Author Topic: Proofreader, Only Not Really (Small update P.25)  (Read 5897 times)

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CrochetFanatic

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Proofreader, Only Not Really (Small update P.25)
« on: February 06, 2013, 01:22:30 AM »
I think I somehow went from being an impromptu beta reader to an uncredited co-author of a fanfic.  :-\

A friend of mine asked me to help her with a story, and I said "Sure, no problem".  I didn't know she was going to constantly ask me, "What should happen next?" or "Who should check on so-and-so?" and the list goes on.  She has a good story idea, but I thought I was going to be proofreading things she's already typed up in between chats, not holding her hand sentence by sentence (I'm not exaggerating, either!) and coming up with the plot!  Frankly, I'm getting a bit exasperated.  She seems to wait until I'm online to write, because she "needs help".  I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Why don't I just write it for you?"  I know that sounds snarky and mean, and I would never say it.

This friend is rather sensitive, and at the same time she's somewhat oblivious.  I've tried hinting that I don't know where things should go, and that it's up to her because it's her story, but she says "Okay" then repeats her questions a bit later.  Argh!  >:(  I thought I would be checking spelling and grammar, not coming up with the basic storyline, sans partial credit.  This isn't so much an etiquette situation as it is a dilemma on how to handle this in a way that is less likely to hurt her feelings.  I've got my own projects to write, not to mention family obligations.  Is there a nice, etiquette-approved way to be clear about my wishes in this matter?
« Last Edit: February 09, 2013, 04:22:38 PM by CrochetFanatic »

nolechica

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 03:51:00 AM »
Tell her you only have time to edit, not create.  As a sometime beta, I'm always clear that I can edit, not dream up plot.  If she asks why, tell her you don't have time to co-author a project.

lowspark

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 08:43:50 AM »
Quit hinting around and just tell her outright that you can't help her anymore.

"Sorry friend, turns out I don't have as much free time as I thought so I won't be able to help you with your story after all. Good luck with it!"

Roe

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2013, 08:50:24 AM »
Since she's sensitive and I assume, you want to remain friends, have you tried "I don't know, what should the character say next? I don't know, what do you think the plot should be?" and etc, etc. Just turn the questions back on her.

GrammarNerd

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2013, 09:02:22 AM »
Can you ask her, "Why are you asking ME?  Isn't this YOUR story?"

Honestly, if she's THAT sensitive, she probably won't be able to even handle negative reviews or constructive criticism either.  Maybe ask her why she even wants to write this if she doesn't have a clear picture in her head of the story.  You mentioned other writing projects that you're doing....do you maybe mention those a lot, or does she know about them?  It just popped into my mind that it almost sounds like she's trying to keep up with you by trying to write her own, but she just doesn't have that burning idea or that drive to write a story, so she keeps coming to you for 'help' b/c she thinks it will make her better somehow.  She just doesn't realize that she isn't asking you for help so much as she's taking your ideas without really doing much herself.

Maybe tell her that you've noticed that she doesn't really seem to be set on her own plotline, and people who read her story will pick up on that (and will possibly leave less than complimentary reviews).  Suggest that she take a break and do a rough outline of her story, plot points, where she wants it to go, etc.  Or even write a synopsis of it, as if it was a 1 page book report for a class.  Then once she has more concrete ideas, she can start writing again, hopefully with a clearer direction, and you'll be happy to check grammar and punctuation on her finished product.

Margo

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2013, 09:03:21 AM »
Since she's sensitive and I assume, you want to remain friends, have you tried "I don't know, what should the character say next? I don't know, what do you think the plot should be?" and etc, etc. Just turn the questions back on her.

I think this is a good way to start. She may then get on with it herself, if she keeps coming back then I think I would go with "I think we misunderstood each other. When you asked me to help you, I thought you wanted someone to proof-read. It seems like you were thinking more along the lines of co-writing the story. I'm afraid I don't have time to do that. I'm still happy to proof read your story for you when you're done, if you'd like me  too, and I'm sorry for the misunderstanding"

I think if you frame it as a joint mis-communication, rather than her demanding a lot more than you originally agreed to, it's less likely to put her onto the defensive and also less likely to be perceived as you changing your mind or 'dumping' her. It also gives you the opportunity to set out what you *can* do and hopefully put the focus more on "this is what I can do to help you" rather than "I'm refusing to dop x, y & z"

(To be clear, I think your position is totally reasonable, but am trying to come up with ways of saying it that are less likely to hurt her feelings)

Lynn2000

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2013, 11:58:17 AM »
I like turning the questions back on her, and also the suggestion to make an outline and/or summary of the plot before trying to write more. Especially with the latter you are helping her by giving her advice she might not have thought of, which should seem positive to her.

It's possible she might actually be wanting editorial advice in terms of, "This dialogue isn't clear, this plot twist doesn't make sense, the pace drags in this part," and she's just asking for it the wrong way. Sometimes we have the same problem at work with new people who've never written a big report before. They say, "I don't know what to write. I don't know what to say for this part." But, they have to write something, even if they think it's wrong/not good, and then more experienced people can help them shape it. But if they literally have just a blank page, there's nothing anyone else can do to help them, because we aren't going to write it for them. So maybe encourage her to write something, anything, thinking of it as a very rough draft, and then you can advise her on refining it (if you're willing to do that).

In a similar vein you could also give her a schedule of your availability--you said she only seems to write when you get online. Maybe tell her that you don't have time to help her in the morning (blocking her from seeing when you're online would be good) but if she sends you at least two pages before 7pm, you will proof them and send them back to her by the next morning (or whatever times work for you). In other words, you want something in hand to work with, not a line-by-line, real-time creation.

