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Programmers often collaborate over code by using pastebin. They drop sections of code for others to read and assist in improving or removing errors. Does anyone know if a similar app exists for writers? I have a Wattpad account but that focuses more on whole stories or serial chapters, not on portions of a story. Beta Readers prefer lengthy or competed manuscripts. Is there any app or service that reads only small sections of a novel to provide group feedback on readability, grammar or how interesting a concept is to readers?

Mark Baker was able to decipher my question despite its vagueness. He correctly pointed out Beta Readers read finalized or nearly finalized manuscripts, not snippets. Critique Partners will provide valuable insight into style, grammar and plots that I seek for drafts. My question is now revised to: Where would I find a good critique group or partner to provide critical analysis of drafts?

  • It sounds like you're looking for an existing platform, more than an application or tool. Is that right? // Sounds intriguing. – aparente001 Feb 12 '17 at 8:01
  • I don't think you should use the term "beta reading" for what you have in mind. It throws people off. I don't know what to call it yet, but it's analogous to a site where people spend one minute responding to your website design. Very quick feedback about one aspect of a website or a piece of writing. – aparente001 Feb 12 '17 at 8:31
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I don't think it is wise to try to do this online. You have no idea who you is giving your the critique. Some people will just always be nice. Some will just always be nasty. You can't tell who are are dealing with if you don't meet them face to face.

If you want feedback, join a critique group or take a writing class.

BTW, at least as I have heard the term used, a beta reader is someone who reads the whole MS after it is finished and gives you feedback on the whole. At that point it should be polished enough that they are not stumbling over local details. Reading small pieces and giving feedback it generally called critiquing. That, at least, is how I have always heard the terms used.

  • One could say the same of SE -- but one does learn to distinguish among the different answer contributors, their style, the pattern of questions they venture to answer, the level of affinity and trust one feels. – aparente001 Feb 12 '17 at 8:02
  • You are absolutely correct. I now realize I am not seeking a beta reader at all, I am seeking a critique. A critique doesn't rely on a completed story, it will point out flaws and strengths in my writing style and voice. I found a very good link to many that are free and I will update this post as to the quality of any I use. Thank you for clarifying my post and I will change the title to better reflect my question: thewritelife.com/find-a-critique-partner – Richard Stanzak Feb 12 '17 at 13:02
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Google Docs is an extremely helpful tool for Beta reading, and is used by several writers of my acquaintance.

  • It allows commenting on individual selections of text, so it's easy to comment on a particular snippet or section. (It also allows replying to comments, so people can discuss the comments or expand on them.)
  • Viewers can make suggested edits, which the document-owner can accept or reject.
  • It is extremely helpful that Google Docs can be shared with anybody with an email account; they don't need to belong or sign up to a service.
  • Google Docs is high quality, easy to work with, and free.
  • You can easily create a Google Doc for the one specific section you want reviewed at the moment. (Merging multiple documents with different reviewers' comments is, alas, not really support in any way.)

This is all under the assumption that you already have, or can obtain on your own, a pool of beta readers.

You can ask friends of yours to beta-read for you. They don't need to be writers themselves - you need reactions, not writing advice. What is important is that you can trust them to be frank -- somebody saying nice things in order to be polite is no help at all.

Writing groups, online forums, critique circles, are all good places to find some friends willing to exchange critiques with you. Participate in the group structure for as long as you find it helpful, but also, stay in touch with people whose feedback you find truly helpful -- a hand-picked group will always be better than a random collection of people on the internet.

In general, both feedback from random internet people and feedback on individual snippets of text, rather than complete works are something you see much more with amateurs than with pros, or even more casual veterans. This isn't a knock on amateurs; it's simply the consequence of experience and ability:

  • A writer whose been active for a while has usually managed to build up a contact circle, including finding beta-readers they like and find helpful. That means the writer (and probably also the readers they're using) are likely to withdraw from the "public" pool of readers and critiquers. They've found a higher tier, where both the material and the feedback are on a higher level than the average you'll find on the "public" internet.

  • Critiques and feedback are usually most helpful in full context. It's much easier to see if a scene works, if you know the buildup that's gone into it. It's easier to answer "Does this story work" than "Is this a good premise" (usually: "It might be, if the execution is good"). And, experienced writers have already gotten in the habit of completing drafts -- one of the biggest obstacles for beginners. So, they have full drafts to share, and completing a draft before requesting feedback is easier for them. For all these reasons, veteran writers usually prefer feedback for a whole piece, than for one snippet -- and platforms aimed at snippets will generally have more of an amateur audience.

