Trying To Own My Story After Receiving Beta Reader Feedback #AmWriting #Writing


This week I have mainly been trying to own my story, whilst wading through pages of beta reader feedback.

Over the years I have approached beta reader feedback in a number of different ways.

Please don’t judge me on what you are about to read below, as I am sure other writers out there are guilty of the same crimes:

  • Ignore beta reader feedback. I did this a lot when I first started writing seriously. The gigantic chip on my newbie writer shoulder got in the way.
  • Change my story in accordance with EVERY piece of beta reader feedback. I did this a lot when the people pleaser side of me came out to play. If you want to get yourself caught up in creative knots and struggle to recognise your own story by the end of your drafting phase, I strongly recommend this approach.
  • Apply a nice feedback only filter. I recommend this approach if you want to stay in your comfort zone, waste everyone’s time and get to the end of your draft with only a couple of minor amends.
  • Go against beta reader feedback because you know best, rewrite your entire story and then cry ( a lot) when beta readers send you emails titled, ‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?’

So, with this latest round of beta reader feedback I started working my way through it using the following rules:

  1. Change things which all beta readers pick up on. The big one was the point of view. It needs to be written in first person POV for the humour to work.
  2. Be a big girl and change the things which I have been secretly avoiding, but failed to hide from my beta readers.Β I was too quick to get to the romance. This story is based on two people slowly coming round to the idea of falling in love. When writing the draft I knew I should have had some restraint during the middle section, but I caved and dived straight into the romance. I need to hold back…when I am feeling hot and flustered, whilst writing this tale.
  3. Try to retain ownership of my story.

The third point is tricky and involves listening to my own intuition, which I hate to say isn’t always reliable. I will happily change things which strengthen and improve my story and I no longer avoid or ignore difficult feedback.

However, I am not going to change everything and at the end of the day I have to own my story.

I have changed stories in the past based on every single piece of beta reader feedback and my story at the end has been unrecognisable. If you haven’t had this experience, try it, as reading a version of someone else’s take on your story, is quite frankly heart breaking.

At the end of the day this is my story and I do have to retain some sort of ownership over it.

I have to stand by what I think is right for my story and if things don’t work out then I will learn, the hard way.

How do you approach feedback and do you struggle with ownership of your story?

Keep writing x

Posted by

Still waiting for the Sleepless in Seattle film sequel. Romcom Author. Book Blogger. Mum of teens. Owned by a golden Labrador.

32 thoughts on “Trying To Own My Story After Receiving Beta Reader Feedback #AmWriting #Writing

  1. This is why I always get at least five betas: I can get a sense of what the clear majority are seeing that’s wrong with my manuscript.
    But I also go with my gut. Inevitably, there’s always something in my story that I’m on the fence about. That’s the stuff I leave, almost like a trick, for my betas to find. If even one does, I fix it. If none do, I feel like I’ve gotten away with it enough to publish it. πŸ˜€

  2. Finding good beta readers is key here, but my initial response is to crawl away, hoping to die unpublished. I mean, it was hard enough to finish the first draft and we really don’t want to touch it again, do we? I am joking BTW, I think…

    1. Oh I agree… crawling away and giving up are definitely options. Try it for a day or two, then you should feel ready to tackle the problems…. as someone said earlier, with your own solutions.

  3. I totally get what you mean Lucy!!!
    But I think you’re right. You need to keep a hold of your story, but be able to see where the majority find a hole, and fill it!!!

  4. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    Interesting thoughts here. I think I’d just change the things which most or all of the beta readers pick up on. I once had conflicting advice regarding my book ‘Revenge’. One beta reader wanted me to change the ending, so I did. The next beta reader didn’t like the new ending and wanted me to change it. I ended up changing the ending about 4 times trying to please everybody, but came to the conclusion that you cannot please all the people all the time.

