6 Ways To Organise Your Beta Reader Feedback — Sacha Black

Forget the fountain of youth, no one needs to live forever. I mean, can you imagine the botox bill? and not just for your face… EWW. Moving on.

Beta feedback is a gift from the holy fountain of book perfection. 

For some, it makes them face plant into a vat of sludgey self-loathing and bookpression. But for others it turns their sleep deprived eyes into glinty, sparkling ones accompanied by feverish hand rubbing and villainish cackles.

Your book, if you listen to your beta readers, will be oh so much better. That word-turd you vomited out over months of sleepless nights, will finally become a polished glitter covered book.

But receiving beta feedback can be somewhat overwhelming, especially if like me, you don’t do detail.

I’ve finally managed to get on top of the beta feedback and have almost finished going through it.

This post is dedicated to my amazing beta readers, there are no words to quantify my gratitude.

Here are 6 ways to manage and organise your beta feedback.

There are two types of thinker in the world:

Introverted Thinkers – the ones who can read a ton of information and process it internally, chomping through the material using nothing but the might of the meat machine that is their brain. They can hold all their notes mentally, and quite frankly, make information processing look as easy as breathing. They are processing ballerina’s… Ducks that keep the surface smooth and calm, but on the inside, under the surface, their brain-legs are paddling frantically.

Extroverted Thinkers – Although I’m an introverted person, I am most definitely an extroverted thinker. I am not a duck and I am certainly not a graceful ballerina. Unless by ballerina you mean clumsy, flat-footed elephant.

My living room as I gracefully processed beta feedback

Extroverted thinkers can’t process inside their brains. They have to ‘get it out’. Holding information inside their heads clogs them up with a TV like static. They’re the ones that like to ‘bounce’ ideas around, talk it out, get white board and diagram happy as they whip themselves into a post it frenzy.

Or they do what I did in the photo. Make a god awful mess of their livingroom.

There is always, a lot of feedback. Beta readers invest considerable time and energy into providing quality feedback because they’re invested in your story and in you. They want your story to be the best it can be. Which is why we writers owe it to them to make the most of their feedback. That doesn’t mean you HAVE to bow at their feet and humbly tweak every comma they picked up, after all, it’s your story and only you know how it bleeds commas, but it does mean you have to carefully process and consider each of their thoughtful comments.

Now, introverted thinkers might not find this so useful, in fact, extroverted thinkers might not either, but nonetheless here’s a chuff load ideas for different ways you can organise beta feedback.

How do you manage beta feedback? Let me know in the comments below.


WAY ONE – ALL ABOUT THE DIVAS

If most of your feedback is based on character developments, because little Johnny Tubster is fat with flatness, then you can create a page per character, jot the edits or changes down and reference the chapter the changes are needed in. Or use a short quote to identify the exact spot. This isn’t like plotting or creating a character template/interview. The reason this is handy is because you can see all the changes you intend to make to one character in one place – and if they’re in one place, you can see if the changes you’re going to make are consistent.

Why not note down your character’s arc at the same time, just to make sure they’re fat with depth and not word flab. It doesn’t have to be war and peace you can do it in three short sentences:

Where does he start?Being bullied because he can’t bend over far enough to pull his wedgy out.

What’s his revelation that starts his process of change? The only way to stop being bullied is to lose enough weight to pull the offending wedgy out.

Where does he end? With a bit of weight lost and the ability to remove underwear from his buttcheeks he’s no longer bullied.


WAY TWO – SHIMMY DOWN THE SUB

Subplots are the threads that stitch your novel together, they take it from cloth patches, to patchwork quilt.

But fuck them up, and readers are left confused, or with millions of unanswered questions. More often than not, you think you’ve explained a line of your story, but you haven’t. If you’re anything like me, you know your story and your book world inside out, but sometimes what you think you’ve tattooed into the page, has actually stayed resident inside cell M in sector 9 of your brain.

Subplot Mechanism One – You could create a table with two three columns, a name for your subplot, a one sentence summary of it in the next column and in the last, the edits you need to make and the relevant chapters they’re in. Like this template.

Subplot Mechanism Two – Get a massive piece of paper and use cue cards or Post its to record your subplots and relevant changes

Subplot Mechanism Three – create a timeline on a big bit of paper, and mark up the key points at which your story progresses, like the hook, the twist etc, then in a different colour for each subplot mark on your timeline the edits you need to make.


WAY THREE – I DO LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SCENE SIDE

Depending on whether you prefer to work scene by scene or chapter by chapter, you can note your edits in a table with each chapter broken down. Like this template.


Image curtesy of creative commons

WAY FOUR – SANTA’S NAUGHTY LIST

We all have bad habits, I end up with a crutch word list the length of Britain, but thankfully, I have a smart trick to get rid of them. What the trick fails to do, is capture any duplicated phrases I may have used vomited repeatedly like Groundhog Day. Having a handy list means I can pick them up as I go.


WAY FIVE – READY… SET…WORLD.

Writing fantasy means you like playing god, you create worlds. That means complex societal laws. Rules that can’t be broken, nuances, clothing, powers, ceremonies, jobs, you name it, you need to make sure you’re consistent with it. If you have time bending powers you better make sure your sister doesn’t end up as your mum, or your grandma as your daughter.

Having a sheet that collates any world building or setting faux pas will help you when it comes to ensuring continuity.

Same for plotting the time of day in each chapter.


WAY SIX THE CLUSTER FUCK APPROACH

At last some order and structure is appearing!

Last but by no means least, here’s my approach, that I’ve fondly named, the cluster fuck. In which I sit in the middle of my livingroom, spread shit E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E, thereby irritating my spouse profusely. I then meander around like a wasted toddler sticking brightly coloured shit and things to bits of paper.

Okay, joking aside, I do a bit of all of the above. I start by reading through every single comment the betas made, TWICE. I put a tick by the ones I want to do something with, and then write up by hand (there’s that extroverted thinking again) what I’m going to do. Usually, I will put the edit I am going to make on either ‘a character specific sheet’, a subplot sheet or a general edits page. I also note the chapter, and then I take obscene amounts of pleasure from crossing each post it off once I’ve made the edits.


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via 6 Ways To Organise Your Beta Reader Feedback — Sacha Black

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