Now that you have your beta readers’ comments, what do you do with them? It’s important to be able to have flexibility as a writer and not get so attached to your work that it is impossible to change. Writing can always be improved. If you seriously disagree with one beta reader, check their comments against your second beta reader. If both are saying the same thing, you may need to step back and reevaluate your story. Below are just a few examples of easy, moderate and major change requests and how to handle them:
Easy Fix: If they want a change in name. In my original manuscript, I had the hero’s last name as a rather famous Victorian surname; however, I did not have any connection to that family in the story and didn’t intend to have one. To avoid getting sued over accidentally using a surname that was too famous, I selected a name with the same sound and syllables. For more on naming your characters, click here.
Moderate Fix: Motive not believable. Hard to hear, but not too tragic of a fix. My entire plot rested on a lie being motive enough for a broken engagement, but my beta reader didn’t think it was strong enough, so after a brainstorm session with my reader for a possible solution, I then spoke with my second beta reader and asked if they agreed with the edit. They did haha. Remember, the pre-reading and editing session is not about making your story good enough. It’s about making your story great!
Moderate to Major Fix: Character not likable. IF caught in the early stages, this is a moderate fix, but if it isn’t found until the story is “complete,” it’s going to take a lot more re-working. I had this problem in grad school. My main character was supposed to be a confused heroine, but instead, the feedback said she came out to be this whiny little spoiled brat. Not what I was intending, so I basically had to step back and study the story from the reader’s perspective and discovered that she was indeed super whiny. No one wants to read about whiners. Most read to escape whiners. So, I had to re-write all of her dialogue and thoughts until her personality was what I wanted it to be.
Major Fix: Suggested change of overall theme. Sometimes the theme is too subtle or there might be a better theme for your book. The way I solved this problem was by adjusting the subtleness to slightly more obvious (but not hitting the reader over the head obvious because no one likes that) and weaving it deeper into the story, which is a much easier fix than re-writing the theme throughout the entire story.
Make the tough decisions. Whether you keep, edit or delete, keep in mind that you are the author. You can choose to keep your story the way it is. That’ s the beauty of being an author. YOU decide the fate of your characters. Just try not to clutch every word in a death grip. Your beta readers are there to help you and would never give hard advice just to see you crushed. Listen to their counsel, carefully weigh it and decide what’s best for the story…even if it means deleting whole scenes of beautiful dialogue.
Create a White Elephant Graveyard. I keep a “white elephant graveyard” of my deleted work in the hopes that one day, I can resurrect the scene, dialogue or character in a new story. It helps to omit them from my story if I know they are still tucked away in my little white elephant file where I can one day open the file and be surprised at what forgotten treasures I can finally use!
I hope the examples of edits that I’ve had to make in the past help you somehow. The editing process is difficult, but very rewarding when you have that finally “finished” manuscript in your hands, ready to send to your agent.
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