Monday, October 11, 2010

When Your Beta Readers' Opinions Just Don't Mesh


Beta readers are an essential part of the writing process. But what do you do when one of your five critiques comes back so entirely different than the others that you find yourself worrying whether your manuscript is even viable?

I posed this question to some author friends of mine and they all had remarkable similar answers.  You toss it aside and chalk it up to personal opinion.  I thought about this, wondered if by not making certain drastic “changes” I was being lazy or overly sensitive.  Then I remembered the sage advice Jessica gave me when I got the first few editor opinions of Cedar.  I wanted to revise; she told me absolutely not.  Unless more then one editor came back with the same suggestions, you didn’t touch it. 

There is a fine line between personal opinion and recognizable flaws in your manuscript.  The problem for us writers is trying to figure out where that is.  I now us a spread sheet to categorize my beta reader’s comments and suggestions; it helps me filter through their opinions and narrow down which ones truly need to be addressed. 

How do you handle varying opinions? Do you make every suggested revision?  Do you go back to your other beta readers and solicit their advice? Or are you so comfortable with your manuscript that you just know what feels right.
           

8 comments:

  1. I've heard the "rule of three" and I often use it. If you get three people telling you the same basic thing, you need to change it/work on it. If it's just one, you have to decide how much you value their opinion, and if it stays in line with your goal/thoughts on your mss, and ultimately how you feel in your "gut." If it feels essentially right, no matter how overwhelming, I say you at least try it. If it just feels totally wrong, you set it aside.

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  2. Well, I agree with Sara. If at least three of your betas suggested the same thing, then it might warrant looking at. I hope all goes well for you.

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  3. I agree, but I'm partial LOL. YOu can ALWAYS ask for more detailed questions about those concerns, which I do with my betas when I have tried to decide on things. It is hard, but ultimately you know your vision and you have to stick with that. Don't go adding any unicorns, Trisha. LOL

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  4. This one is always tough. With my most recent ms, I thought my first few betas picked out the main issues, which I cleaned up. Then, my later betas picked out stuff that had me rewriting the first chapter altogether. Then one beta didn't find the one character that all the others loved, interesting. It really threw me for a loop. It makes you wonder if you should stay true to the story or follow what betas tell you.
    I like the advice Jessica gave you. Makes sense. Everyone will have a different opinion. I think some betas have a hard time keeping their personal preference out of the way when critiquing a story.

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  5. I agree with what everyone has said here. If more than one beta makes a comment on the exact same issue in you MS, then it's definitely worth a second look. But, if you get some left handed comment about re-writing your entire manuscript out of the blue, then I'd say pass it off. ;) Or, just ask me. LOL

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  6. Yup...just hold off on making huge, sweeping changes. Sometimes a beta tester will say something radically different that clicks, works for you. In those cases where you can just tell it's the right move, I say go for it. If you don't agree and are lacking that spark (and a consensus from other testers) I say leave it alone:)

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  7. I'm open to suggestion but also have to stay true to my story so depending on how far off the opinion is or random comments are, I would probably just set them aside and go with what makes sense to you. If you have other trusted betas that have critiqued and all make sense use them.

    Sometimes people don't always understand the plot or storyline that you could be going for or want to see it another way -- personal opinion. Just stay true to you and I am sure it will be fabulous.

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