Editing Tip #100 – When to Take a (BETA) Reader’s Advice

We all know the importance of feedback when it comes to editing, revising, and re-writing our books and stories… it’s crucial.

But how do you know which advice to take and which advice to leave?

It’s not as difficult as you might think. Bottom line, the more feedback you get the easier it is to decide.

finger book markThere are two ways to look at feedback in the editing stages:

  1. This person wouldn’t have mentioned “it” if it wasn’t important (to them).
  2. These people all commented on the same “thing”, so I guess it strikes a chord.

Let’s take a closer look at #1…

If you have only one or a very few Beta Readers, you won’t necessarily have the luxury of dealing with point #2. In that case, you need to look at WHY your reader is giving you this feedback. At it’s core, what is the problem – what aren’t they getting? Then, you need to ignore their suggestion for how to fix it or to cut it or whatever and you need to ask yourself, “How can I make my intent clearer?

That’s it.

Now, the advice you’ve been given might be fantastic for helping answer the above question, but I often found that an early reader misunderstood what I was trying to do/say and their suggestion just didn’t make sense to me. I mean, they did read the story right? Well, what they got out of it was not what I intended and that told me I had some ‘splainin’ ta do (Lucy). So I worked backwards to the point where they got off track and took a critical look at how I had set up the scene, worded things and continued to work out the kinks to clarify my intent and give the next reader a better chance at ‘getting it’.

Now for a look at #2…

Even if you absolutely LOVE something you’ve written, if 6 out of 8 of your Beta Readers all comment on how it ‘just doesn’t work’ for some reason – listen to them.

Now, they may not be writers; they may not know what’s going to happen in the sequel; they may have even missed something early on in the book that helped illuminate the necessity for that “thing” they don’t like… but the point is, 75% of people reading your book didn’t get it. So you need to fix it.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore what your readers are saying – the feedback they’re giving. You asked for their honest opinion, you obviously hold them in a high enough regard to want to hear their opinion, so give them the benefit of the doubt and see if there’s a way to clarify things.

But whatever you do, don’t blindly trust any one person unless they’re your editor… and even then, ask questions.

Happy Editing!

Categories: Editing

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