Happy Monday! Sunshine and low 80′s here after rain over the weekend.
Several of my recent posts have dealt with Beta Reads. Now that I’ve been on both sides of that fence, I can tell you it’s not an easy one to straddle.
The number one thing a writer wants from a beta reader is honesty. It is essential, or the process won’t work. But that doesn’t mean when you get the feedback from a beta reader it doesn’t sting a bit to see all of their comments on what you thought was your finished, polished product. Thank goodness no one has requested a full…yet!
What do you do? You go back to your manuscript with the beta reader’s comments and make the adjustments that feel right to you. If something doesn’t resonate, you don’t have to change it. After all, it is your manuscript and you have the final say. I ran into that with query feedback. I found I was trying to change my query based on everyone’s feedback and what I got was a query without my authentic voice. I had to start all over because the author’s voice is a crucial element of the query. It was a good lesson to learn because it holds true with a manuscript as well.
On the other side of receiving beta feedback is giving beta feedback. I beta read a book for someone in my critique group over the weekend. She writes beautifully and is probably the most lyrical writer of our entire group. I found a few little things here and there, but overall it was a good, smooth read which is always the author’s objective. It was easy to give her feedback because I thought her book was agent-ready with only a few minor tweaks, even though it wasn’t in a genre I normally read or a book I’d typically buy.
But what if I’d hated her book? How would I have handled it then? As I said earlier, honesty is essential. When something (a book, a chapter, a query) is poorly written or doesn’t make sense the author has to be told. Personally, I’d prefer the feedback not be sugar coated, because that sends a mixed message. The rule of feedback is to start with something you like, hit the problem areas, and then end with something good. The logic of that is obvious.
The most motivating feedback I ever got was from a lady with whom I’d exchanged a few chapters to see if we’d make good online writing partners. She basically ripped me a new one. She was gracious but direct. She said she could tell I was a good writer and that I was great with dialogue. However, she thought I needed to start over with a rewrite—for a number of reasons, each of which she pointed out. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear. In retrospect, I think others had tried to tell me the same thing, but sugarcoated it to the point I didn’t get the message. After her feedback, I enrolled in the online revisions class and did a complete overhaul of the book. I cut the first three chapters, which was like cutting off my arm. She’d pointed out these chapters were pretty much all backstory, and in my heart of hearts I knew they had to go so . . . delete. In the end, I liked it better. It was better.
She apologized for her bluntness, but I appreciated it. Her assessment was on the money. No one wants to start over when they’ve already put so much time into it, but it was exactly what I needed to do. So, good for her for being so direct, though I could tell it pained her to do so. She showed me the toughest feedback could be presented in a kind and respectful way. As difficult as it is to be on the receiving end of a hard-hitting appraisal, I suspect, as a writer, it’s easier to receive harsh feedback than to give it. (Reviewers–a different post at a different time.)
When you give feedback do you sugarcoat it or are you direct? Which would you rather receive?