Incorporating Beta Feedback into Your MS

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You slave over your MS and finally beg borrow and steal to get beta readers to take a look at your work. Finally you’re getting somewhere. What do you do after you get your feedback? You have all these notes, both positive and negative, written throughout numerous copies of files and all the processing feels overwhelming.  As a writer, you may feel like you’re starting all over again and question everything on the page. It’s rough trying to weed out the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, let’s devise a plan.

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Find Reoccurring Comments

First things first—read through everything and see what comments are reoccurring. These are issues that need to be addressed first. Make a list of these issues and devise a plan that works well for your story. Listen to the feedback from your betas and think of ways to weave the suggestions into the work so that it appears to have always been there.

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

Hold to a Vision/Concept

Understanding what your story concept is, is so important and it’s what makes your work unique. Sometimes others reading your MS may see it as something other than what you envisioned it to be. That isn’t always bad. Be open to what’s coming off the page to your readers and see how you can tweak your work so that the concept shines through.  You may need to make big changes and be ready to if needed.

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Overall Comments

Read these comments carefully. Information here is huge. The overall likes and dislikes typically are written in these areas of notes. There might not be notes throughout the MS on these topics and the overall impressions are what the beta reader has taken away from your project. These “overall impressions” are what readers will be taking with them up to this point. How do you want reader’s opinions to change when they read it next? Think about it and look at edits in this manner.

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Unique Comments

Some readers will come up with realizations you never did. Listen to if the make sense and how personal experiences can help your story. For example:  One of my beta’s came from a divorced home. This was really important when my main character was dealing with going through his parent’s divorce. The attitudes, thought process and reality needed to be there. Getting firsthand knowledge of this is priceless.

After you’ve looked over the comments, breakdown your edits into these categories:  Story Structure, Characterization, Dialogue, Setting, Action, Stakes and Risk, Writing, and Formatting. Make notes in these areas on how you’ll tackle the issues/comments given by your betas in these areas. Once you’ve compiled the information, make passes through your MS on each topic to strengthen the work. David Farland suggests making passes through a manuscript on key elements during the editing stage. This is a great time to do this.

You may need to adjust from this plan depending on how big the changes are. Maybe you need to add scenes, take out characters, and rework your character arc ect. This is only a skeleton plan to help you sort through the feedback and come up with your own plan of action. I’m sure there’s many ways to utilize feedback. Feel free to post other ways that have worked for you. It’s always nice to learn from others! Happy editing.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Visit Jen’s blog at: http://www.jjbennett.com/

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