We are all familiar with the importance of treating fanfiction writers right. We know fanfiction writers are not there to work for us, and we always encourage leaving feedback. However, there’s a group of people who are often overlooked in this process: fanfiction beta readers.
Writing stories might not seem like much of a hassle for someone who’s never tried to do it. The truth is that it’s actually a very time-consuming, complicated process, and that’s where beta readers come in. Fanfiction beta readers make fanfiction writers’ work easier by reviewing, giving feedback, and sometimes even editing the content. It could be said that, if fanfiction writers are the fandom equivalent of book authors, beta readers are the equivalent of editors. If you love reading fanfiction, and becoming a beta reader is something that interests you, here are some tips on how to get started!
Be honest, yet tactful
Needless to say, the criticism a beta reader gives should always be constructive. Never destructive. After all, beta readers are there to help, and at times even encourage writers.
This might seem like nothing, but you should really reconsider doing this if you’re not comfortable with giving people your honest opinions. Being honest (sometimes, brutally honest) can be hard sometimes. It’s even harder if you don’t have that level of confidence with the other person. You have to be clear about the things that should be corrected, but still be tactful. You’re not their teacher, nor their boss, and you’re most likely not getting paid for this. Creating fanfiction should always be a fun experience for both writer and beta reader.
Also, focus on the positive too. If there’s something in the fic that you liked particularly, let them know so they know they’re on the right path.
Be willing to compromise
We all have periods in life when we are extra busy, and unforeseen circumstances can happen. Still, try to be mindful that you have committed to do something, and you need to do right by that promise. Don’t be that person who drops a project giving a short-time notice just because you don’t feel like doing it anymore. For some writers, having a beta reader is almost like having an accountability partner. Beta readers can help give that extra motivation and encouragement that is sometimes needed during writer’s block.
Sometimes authors will even have their posting scheduled and milestones worked out prior to writing. Take some time to talk with the writer about it and organize your time so that you can work at the same pace.
Understand what the author needs
And try to figure out your specialty. While being a multi-skilled beta reader will always a plus, sometimes fanfic writers are only looking for help in one particular area. These are some of the things writers might need help with:
- Plot and characterization. Someone to point out if there’s something the writer should elaborate more on, or just a warning that a character might be acting OoC.
- Research. Sometimes the author will just reach out to a beta reader who’s especially knowledgeable in one area to check their facts.
- Grammar and spell checking. One of the key jobs of an editor. This one is especially requested by writers who are not writing in their mother tongue.
- Just another set of eyes. Most of the time writers just want someone else to take a look at their story to have a second opinion.
Know where to look for writers
The easiest, most common way for many fanfiction beta readers to get started is by helping someone they already know. If you’re friends with a fanfic author, offer them your assistance to see if there’s something of value you can add to their work.
If you prefer to meet new people or work with authors who you know are already looking for beta readers, there’s some sites you can go to:
- Sign up as a beta reader on FanFiction.net Beta Readers section. FanFiction.net allows beta readers to sign up announcing their services and specialties. It allows beta readers to set up their own profiles and share the stories they’ve worked on. The Beta Readers section works as a directory for writers to look for beta readers for a specific fandom/category. The writer will then contact the beta reader they want to work with.
- The r/FanFiction/ subreddit. It’s one of the most active fanfiction discussion sites. There’s always people sharing their fics, on-going challenges, and more. You can introduce yourself and meet many people who share a passion for fanfiction writing.
- Tumblr is just the place to go for everything fannish, and fanfiction is no exception. You can start by checking the beta reader tag, for example. On the other hand, Beta Reader’s Hub and Fanfic Beta Helper are blogs that exist to help both beta readers, and writers looking for betas.