I've been kicking around the idea of writing some meta about the beta reading / editing process. As you may know, I do a lot of beta reading and I was thinking it'd be useful to put down some of my thoughts on how it works, how a good beta can help a writer achieve a better end product, ideas for getting the most out of the process. Things like that.
Now, my own experiences may not be fully representative for various reasons. So in order to make this meta more comprehensive (and hopefully more useful), I'd like some input from the flist: Tell me about your beta experiences!
As a writer, what do you think makes a good beta? What qualities do you look for in a beta, and do those qualities change depending on the story you're working on? Do you prefer to use the same beta every time, or do you like to switch depending, for example, on the nature of the story (or the fandom)? Do you regularly call on more than one beta? What do you expect from a beta when submitting your work? How have you gone about finding a beta for past projects? Have you ever had a project for which it was particularly difficult to find a beta? What particularly good (or disastrous) beta experiences have you had? (Without naming names. *g*)
I also would really like to hear from people who DON'T use betas, either for (a) particular type(s) of work(s) or as a rule. I'm curious about the reasons people have for not wanting to have their work beta read (lack of time, difficulty of finding someone available, previous horrible experience, etc).
If you do any beta reading, I'd like to hear about your experiences as well. What have you learnt about the writing process from editing other people's work? What are your own strengths/weaknesses as a beta? Do you like to beta only particular types of works (e.g., pairing-specific works or only genfic, some genres and not others)? What do you expect from writers who submit their work to you? Is there anything you wish writers knew when they send you something to beta?
Please feel free to answer any or all of these questions (or just tell me what you think) in the comments. I'd be fascinated to know your thoughts on the process. Thanks!