So I made one post and then I realized that it was actually closer to being about how I approach edits and not necessarily how I deal with my beta readers. That version’s gone to the big draftbin until I decide to do an editing post. But for now, here’s the–I think–final beta post, take two!
Sorry for the late Twin Thursday! My ankle had a minor disagreement with the curb a few days ago. The curb won. But I’m on the mend and getting back on track! For today’s post with Rachel of Chicken-Scratch Plot, we’re looking at what to do once your feedback has come in.
- Listen. We’ve said a lot about setting up the relationship with your beta, establishing expectations, keeping them to a schedule. But the flipside of that is that your beta reader deserves your respect right back. They’re giving you their honest feedback. They’re donating their time and attention to your project. Now that their share of the work is done, return the courtesy by listening to what they have to say. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with all of their suggestions, the last thing you want is for your reader to feel like they’ve wasted their time. Take their advice to heart and give it serious consideration.
- Ask questions. If you aren’t sure what a beta is trying to say, ask them to expand on it. Odds are, it’s perfectly clear to them but just somehow got lost in translation. Take the time to ask questions and clear up anything that you’re hazy about. Also ask about the story as a whole, their experience reading it, if anything was particularly memorable. Opening a channel of dialogue leaves a pathway for your beta to expand on things they may not have thought of upon first reading. This isn’t just for your benefit; it also keeps the beta engaged and shows that their work is appreciated.
- Assume they’re acting in good faith. Especially when you’re dealing with a written medium, it’s easy for things to come across the wrong way. We’re a largely non-verbal society. Body language and tone of voice often says more than the words themselves. If a comment comes across abrasive, assume at first that it’s just poorly phrased and ask the beta to clarify what they meant.
- Keep an open mind. Your beta doesn’t know the story like you do. For even the most diligent beta reader or your closest critique partner, your manuscript isn’t their baby the way that it’s yours. Yes, that means that they aren’t as familiar with the minutiae as you are, but it also means that your beta is uniquely situated to look for solutions that wouldn’t be readily available to you. But you can’t hear those solutions if you dismiss comments out of hand.
- Thank, thank, thank! Remember, they did a big favor for you! If they’re writers, too, you may offer to return the gesture one day. If they’re not, find another way to show your appreciation, no matter how small it may be. Ending the relationship well leaves the door open to maybe work together on another project or to create a lasting friendship. A good number of my closest friends and I got started in exactly this way.