Lies Writers Tell Ourselves: My Beta Reader Doesn’t Get It

So you send off your draft to some awesome, kind beta readers, and they send you feedback. Most of it is great, but there are one or two comments that are way off base and show they really missed the boat.

Maybe they’re suggesting a character do something that character would never do. Or urging you to take the book in a direction that’s not at all where you want to go. Maybe their feedback shows a total lack of understanding about the genre. It might even make you wonder if they really read the book.

Pancake

It can be tempting to ignore feedback like that completely. But the fact is, even if they are completely wrong about your book, they still had a reader reaction that prompted them to give you that feedback. Instead of throwing out their ridiculous comment, take a good, hard look at your book.

Why did they have that reaction?

What’s the real problem behind that reaction?

Forget their suggested solution. How would you fix it?

If they’re suggesting out of character actions for a character, maybe that character isn’t developed enough, or needs to be cut, or needs a stronger arc or voice. If they’re urging you to take the book in a direction you don’t want to go, maybe the book needs more conflict, or higher stakes, or a more unique hook. If they show a lack of understanding of the genre, maybe your book could be more accessible to casual readers. If it seems like they didn’t read the book…Well, if they were skimming, they weren’t drawn in. You have work to do.

I know it’s easy for me to read a suggestion and instinctively have a resistant reaction. I want to defend my book. I worked hard on that thing!

But I didn’t send it to my beta readers for validation. (I mean, sure, part of me wants validation. But that’s not the part of me that should be driving when I’m getting ready to revise.) I sent it to them to find out how I could make my book better.

Sometimes, they’re wrong, and the problem is actually something else entirely. But there usually is a problem.

Translation

Other times, they’re right, and I just don’t want them to be right, because the revisions would be a lot of work. In which case, TOO BAD FOR ME. Back to work it is!

These days, I happen to be blessed with awesome beta readers, and the feedback they give me is generally spot on. I am super lucky that way. So sometimes instead of asking “What’s the actual problem?” I instead wind up asking “But should I do even more than they’re suggesting?”

A wise friend of mine recently observed to me that taking constructive criticism is as much a skill as giving it. She was so, so right—and it’s a skill all writers need to learn.

About Melissa Caruso

I'm the author of THE TETHERED MAGE, first in the Swords & Fire trilogy, coming from Orbit Books in October 2017. I write fantasy novels. I love tea, adventure, and the great outdoors. I live in Massachusetts with my husband, two amazing daughters, three cats, and a Labrador. Represented by Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary. View all posts by Melissa Caruso

One response to “Lies Writers Tell Ourselves: My Beta Reader Doesn’t Get It

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: