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Monday, January 5, 2015

Beta-Reading Lifehack: Using a Tablet

As crazy as things have been, one thing that was important to me was to honour the commitments I made to beta-read. In one case, it was the next book in a published series for an established author. In another, it's my critique partner, whose latest WIP is filled with so much awesome that I can't wait to see her succeed with it. Both situations were time-sensitive. And after the move, with my life in as much disarray as it is, I needed to find a way to be able to keep those promises while not losing it completely.

Which led to a useful solution: putting it on my tablet.

Backstory: I have an iPad, but I'm a PC user. I particularly like using Microsoft Word, since that's been my program of choice for more than two decades and I'm fairly well-versed in its ... eccentricities. But the act of beta-reading can be draining, sitting at the computer and reading manuscripts. Especially at times like these, when my energy is low (see previous post). And I'm a huge fan of the Track Changes method of beta-reading, but the screen clutter can get to me sometimes.

So what's a girl to do? Yes, I know there are Word and Word-like programs for the iPad now, but like I said. Screen clutter.

Here's how I made this work:
1. Print the document to a pdf.
2. Load the pdf onto the iPad or tablet.
3. Open the document in the reading program (in the case of the iPad, iBooks).
4. Read and make notes by hand. Make sure the notes are clear enough that you can find what needs to be changed! I used page numbers and word strings.
5. When finished, go back to the original Word document, and add in the appropriate comments and revisions using Track Changes. Use the "go to" page numbers and search functions to further improve the speed of accessing the part that needs editing.

Why this works:
- Less fatigue and strain from sitting in front of a computer.
- Going through the whole manuscript and doing everything at once can be overwhelming, and take more time than it needs to, but this breaks it into manageable steps.
- Not making changes to the original document until you're done reading it can speed up the reading process.
- The second pass through the manuscript, even if brief, can help you see things in a different light, and even make comments about certain issues that you wouldn't have noticed until the first read-through was complete.
- The format change allows you to "see" the document in another way (so this can work for editing your own stuff, too).

So, there you are. That's what worked for me. I hope you can find it useful as well.

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