Whether we’ve just uploaded a new chapter to our Inkitt account, given our manuscript to a friend to read, or sent our book off to the editor, we’re now in a position to receive feedback. It’s a vulnerable time for us artist types. We’ve put our heart and soul into our words, and opened ourselves up to have that heart broken, or at least wounded by someone else’s opinion, someone who doesn’t understand our story the way we do, someone who hasn’t invested the sweat equity we have. So, why do we need their feedback anyway? Aside from wanting our book to be the best it can be, and our desire to continuously improve our skills, here are some compelling reasons to solicit feedback for our manuscripts:
Readers aren’t reacting to things the way we intended.
This is really good to hear before our final draft is, well, final. What if you’ve written a dashing hero and your readers think he’s a jerk? That actually happened to me with the early draft of my first novel. I loved my main male character. He was born straight out of my happy imagination! Who wouldn’t love him? Turns out, about half my beta readers. They responded to him in a way I didn’t intend, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to fix him before my book was published.
We think it all makes sense, but…
Suspense is good. Leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for readers to follow, and leading them to an a-ha moment is great. Confusion is not. It’s frustrating. We may be too close to our manuscript, and understand the intricacies of our world too well to be objective. A reader can and should wonder. Why can Harry Potter talk to snakes? Who is John Galt? These kinds of questions keep readers turning the page, itching to learn more. But, they shouldn’t cause confusion.
Okay, so there are some compelling reasons to ask for constructive feedback, but good beta readers aren’t necessarily writers themselves, and they may not know what kind of feedback will help you. Here are some guiding questions you can ask your readers to consider while they’re reading your manuscript:
- Do you know what genre you’re reading? It’s important to set the tone for your story right out of the gate.
- How do you feel about these characters? You want to know readers are responding to your characters the way you intend.
- Are there places where you skim? This probably means they’re bored. Hello, info dump. You may need to cut and paste, or simply cut, some of your overly detailed prose. I know, this is hard. Here’s a helpful article: Cut Your Writing.
- Are you confused by anything? Intrigue is great, confusion is not. See above.
- Does the ending satisfy you? A satisfying ending doesn’t have to be happy, but it does need to fit the story you’ve been telling thus far. More on this: 4 Tips to Write a Satisfying Ending.
Some readers will give you more finessed notes, and that’s great too, but if you start with the above questions, you’ll have a good sense of what’s working and what isn’t with your manuscript. We’ll tackle what to do with all this feedback next week!