and I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you've got any questions please comment and I'll try to answer them as best I can based upon my experience.

Comments

Michelle said…
Ok. I'm curious. I thought they were the same thing too. I'd like to know what is the difference. Keep on.
Haven Rich said…
I always put it like this, a crit. partner will tell you about all the errors and a beta reader will tell you if the story (plot) works.
Unhinged said…
I used to write fanfic, too.

IMO, a beta reader is someone who is familiar with the show/book/anime or whatever in which you write--they're reading expressly for that and looking for errors or what-have-you which have to do with that particular subject. They aren't necessarily looking at pace or plot issues, character development, or for grammar--unless they are ALSO driven to be a writer.

A critique partner is someone who writes as much as you do, preferably in the same genre, who has a vested interest in your writing as you do in their's. A crit partner usually has ambitions of publishing their own work some day. Betas usually don't.

Betas are fish.

(Sorry. Had to write that. I've always thought beta = fish.)

Beta = reader of fanfiction

Critiquer - writer with vested interest of equal exchange in time and effort
Mel said…
Oh, god, now I have to think how long has my book been with my Beta. Eek!
Patrica said…
Michelle,
I had the same reaction when I found out they were different to. It's one of the reasons I wanted to do this series, to help educate those of us poor souls who didn't know this!

Haven rich,
Very well put. It's hard to know the difference at times though because sometimes you don't have a good crit partner or a good beta reader!

Unhinged,
Fan fiction is wonderful isn't it! I've written it for years, won several awards for it, and loved it. It's a useful tool, but in the world of fan fiction we don't create the characters we just play with them :)
I love beta fish. Had one until about a year ago, nice big purple and blue male - keep tellin' hubby to go buy me another one but he's being stubborn.

Mel,
I feel for you. Just email him/her a reminder, if they're serious about their work they'll let you know!

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