Disclaimer: Strangely unbetaed.
A story for my betas, written for Beta Appreciation Day, October 2007. For Brianna, Mary S., Jinny, Char, Nameless Ensign, Sangerin, B.J., and Pook. For all that they have done for my writing.
"Right!" Brianna Thomas strutted to the front of the classroom and drew herself up to her imposing height. Five foot two inches of beautiful beta-hood glared down at the recalcitrant class in front of her. "You have signed up for this class: "Understanding Your Beta 101". At the end of tonight, you will know EXACTLY how difficult it is to be a beta. You will wince in sympathy as your tutors show you, yet again, how the ignoramus writer-that's YOU-fails to listen. You will squirm as we point out how you still can't tell the difference between "lay" and "lie", and you will weep at your continued inability to distinguish a split infinitive." She took a deep breath. "Any questions?"
In the front row of the otherwise empty classroom, Shayenne nervously raised a hand. "Am I the only one who signed up for this class?"
Brianna smiled sweetly. "Betaing someone's work is a one-on-one experience. So this class is the same. It allows us to concentrate fully on whipping you into shape. Now, I'll introduce my fellow lecturers."
An elegant woman with beautiful curly hair strolled into the classroom, accompanied by a tall woman with the widest smile Shayenne had ever seen.
"Mary S. and Jinny!" gasped Shayenne. "How lovely to see you!" And, she thought in some relief, these ladies are so NICE, they won't slaughter me.
Mary fixed Shayenne with a stern glance "The last beta I did for you, you changed the name of the planet three times, and all in the same paragraph. How stupid was that!"
"I non-beta for you," added Jinny, "but I can spot your mangled tenses at fifty paces through a bottle of gin."
Brianna ushered Mary and Jinny to seats in front of the class and consulted her watch. "Ah, here are the others. All these people have betaed for you at some time over the years."
Sangerin, Nameless Ensign, and Char appeared, big grins on their faces.
"It will be a total pleasure to rip you to pieces," said Nameless Ensign, in her lilting Swedish accent.
"You'd think you'd have learned the difference between U.S., U.K., and Australian English by now," snorted Sangerin in amusement, "but no, and now you have to add Irish English to the mix! No wonder you're confused!"
"Brianna managed to cure you of your fixation on the messy bits of sex," said Char, "but you still manage to write sex scenes where the characters have three hands and perform impossible contortions."
In the front row, Shayenne was pale green. To think that all these fine women, wonderful writers all, took the time to polish her dismal efforts at fiction. Six wonderful women…. She counted mentally in her head, and then thanked her lucky stars that Brianna hadn't seen fit to contact the celebrity-guest betas.
Brianna consulted her watch. "Ladies, help yourself to the wine and cheese on the table, while we wait for the celebrity guest betas to arrive. Two ladies who have also betaed for our hapless writer here. No, that cheese is not for you!" She slapped Shayenne's hand away as she made a grab for the Bordeaux and Brie. "You have to have your wits about you and listen and learn!"
Shayenne sat back in her seat and tried not to drool onto the desktop as she watched her betas tucking into the wine and cheese.
A short knock on the door, and the door swung open abruptly, bouncing back off the frame. "Sorry we're late," said B.J. strolling into the room. "Pook here insisted on picking me up on the way, and apparently it took her longer to row from South Australia than she thought. But we're here now. What have we missed?"
"Nothing yet," said Brianna. "Have some wine and cheese. We're just about to get stuck into Shayenne. Now, I understand that you two took on special projects for Shayenne here?"
"She had the bloody cheek to write a companion piece to a story of mine," said Pook. "The least I could do was set her straight on a few points on the tense. And tell her when she quoted me wrong!"
Shayenne squirmed. "I didn't have your story to hand when I wrote that," she offered, nervously.
"No bloody excuse!" said Pook, cheerfully. "But I'll forgive you if I can have some of that wonga."
Mary S. passed over the bottle. "We stole it out of Shayenne's private cellar," she said. "So you can blame her if it's vinegar."
"I betaed an original fic of hers," said B.J., shaking her head sadly and hastily spitting out the wine. "There were whole sentences that made no sense."
Jinny nodded so hard that her curls did the salsa. "Only sentences?! I've had paragraphs from her that were incomprehensible!"
"Pages," added Sangerin.
"Let's not forgot the times when she mangled the formatting conversion from her handheld and the whole STORY was illegible!" added Brianna.
"That was really above and beyond the call of duty," agreed Nameless Ensign.
Char upended the bottle into Pook's glass. "You Aussies can put it away!" she said, in admiration. "Is there another bottle?"
Sangerin clicked her fingers. "Waiter! Uh… Shayenne…. Get us another bottle please!"
"And make it the good stuff this time," added Brianna. "None of that Euro-a-bottle scrog you gave us before."
Jinny's mouth snapped abruptly shut and she skulled her wine.
Shayenne scuttled off meekly, returning with another bottle of Bordeaux.
"Chateau Picard," said Mary happily, studying the label. "I see she CAN learn fast."
"Not when it comes to the difference between 'accept' and 'except'," muttered Nameless Ensign, her dreadlocks bouncing fiercely.
"Or cutting down on wordiness," added Char.
"And let's not forget," chanted Brianna merrily, "her unfortunate habit of starting every other sentence with-"
"A pronoun!!!" yelled everyone together.
Pook slapped her knee, and grabbed the bottle. "Hey, this one's empty too!"
It only took a stern glance from B.J. and Shayenne disappeared, returning this time with two bottles. Sangerin took over the corkscrew when Shayenne dropped it.
"Clumsy," tutted Jinny, holding out her glass. "I want the good stuff this time. How come you gave me the scrog?"
"Yeah, another bottle of Chateau Picard!" Pook looked dolefully into her glass.
Shayenne watched as her betas proceeded to demolish her wine cellar. Sneaking a hand out, she made a grab for the cheese, but Char slapped her wrist. "Nothing for you until you've heard what we have to say!"
"No hurry, though, is there?" said B.J., holding out her glass.
"Let's finish this bottle first," said Nameless Ensign, cutting herself a large piece of Brie. "Then we can get onto the misplaced semi colons;"
"The constant corruption of the English language," said Sangerin.
"The lack of paragraph breaks," said Brianna. "The tell-not-show," said Char.
"The missing words a sentence," said Jinny.
"The repetition of words," Mary repeated.
"The POV switches," said B.J.
"The tpyos," said Pook.
Shayenne slunk underneath the desk to hide, but Brianna pulled her out by her running shoes. "No escaping," she said cheerfully. "Isn't this why you employ us?"
"It is," said Shayenne, nodding determinedly. "You all improve my writing every time you so much as glance at it."
"And it's not all bad," added Brianna. "Sometimes you write quite well!"
"Nearly passable," agreed Mary.
"Occasionally readable," nodded Jinny.
"Approaching decent," smiled Sangerin.
"Half legible even," said Nameless Ensign.
sometimes you even punctuate it added bj
"And even construct a sentence properly," said Pook.
"I even recognized the characters in the last one!" said Char approvingly.
Pook snapped her fingers for more wine. This time, Shayenne got the hint and brought up the case.
"Good girl," said Brianna, cheerfully. "You've been listening to us. I think this time you can have a glass as well."
"And some cheese?" asked Shayenne, hopefully.
"As soon as you stop using adverbs," said Nameless Ensign, admonishing-
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