I'm wondering what would happen if you suggested a completely outlandish turn of the plot the next time she asks. Would she accept it, or would she say, "No, that's not really what I had in mind"? If the latter, you could then say, "Oh. Well, what did you have in mind, then?" I don't mean this suggestion in an evil way to mess her up, just that it might jolt her into thinking ahead a bit more, and realizing that if she wants the story done her way, she has to write it.
~Lynn2000

CrochetFanatic

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2013, 02:09:42 PM »
Thanks for the ideas.  :)

Last night, I didn't have a lot of time to post here.  I didn't give a whole lot of details about the situation, so for the most part I didn't say what I've already tried.  Unfortunately, I've tried a lot of what was suggested, and it went right over her head.

1.  I said upfront when she asked me that I could only be a proofreader, because in the past I ended up doing this on a smaller scale.  I've told her in the past, "I'll look at what you've already written, but you have to write it yourself."  And I've gotten this in response, "._." along with chilly and stilted conversations for a few days after that.  This time, I resolved not to be in that position again, and this time she said, "Okay" easily enough.  Then she proceeded to act as if I hadn't spoken, and I'm partially responsible because I caved and went back on what I said.  :-[

2.  I've told her when I was and wasn't available, and I've told her when I was working on something else at the moment.  She waits until I am available, and continues with her questions.

3.  I've tried turning her questions back on her, "What do you think should happen?" or saying, "That's up to you." and she'll say, "I don't know, that's why I need help."

I'm just running out of things to tell her, short of "I don't want to."  And I'll admit I was a little miffed when she didn't even include an Author's Note with "Thanks for your help".  I don't want to make it sound like I'm out to get credit, but when someone has helped me with a project in the past or let me borrow their character for a bit, I've always given them a shout-out. 

Anyway, these are all good ideas, but unfortunately they don't seem to be working.  I think I might just have to start repeating myself, and saying, "I'll look at what you've got typed up, if you have something, but you'll have to come up with the material yourself."  She'll be cold, and I feel bad about it, but I don't see any other way to handle it.

Thanks again.  At least now I don't feel so unreasonable in saying no.

Promise

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2013, 02:21:58 PM »
It's time to just be honest regardless of her sensitivities. Why do we excuse being sensitive as if that's ok to let them use us? Tell her the truth. Just say, "I originally thought I'd be editing after the fact, but that's not what happened. Instead, you've been asking me for a lot of help with the actual plotting and writing of the book. If you want me to be co-author and give me credit for that, I'd be happy to continue helping for our mutual benefit. But if not, I think it would be best to find someone else to assist you."

NyaChan

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2013, 02:23:03 PM »
It's time to just be honest regardless of her sensitivities. Why do we excuse being sensitive as if that's ok to let them use us? Tell her the truth. Just say, "I originally thought I'd be editing after the fact, but that's not what happened. Instead, you've been asking me for a lot of help with the actual plotting and writing of the book. If you want me to be co-author and give me credit for that, I'd be happy to continue helping for our mutual benefit. But if not, I think it would be best to find someone else to assist you."

This. 

Amara

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2013, 02:38:01 PM »
She doesn't want a proofreaders, she wants a content editor or perhaps a co-writer. I suggest being straightforward with her, telling her that what she wants is far beyond what you can provide and referring her to the excellent Absolute Write or Backspace forums.

EMuir

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2013, 02:45:05 PM »
Back in the day I had this happen with a friend who said he was writing a detective story and just wanted my help with proofreading.  The story was barely readable, and English was this guy's first language! I basically bowed out after the first session and said I didn't have time.

Lynn2000

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2013, 03:35:19 PM »
It's time to just be honest regardless of her sensitivities. Why do we excuse being sensitive as if that's ok to let them use us? Tell her the truth. Just say, "I originally thought I'd be editing after the fact, but that's not what happened. Instead, you've been asking me for a lot of help with the actual plotting and writing of the book. If you want me to be co-author and give me credit for that, I'd be happy to continue helping for our mutual benefit. But if not, I think it would be best to find someone else to assist you."

POD. Or, if appropriate to your situation, "I originally thought I'd be editing after the fact, but that's not what happened. Instead, you've been asking me for a lot of help with the actual plotting and writing of the book. I'm not interested in doing that, so you'll have to continue the project without me." Because I'm not sure I would want to get mixed up in being her "co-author," personally, if she was going to get "chilly and stilted" the moment I set the slightest conditions on something. What would happen if you guys disagreed about the direction of the plot? You wouldn't be able to make a critique of her ideas without getting a similar response.
~Lynn2000

buvezdevin

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2013, 03:46:13 PM »
I would not turn her questions back on her at this point, but would say something like "I agreed to proofread what you write, but you seem to want consulting and collaboration on content before you've written it which is beyond proof reading."

Like Lynn2000, I would not want to pursue collaborating with someone who becomes chilly and stilted when you don't do what she wants, and what you never agreed to do.  If you are willing to collaborate with her, I would offer that with specifics on how, what, and credits for collaboration.  If you don't want to collaborate, I would add a statement that you are not interested in collaborating.
Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink -- under any circumstances.
Mark Twain

GrammarNerd

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Re: Proofreader, Only Not Really
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2013, 03:55:33 PM »
OP, I have to wonder WHY she's trying to write a story when she doesn't ... uh... have a story to write?  KWIM?  Like I said in my PP, I have to wonder if there's more to the story (no pun intended) about why she's doing this.  I mean, I get that you might have a great idea but you just can't seem to make it flow correctly onto the page.  But this seems like more than that, if she doesn't know what characters should even do or say when they get to a certain point.

So, I guess that understanding her motivation might help you figure out how to respond to her in a way that gets through to her better.  No, you don't need to do this, but it sounds as though this is a friend, and right now this issue is making your friendship uncomfortable, so it might be worth looking at the whys behind the actions.