This is the final part of an ongoing series about the beta reading process. To read the previous entries, visit Part I and Part II.
All right. You’ve wrapped up the beta reading process, and depending on the number of beta readers you had, you might have a lot of data to pore over. It can overwhelming, particularly if there is a lot of constructive comments. Heck, it might also have you seeing red because your manuscript is your special baby. That is why you, dear writer, need to take a deep breath and step back. Sure, browse the comments, read all of them from each beta reader, but don’t act on them, at least not yet.
Instead, mull over them, analyze them, and, most importantly, compare each reader’s comments. Are there similar threads or comments that crop up? If yes, that is akin to beta process pay dirt because if more than one is saying the same thing, there is something there. This is the information that you want to prioritize and correct before moving on to the nitpicks (aka changes you might never make). In my instance, most of my beta readers voiced dissent about an event toward the end of my book that I, too, had doubts about. To have their confirmation that this event just didn’t work gave me the kick in the arse to address it and come up with a believable solution to achieve the same result.
If multiple readers are commenting on something but you are still unsure how to address the issue, get some backup! Writer friends and writing groups are invaluable when it comes to analyzing data and finding fixes. Bouncing ideas back and forth just might uncover what you are looking for.
Once these issues are dealt with, the task gets a smidgen harder. Some comments will instantly click in your head as being accurate while others you will know don’t work within your story. However, don’t flatly reject anything — revisit them after you’ve stepped back and an addressed the “sure” things as it were. I’ve flat out rejected comments only to keep thinking back to them and ultimately realizing they held grains of truth. Once again, having someone to bounce ideas back and forth with is invaluable when tackling these comments.
With that said, there will be comments that should be tossed out. In my time using beta readers or attending critique groups, I’ve received some really out their comments. As an example, I had one reader bemoaning that when she searched for “infantile paralysis” she only turned up information diabetes. I had to scratch my head at that since the term was used as early as 1843 in regards to polio, which the character had as a child. She was the only one confused and I had history to back me up, so I threw out that particular critique.
Ultimately, your manuscript is just that: yours. Consider all of the feedback your readers give you and settle on the changes that best suit your book. While the beta reading process can be arduous, take time to also enjoy it. A good beta reader will also tell you what you are doing right, which can be very rewarding. A beta reader, after all, will be one of the first people to interact with your book as is intended: to read it and react to it.