6 Ways To Organise Your Beta Reader Feedback

beta-feedbackForget 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

My livingroom 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

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!

At last, out of chaos comes order and structure!

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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60 comments

    1. Ahh thanks Shelley, I wasn’t sure I liked this post so that’s reassuring to hear ? fingers crossed I can get through them, feels like such a LONG road to climb still. Just keep swimming ?

  1. I love all your terms an direct way of putting things… Word turd is a new one i need to remember. I bet you loved sticking coloured shit to everything!

  2. Omg, I’m not a writer but this is awesome! And it’s fab that you take your beta readers so seriously in the first place. I’ve encountered a few authors who would just discard most of the feedback. No point in having betas anyways then right? Again, love this post! ?

    1. Haha ahh that’s so lovely thank you I’m glad you liked it, especially because you’re not a writer ?? yes I have met a few people like that too, the sad things is they don’t grow and develop without feedback. Thanks for stopping in

      1. OH, w00t, you’re welcome! 😀 And that’s definitely true. You just can’t look at your own work as objectively as an outsider can! Heck, you can’t look at it objectively at all no doubt 😀

        1. Well, I dunno. A bit of time away from it, and I am crucifying it! I have hacked 6 chapters and killed one of my darlings and that won’t be the end of the edits. But you’re right…. we never really look at it objectively, how can we? It’s our baby!

  3. I will be getting my beta reader’s feedback soon, it’s a nervous wait!
    I usually just work through the edits page by page and write those that need more work into a notebook to sort out later. Then again I’ve only ever had two lots of feedback at a time, so it isn’t that hard to keep track of where I’m going.
    I really like your method of working on different aspects of the book. Maybe this will help me deal with my edits in a more focused way.

    1. Just remember that they have your stories best interests at heart. It was nerve wracking but I actually never had a negative moment during it. They were all so constructive and that was an amazing gift. I had four at once, haha, so I definitely think that’s why I got a bit overwhelmed! I hope the method helps.

  4. I’ve done beta feedback in two different ways.

    For one method, I do beta feedback in like a ‘rolling’ process. So I send out the first copy to the first reader. I get their feedback, make any amendments, and then send that version out to the next one. That way, I get to manage the amount of incoming feedback BUT I run the risk of taking something out that 90% of people might have liked.

    For the main method (that I usually use) I send it out for 4 people at once. Then I read through all of their comments. I note any common themes and put those in a separate Word document. I work on those first if I agree with the feedback. Then I go through what’s left one by one and make any edits if I feel it’s necessary (so if three people all love a scene and 1 hates it, I go with majority rules)

    It takes a while to find a good system!

    1. LOVE that idea. I’d never have thought of that. I might have to try it, but I think I would freak out a bit about taking something out that might be good. I do love the concept though. I suspect I will keep tweaking my system for a while. One thing I do know, is that I have to think with my hands.

    1. Do you know, I don’t think I had a negative moment during it. I just knew that I trusted you all implicitly, and that you all had my stories best interests at heart. We shared the same goal and that is a beautiful thing. I can’t even begin to tell you how humble and happy I feel. It’s going to be SO different. There are so many tweaks I am going to do, and I have missed a few tropes too that I need to tweak in for the edits. Anyway, basically I feel indebted to you all, and I think you’re all amazing.

  5. How do you find Beta readers when you are a combat vet with PTSD who is a dedicated introvert that enjoys living alone who can count his close friends on one hand and still have fingers left over? It’s so much easier being an introvert. It’s hard work and takes a lot of time to be an extrovert with egg-cartons full of friends.

    1. Well. I’m not an extrovert. I’m well and truly an introvert. I just think in an extroverted way. It’s VERY different. I think aloud – which is what the extroversion means. BUT Put me in a room full of new people and I’ll either run away screaming or rock myself silently in the corner till people think I’m weird enough they leave a wide berth.

      Seriously. I get panic attacks. I don’t do new people, I don’t go to work socials or Christmas do’s. I hate socialising because everyone thinks I’m weird because all I talk about are words and the latest word related vomit I threw out.

      So yeah. I feel u.

      But as for where I found them… I found my betas through blogging. It’s easy when u hide behind a screen…

      1. I suspect you have an e-mail list. I haven’t graduated that far yet. I know I have to do it if I’m going to develop a list of loyal readers, but I’ve been dragging my introverted feet in the muck to slow me down.

        I keep hoping the fact that my blogs have regular traffic and thousands of followers, that will be enough and I can avoid creating and building that e-mail list for a newsletter, a newsletter I’m not sure I even want to write. Isn’t it enough to have four blogs with thousands of posts on them that attract more than a thousand visitors weekly?

        1. I do have a list, yup. I know you’re dragging your heels, but it really is the best marketing tool…… FOUR blogs? man, I struggle to keep up with just this one, you’re a machine!

  6. Haha… love the way you redecorated! Wait, you mean that’s not the latest in new colorful designer rugs??? ?

    My technique is far more straight forward… first I make list of everything which more than 1 beta reader picked up on, its got to be major if several people spotted it, right? Thats my priority. After that I just work through each beta report individually. Nothing colourful or glittery about my method, sadly, but it works for me.

    Also, I’m very introverted, but need to write everything down to make it stick in my brain. I never knew an introvert could have extrovert anything! You live and learn…

  7. Yeesh. That was complicated. Ha ha. You extroverted thinker you. Good for you for getting beta readers. The feedback is never a waste, and your book will be far stronger! I make a list of everything I need to address. I use my list to attack chapter one, chapter two, etc. (very linear since that’s how stories happen). Some things are a tweak for a single chapter (or more) and I cross them off when done. Some required going through the entire book.

    1. haha, yes, possibly a smidge too complex, I don’t really know how I ended up doing it that way, it just happened! I completely agree – I can already see how much stronger my book will be because of their feedback, it makes me feel so humble and grateful to know the efforts they went to. It’s the ones that require edits through the whole book that screw me over – especially because I like to go linearly.

    1. It will be most different. Your eye for detail is ridiculous and super helpful, I honestly cannot quantify my gratitude. The romance however, is totally staying! It’s a genre thing
      :p :p :p <3 <3 <3

  8. The very best of luck with all the edits you’re now faced with. However, great to see that none of this has brought you down. Some people get really upset with any negative feedback, whereas we should all learn from it.

  9. Day-late/dollar-short, as always, but this is indispensable info. Now, I need to find beta reads who provide more feedback than a) Yeah, it’s good or b) I don’t get it, who’s the good guy, again?

    Thanks, again and again, Sis.

    1. So glad you like it 😀 always makes me smile to know I’ve helped someone. haha, yeah you definitely need to find some betas cause that feedback is not what you need.

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