We all know relationships require effort from both parties, but sometimes it's difficult to know how to start or how to work through a problem. These general tips should help most partnerships get on track and stay there.
Starting a Partnership
Starting a relationship with a stranger can be awkward at first, but if you both put in the effort you can develop a lasting and productive relationship. Using the starting tips can help you avoid many common issues so give it a shot.
- Send a friendly note! Introduce yourself, start a conversation, and be sure to include practical information too (your e-mail address and file exchange preferences, etc). Practical information can be an easy jumping off point if you're shy.
- We send partners the matching surveys, but that is only a starting point. Early in the relationship discuss expectations, not only for response time, but also how much feedback and what kind of feedback each expects to give or receive. Be reasonable and expect to compromise!
Establish a friendship.
- Establishing a friendship is a short section but probably the most important. It will make your life easier. Friends are more open and understand each other better, which makes disputes less likely and simpler to solve.
- Tips for starting a friendship:
- Add your partner to your watch list. Comment on their work and journals. Chat with them about both writing and personal topics (when appropriate). Contact your partner at least once a week to keep the relationship active.
Mind your manners.
- Be polite in general and remember to say "please" and "thank you" to your partner. These words will show your appreciation and help keep your partner happy.
- It's difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who whines, complains, or fishes for compliments all the time. When interacting with your partner try to remain positive, especially when discussing concerns, questions, or disputes. A little positivity can go a long way to soothe insecurities and help your relationship stay on track.
Do your honest best.
- Don't slack and slap together your work. That applies to both authors and beta readers.
- Authors: Don't send out a piece you know has spelling errors or other issues that you can fix yourself. Do your best before sending something to your beta reader. Beta readers: Don't skim over a piece and leave a couple short comments. Give your partner your complete attention and your best effort. Beta readers are expected to perform a complete, line by line, beta unless otherwise agreed upon with their author.
Update your partner.
- Don't disappear! If you're going on hiatus, plan to take longer to respond, or are other wise going to be slow, late, or subpar in your interactions, let your partner know as soon as possible.
The starting out tips can avoid a lot of problems, which is always preferable. However, relationships of any type are a lot of work to maintain and experience low points. If you are having issues, we put together a list of tips to help handle the situation.
Accept that your partner isn't a mind reader.
- Communication is key. People have different perspectives and different expectations throughout the feedback process. Your partner has no idea how to provide what you need if you don't discuss the issue in specifics. They may be new or used to working through the process differently than you. Talk openly, but also be prepared to compromise.
Discuss issues promptly.
- Don't let issues fester and become larger than they are. Discuss concerns as they arise, and remember to be polite and positive when doing so.
Discuss issues politely.
- Generally you get what you give in a relationship. If you're crabby with your partner, they will probably be crabby in return. Issues can be sensitive and it's easy to resort to bad behavior. If you want to maintain the relationship it's best not to go there in the first place. Remain friendly and courteous. Your partner will likely return the favor.
Don't jump to conclusions.
- Over the internet it can be hard to tell when someone is slacking off or if something important came up. Tone can sometimes be misconstrued as well. Try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and discuss your concerns without any accusations.
Don't play the blame game.
- When talking to your partner during difficult times it can be easy to blame the other person. That won't mend a relationship and may make the situation worse. Accepting responsibility for your own actions is a great starting place.
- Example: If your partner hasn't contacted you in weeks, consider how many times you've checked in with them in that time. Even if you were the last one to send a message, sometimes people forget, or experience technical issue and miss the message.
- Related to the last point about taking personal responsibility, it's best to follow up. Even if you were the last person to send a message, if you haven't heard from your partner in a while, send another polite message. Check in and see if your partner missed the message, forgot, or has other issues.
Focus on productivity.
- Harping on disagreements, short comings, or other negative aspects won't produce results. Try focusing on the positive and seeing your needs met. For instance, if your beta reader isn't giving you the feedback you need, don't harp on what they're not doing. Consider what they are doing for you, which is probably considerable, even if it's not exactly what you expected. Writing down a list may help. Once you know what they are doing for you, write them a note. Tell them you appreciate what they are doing and then include what else you need, in a friendly way.
- Author Example: Man, I love that you do ______ and ______, and I really appreciate all your feedback. I'd love it if you could also ______. It would mean so much to me because I'm really working hard to improve those areas. Beta Example: You're doing wonderful with your improvements on ______ and ______. I found this great tutorial for you to tackle ______ too. I can't wait to see how great your writing becomes once you have that one down.
- This can be tough to do once you're having issues, but it's necessary. For instance, if your issue is response time, try moving your goal a couple days closer to their goal, if possible. Showing you're willing to work with them will prove you're serious about the partnership and will likely help your partner move closer to your goals, too.
Agree to disagree.
- Even concrete writing rules can be broken. Whether that's a good idea depends on context and is up for debate. Once an issue is discussed, and you realize you don't see eye to eye, agree to disagree. Then let the matter rest.
- Beta readers: It's best to ignore that particular issue and refrain from commenting on it in the future. Continued commentary will alienate your partner and waste your time. Authors: It's best to ignore comments on the matter and only use the suggestions you agree with. Keep in mind that you must discuss the issue first. Don't ignore the advice and expect your beta to read your mind about ignoring it.
Know when to end the relationship.
- Sometimes relationships aren't compatible and there are a million reasons for it, but they often fit in three major categories: compromise failure, disappearances, and bad fits.
- Compromise failure: You ask for plot feedback for every piece sent, but all your beta gives you is grammar and punctuation notes.
- Solution: Discuss the issue with your partner first. This one may still be salvageable. If there isn't improvement, send a note to end the relationship. Then contact the group for a new partner.
- Solution: Send them a polite note to end the relationship. Then contact the group for a new partner.
- Solution: Explain and apologize for the mix up then contact the group for a new partner. Be sure to update your survey!
End the relationship amicably.
- Don't disappear and ignore their messages. It makes life awkward and wastes a lot of your partner's time waiting around for you. Send a private message to your partner explaining the reason for ending the relationship.
- Remember to:
- Be polite. Thank your partner for their efforts. Wish them well. Don't play the blame game.
- Example: If you're not interested in your author's story / genre, then a different beta reader could probably support them better. So you would not say, "Sorry, I just can't stand your story." You might say, "I didn't connect with the (story / genre) and feel like someone else would do a better job offering feedback. I don't want to hold you back, and I'm struggling through my feedback write ups which is using up more time than I have."
Contact the group.
- Depending on your situation, staff may be able to offer personalized tips to help you through rough patches. If not, we'll find you a new partner. Send us a note explaining your issues and what you've tried so far.