What I Do With Beta Reader Feedback


After I have taken a pass through my first draft, I enlist 2-4 beta readers, people I know who are willing to read my work and give me feedback. Gwen Stephens inspired this post by asking me how I process  my betas’ feedback after she graciously agreed to be my beta and provided phenomenally useful comments.

1) I read through all the comments from every beta. This allows me to see patterns and make a list of common issues to address.

If everyone is having trouble with my fantasy world terminology–then I know I need to slow down and explain it better and include a glossary of terms.

2) I tackle the easiest first.

My betas either give me big picture comments or track changes comments in the manuscript. I will go through what I think are the easiest fixes first.

3) If I am confused by a comment or unsure what to do, I flag it for follow up later.

I’ll email a beta if I don’t understand what they are looking for. If I don’t agree, I flag it and revisit it later. You’ll be amazed how much more sense a comment will make a week or two later.

4) I secretly write back to beta comments I don’t agree with.

It’s ridiculous and silly, but I need to know why I am so set against it. And 95% of the time, the beta is right. So I have to argue with their comment on the page so I can reach that place where I see their point. I never ever argue with a beta in reality. They took the time to give me their feedback, it’s up to me to process it on my own.

5) Sometimes, the comments I am most opposed to are the ones that require the most work and re-envisioning of my story. Sometimes, they just don’t fit what I’m going for. 

It takes a while to separate those two types of comments. The former need to be addressed, the later need to be considered and have a well-reasoned argument to dismiss them.

6) I’m always surprised by how much of the story remained in my head and never made it onto the page.

I’ll read comments and say, but that is there and then realize nope, it’s there in mind but I never made it clear on the page.  For me, that is the greatest strength of a beta. They don’t have access to what is in my head so they can only tell me their reactions to what I’ve actually written. Since what I’ve written was created in my mind, the words trigger so much more for me than they do for others.

7) Sometimes weeks later, a beta comment will click and I’ll make another change.

It’s weird how long it can take for something to sink through my thick skull. If I can’t see it, I don’t make the change. But sometimes weeks pass and suddenly the light bulb goes off and of course I need to do that and now I know exactly how.

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