Welcome back, to Working with beta readers. I’ve already covered the hows and the why’s of having a beta reader, and how to prepare you manuscript and your betas for the session.
This week, we’re going to talk about how to deal with feedback.
Writers have to have a thick skin. Unfortunately, it’s part of the territory. I’m not going to lie. Critique can be brutal. Your novel is your baby. You’ve slaved over it for gosh knows how long and to have strangers come in and tear it apart can be difficult. But you have to keep an open mind.
I remember when I got the first set of beta questions returned. My first thoughts were ‘but…’ as I tried to defend every single comment that dared blemish all my hard work. It took me a moment to sit back and say, ‘you know what. You’re right.’
Truth hurts. But roll with it, because rarely are betas doing this to be mean. They’re doing it to help. There’s no way to fully prepare yourself for the types of comments you’re going to get. But you need to be ready to listen, which is often the hardest thing to do.
If the beta readers have done their job right, you’ll get some praise along with those critiques. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling that cuddles away the sting. But try not to focus too much on the praise you receive. For the purpose of revision, it’s not what you need to focus on.
Sorting through feedback
Once you’ve read through the feedback you’ve received, I find the best thing to do is leave it for a few days and let it stew. You’re going to have a lot to work through. Some good, some bad and some conflicting. You’ll need to take a long hard look and figure out why a character falls flat, or how the plot doesn’t work before you can figure out how to fix it.
It will take some time to figure out which feedback is going to benefit your novel, so make sure that you take it slow.
There are different ways to sort through the feedback, it entirely depends on how you prefer to work. I’m always an advocate for highlighting the different areas of revision needed; plot, character, setting, subplot and antagonist. This way, I can clearly see which areas need more focus and can organise my revisions accordingly.
Lists are another great way to organise the areas you need to work on. You can prioritise what you need to work on first, and jot down ideas on how to implement those changes.
Let me say, that you are in no way required to act upon every single piece of critique that you get from your betas. There is no possible way to make everyone happy. Trying to do so can make your novel even more difficult to fix. Your beta’s job is to point out what they personally believe the weaknesses and strengths of your novel are. Your job, is to figure out which of those will help you make your novel even better.
Next time, I’m going to talk about beta reader etiquette. For you, and for them.
Good thoughts and happy writing!