Three of my
four beta readers have reported back and their comments have disappointed me.
trouble staying engaged and the third didn’t understand the
purpose of a crucial scene. None of them liked the protagonist, a first person
frustration I feel with negative feedback, I understand the important role beta
readers play. Giving work to readers with distance from the piece and from me
is a crucial part of the revision process.
So what do we
do when their response is mostly frowns?
I have an
initial response which sounds more like a petulant child (“They
just don’t understand.”) but I swiftly push that aside. It
took a while to take it less personally.
questions about my beta readers to put their comments in perspective. Once I’ve
done that, I can revise the work using the beta reader criticism as a starting
the target audience for this book and are my beta readers in it?
audience for After December is women in their thirties and forties, generation
X, or book-club, soccer-mom types. My beta readers were two college-aged women
and two grandmother-aged women. So not the ideal readers. That said, the
millennials are the age of the protagonist so they may have at least related
with his primary conflict. And they did.
does the protagonist want and did the beta readers recognize that?
had trouble with this question all along. Only one of the beta readers
there common complaints about the work?
disliked the main character.
specific scenes or relationships were mentioned?
One failed to
understand a pivotal scene in the book. Others mentioned scenes where the story
dragged. One had concerns about the supporting characters and their
parts did the beta readers like?
readers said the characters were relatable. The older ones liked the conflict
with his parents. They all loved the prose.
Armed with an
analysis of my readers’feedback, I approach this revision
like a surgeon:
I know I need
to make the protagonist more likable. I should develop personality traits like
I know a
particular scene’s gravity needs to be better. Think of
this like a film director: is the camera angle changing the meaning of the
scene? If so, shoot from another angle.
I know I need
to take a look at the supporting characters and define their desires better. I’ll
need a tool of some kind like a chart or a table to sort those competing
just needed some space. Some time away from the work, to forget what my
intentions were so that I can see if for what it really is. Looking at it
through the lens of beta readers helps, too.
excited to polish it even more. How have beta readers help you gain perspective
on your work?