But the consequence of all this is that random feedback for random snippets of text is very likely to be of extremely low quality. Which is why I'd be leery of seeking such a platform, even if some do exist.

Once you do complete entire drafts, you can find some good online options for critiques. But without even the bar of completing a story, I'd be much more wary.

  • Yes, I use it also with an editor friend but it requires others finding and accessing your doc. I do love the real time editing though. I was hoping for a group of readers sharing snippets of their writing for quick turn around review. And thank you for the edit. – Richard Stanzak Feb 11 '17 at 21:40
  • "it requires others finding and accessing your doc" -- Can you expand on this? I didn't quite understand you here. Wouldn't any beta-reading depend on sending out a document, in some form, to a group of readers? – Standback Feb 11 '17 at 21:49
  • yes, the platform exists, it is the users that are needed. I have very few outside of this group I interact, Preestablished groups of readers who read and comment on snippets of each others works is what I would like. I didn't know if groups like AW share paragraphs or chapters with others for suggestions to improve – Richard Stanzak Feb 11 '17 at 21:57
  • Ah! You're looking to find readers -- rather than a tool to share material with readers you've already "got"? – Standback Feb 11 '17 at 22:07
  • yes, I tried random betas but so far one didn't read my work after i gave her detailed comments on hers and the others style was WAY different than my own. He had way too much detail in scenes about eating and I prefer heavy dialogue stories – Richard Stanzak Feb 11 '17 at 22:10
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I would go and get Grammarly. I just recently installed it and it has worked beautifully. It is compatible with basically anything. In fact, I'm using it right now. I've used it in the poems that i am writing and it helped a lot.

  • Alas, Grammarly doesn't seem to work within Google Docs itself. Sadness :-( – Catalyst Feb 12 '17 at 13:51
  • I know! That's where I have all of my poems! I hope they make it compatible soon. – A Poet by the name of Griffin Feb 12 '17 at 14:03
  • @Griffin: I'm somewhat hooked/biased towards Google Docs. Can always cut/paste chunks into Grammarly itself, though that's a PITA. – Catalyst Feb 12 '17 at 14:05
  • Yeah, I do cut and paste it into Grammarly sometimes but my poems are relatively short so I just let Google do the editing. – A Poet by the name of Griffin Feb 12 '17 at 14:11
  • I had considered Grammarly but found a free site that is similar: paperrater.com/free_paper_grader. It works great with my academic articles but only not so well with my novel. Natural dialogue is seldom grammatically correct. If you accept the changes your dialogue sounds unnatural. I would prefer actual human critiques to AI. AI is great in some aspects of writing but falls apart with fiction. Editminion is another great free site for simple critiques: editminion.com – Richard Stanzak Feb 12 '17 at 14:20
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The good news is I found a great site on Goodreads that matches writers with people willing to be their critique partner:https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18443955-searching-for-critique-partners

The bad news is my partner is spot on about my novel I have worked on for 4 years and says it is well written but not really one that would catch most peoples interest. The science is a turn off especially since the novel begins in a lab with a scientist describing his invention. It takes 6 chapters before the invention creates havoc which in her opinion is way too long. She recommended starting off with action which requires dumping science, therefore my experiment of fusing science with a novel failed, just as Mark Baker predicted.

But, all is not lost. I found a great link on bad reviews and plan to follow their advice. http://writerunboxed.com/2013/07/14/dealing-with-a-bad-review/

Fortunately I have a fresh bottle of wine at home and a couple days off to enjoy my great granddaughter before I return to a blank word processor screen. I imagine most of you have already been there, but thanks again for the help.

I also found WattPad may be useful if you don't mind posting your story in a serial format for others to read and provide their comments: https://www.wattpad.com/story/99444658-viral-some-things-are-best-left-dead

  • Richard, the key thing to remember about review, critiques, etc, is that the purpose is not to tell you whether the individual work is good or bad, saleable or unsaleable (only the market and posterity can do that), it is to sharpen your own critical abilities. It is about teaching yourself to recognize when what you have written is self indulgent or lazy, as opposed to catering to the reader's wants and needs. Yes, you have something to say, but you only get to say it if you first cater to what the reader wants to hear. Critique is about sharpening your overall ability to tell the difference. – user16226 Feb 13 '17 at 0:47
  • thank you Mark. It is why I decided to post my draft om Wattpad, it is already gaining interest and positive votes. I decided if I want critiques I may as well seek as many as I can get. I admire anyone who can complete a novel, no matter how badly it may be written. SE and people like you help me to grow as a writer. – Richard Stanzak Feb 13 '17 at 1:41

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