Tag Archives: Feedback

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.


January Contest Crit Giveaway: Query or First 250

While I got my agent through querying, contests were critical along the way. Contests helped me hone my query and first 250, introduced me to other writers who gave me great feedback and encouragement, and pointed me to all kinds of fantastic online resources. In 2015, I want to give back to the writing community that helped me so much, and one way I’m going to do that is offering feedback to help other writers entering contests!

Thus, for my first contest crit giveaway, I’m offering the following to anyone thinking of entering Sun vs. Snow*:

Comment with your query OR your first 250 (not both), and I will tell you the ONE thing I think would most improve it!

Why only one? Left to my own devices, I tend to give overly lengthy feedback, which is both time consuming for me and potentially overwhelming for the recipient. By limiting myself to picking the one most important thing, I ensure I can respond to (and help) more people, and also protect your sanity. 😉

This offer is for the first 10 comments. If I get more than 10 entrants, I have to stop there. Only so much time in the day!

If you want to offer other people feedback, please do comment on their entries. Just make sure to be supportive even when delivering suggestions. If someone comments on yours, make sure to return a crit for theirs!

Good luck to everyone entering Sun vs. Snow! Learn lots and have fun!

(* If you aren’t familiar with Sun vs. Snow, it’s a great, fun contest for unagented writers seeking an agent for their polished manuscript. If you’re querying, you should think about entering!)

[UPDATE: I’ve got all 10 slots filled now! Thanks to those who posted for their bravery. I may do another crit giveaway next month, so stay tuned!]