How and When to Reject A Comment from a Beta Reader

I received my second critique from my second beta reader, and once again I got so much meaningful advice and suggestions that I know my novel will be stronger now thanks to her.  She pointed out a huge character flaw in one of my scenes, so I’ve spent some time now mending that patch.  While kind of a pain to do – seeing as though I have to edit, again, and make sure that any emotion and relationships changed during this scene continue throughout the novel – it’s a challenge worth pursuing.  It’s coming along okay, but I will have to work at it a bit more before it’s ready for the next beta reader.

That being said, there were also a few comments the beta reader made that I wasn’t so keen on.  Not very many, but a few that made me think, Did they even read the story?  I tried at times to figure out where they were lost or confused in a scene, and at times I concluded that I didn’t need to change anything.  Why?  Mainly because my first beta reader pointed out some things, but my second beta reader made comments on things my firsts beta reader never considered.  Some of them had merit, but others I wasn’t so sure about.  I figured that, while I appreciate feedback immensely and heeded many of her comments, I decided that some of my original work was better left unedited, mainly since they weren’t caught by the first beta reader.  I still have several more beta readers to run the story by, so I’ll see what they say about the same parts.  If they get just as confused as her in the same scenes, then I know for sure I need to change something.  If not, I can likely leave these parts in and not worry to much about future readers.

So, how did I decide to not edit a comment suggested by a beta reader?  I asked myself several questions.

Did I make the point clear/clear enough?  This is usually the first thing to do.  If a point needs emphasizing, don’t be afraid to reiterate it a bit, particularly so if it’s an important point in the novel.  I’ve had to do this a couple times, and it’s not really a problem – sometimes it only takes one extra mention of some event or person to drive the point home.  If you feel you have made the point clear enough, leave it for the next beta reader.

Is the beta reader the target audience of this novel?  This may seem like an odd question, but there are some beta readers who read ‘all genres’, which of course is fine and they’re still going to give you sound feedback.  But if you’re writing, say, a crime novel, then while the beta reader will read the story, they may not be as well versed in a crime novel’s theme or lingo as a dedicated crime novel enthusiast.  If the comment is in regards to a passage where you are certain a crime novel lover will understand what is happening, then it’s probably okay to leave it.

What is the time between comments?  Most beta readers use track changes, which is a really handy tool (I’ve used it for my job many times).  And most beta readers are pretty good at response times, generally within 1-2 weeks.  This beta reader took a bit longer, around one month, which (to me, anyway) is a long time to be reading one novel, but I understand things come up in life and priorities need to be set.  It helps to know on which days the comments were made, and what time may have passed in between them, in order to gauge the pace that information and exposition are delivered in the novel.  If needed, certain points may need to be reiterated several times during the novel.  This may seem redundant, but it could help readers who take breaks remember the key points of the novel.  As for fast readers, it’s a bit repetitive but not a big offense.

Get a second opinion.  I am fortunate enough to have a husband who reads and critiques my stories.  If I ever had any feedback I wasn’t sure about, I asked him.  He helped make sense of some comments that were confusing to me in a way only a reader can.  If you have someone like this, use them.

Last, don’t be afraid to ask your beta reader to clarify a comment they made.  This is usually part of their job, and many will offer this when they return the novel to you.

Overall, it’s okay to disagree with beta readers on certain points, but it’s also important to realize why the comment was made in the first place.  Even small changes can make a big difference in your story’s perception in the eyes of a reader.

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