  5. This is a great post. It is so easy to react the wrong way to beta feedback, from ignoring advice, to responding to all of it. You capture this perfectly here. ❀

  6. I read something by Neil Gaiman that made sense to me. If a beta reader spots a problem or feels like something doesn’t work I listen; of they suggest a solution I ignore them. Something like that. The reader may be wrong but think about what they are saying and see if you agree. However they’ve read your book once so they don’t know why. Only you know it well enough to see where there concern comes from. That’s where you go with your instinct.

  7. Love this! It can be very anxious how to respond meaningfully to beta feedback because they are part of your audience too. Constructive feedback can truly make or break a story because the first draft is never going to be perfect. I find beta feedback really useful if:
    1. It helps motivate me to revise errors and recognise where changes NEED to be made to improve the story – what specific flaws that multiple readers think the first draft has.
    2. It gives me a new perspective from first-time readers of where the story falls short & is clunky/dull/confusing.
    3. It tells me what already works well in the story & what I should keep doing to keep the reader engaged.
    Also if the external feedback from multiple beta readers matches your gut instinct that something just doesn’t work in the story, then it’s worth changing. Ultimately it’s YOUR story & you won’t please everyone who reads it. Keep up the writing. Great post! ❀

  8. All great points. I also get at least five betas so if there is something on which they are all in agreement, I fix it ASAP. The rest of the comments I divide into nit-picky, maybe serious and serious issues. The nit-picky ones I for the most part ignore unless I see the point, the other two I take some time to consider. If the issue affects the voice, then I probably won’t consider it. Remember, this is your book and you can take or leave what you wish, but a lot of time the advice is not only well-meant but sound.

  9. Great post. I really appreciate the input from my beta readers, but sometimes my initial response to a comment is “No!” On those occasions I find it helps to put the MS on one side and then come back a few days or weeks later having had a bit of a think. One of my betas is particularly good at pointing out a weakness in a story and explaining to me why something doesn’t work for her, and I always welcome her constructive criticism. I wonder if perhaps it’s not simply what a beta is saying, but how they’re saying it that’s important. Or has this reply done no more than tell everyone that my fragile ego requires gentle handling? πŸ™‚

  10. Own it, lovely! Spot on with trying to please everyone (all having different opinions) and listening if more than one or two people have an issue with the same thing. OH, also the ‘nice feedback filter’. Bah! Excellent post.

  11. When I first started using beta readers I was guilty of taking everyone’s ideas into account and trying to fix the story like it was a quilt, which after all the little fixes here and there became more of a patchwork quilt! In the end I had to start all over again (same characters, different motivations) and trust that I had done the right thing. Even after publishing the book, I still have moments of uncertainty. I guess that never really ends when you care about your work.

  12. I didn’t use beta readers on my first novel. A good friend of mine was/is an extremely talented editor so I hired her.

    Before we started I wrote down bullet points on things that would not be touched. These points were the foundation of the story and in no way would they be removed.

    I added that by all means they could be improved upon but not removed. She had to agree with all of the points before we started.

    This helped her a lot. It allowed her to see what I was trying to do and most of all what could not be touched.

    I am beta reading right now. I have learned to turn off the switch and not allow myself to suggest things my author mind wants to do. It’s hard but necessary. The beta reader has to respect the author otherwise they cannot do it.

    This was a fascinating read. I am really happy you did this.

  13. Great tips!

    I have something that I like to call my rule-of-thirds. 1/3rd of beta feedback is copy edit/easy fixes, 1/3rd is them Not Getting My Story (but I need to be honest with myself if there’s a reason why), and 1/3rd is the hard stuff. The things I THOUGHT I fixed, but really just painted over and hoped for the best.

    And when I do have a lot of feedback I agree with? I go back over the chapter after I put in the changes and I smooth it out and make sure it’s in MY voice, not theirs.

  14. I am in the process of looking for beta readers. My first reader hated my characters so much he hoped they would all just die. Sigh. Fortunately, I’ve had a wide range of reactions in the various writing groups I belong to, so I’m waiting for more feedback before dying myself! As you can imagine, this article came a timely juncture for me! Thanks for the reality check.

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