Sometimes we have to admit our beta readers are right. They know more about our draft than we do. Accepting this can be tricky.
- Denial. You are up to your eyeballs in writer denial. Beta-reader feedback on your draft novel suggests you still have a lot of work to do. Your writer denial levels are soaring! ‘Oh my goodness that is not true!’ you cry out from the laptop, after glancing through all the comments. Even though your beta-readers did their utmost to be constructive, giving you strengths and weaknesses, it’s the weaknesses you home in on. Loved ones listen to you shrieking from Writing Corner ‘good grief there is NOTHING wrong with my plot!’ and ‘I do NOT have characters that need developing further!’ You share the feedback with your loved one who, diplomatically, tries to get you to view the feedback as valuable and helpful. This immediately causes marital tension and you remind them about where their loyalties should lie. It feels like the entire world is against you. No one loves your beloved draft novel in the same way that you do.
- Tantrum. This is my favourite stage – all your literary toys are chucked out of the pram and it is writer tantrum time! By the way this stage can drag on for many months. Cue lots of emotion, door slamming, sarcasm and weeping sessions. During this turbulent time you will tell yourself that it is pointless getting feedback on drafts and you look for excuses to avoid your manuscript. Expect a couple of ‘I quit!’ moments during this stage but don’t expect a rush from loved ones to stop you. By this point they will have had quite enough of your outbursts.
- Passing of time. The trick to accepting that your beta-readers were actually talking sense is to leave your manuscript alone for a period of time. I don’t mean days! I am talking weeks or even months. The secret to this is that….time changes your perspective and makes you lose all that hot tearful emotion. During this stage you will find yourself getting involved with other writing projects, avoiding your manuscript like the plague and secretly still of the opinion that your reviewer feedback was wrong.
- Realisation. After a significant amount of time has passed you will return to your manuscript and start to read. By the end of the first chapter you will hear a little voice whisper ‘those beta-readers might have had a point!’ and ‘OMG this character is actually lifeless!’ This is a tough stage for any writer. After spending the last eight months slating and criticising the feedback process the literary penny finally drops! Your reviewers had a point! They knew what they were talking about. Their feedback was correct! Not just that it was actually really good. Cue your sharp intake of breath and a grip of the writing desk. It’s at this stage, whilst the blood is draining from your face in shock, that your mind starts to play the ‘what if?’ game. What if you had not wasted eight months of your literary life and sucked up the negative feedback? Just think where you might be now?
- Acceptance. After a little nap you return to your writing chair and ponder that valuable reviewer feedback, you received some months ago. You may even get it out of your writing folder and start to happily apply their suggested changes. It is at this point you smile. The smile is very significant, because up until now you will have looked like a bulldog chewing a wasp every time you thought about your reviewer feedback. This change in facial expression means that you have accepted that your reviewers were right and you were wrong – sigh! Its only taken you eight months to swallow this one! Quickly you add the names of your beta-readers to your Xmas card list and lovingly stroke their Twitter profile photos.
Take care out there writers – it’s not easy dealing with people who are right!
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48220147@N07/8242703764″>Impeding Tone</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>