How much honesty can you take before you break?

By Carol / September 24, 2013 /

I love my beta readers. Every last one. And I love their honest reactions. You’ll never get me to say anything else. At least not on the record.

My WWI-era novel has had the benefit of two rounds of beta readers. And it’s infinitely better because my readers were honest and I was willing to act on their comments.

But when I read this post by Logan Keys, I couldn’t stop laughing. Logan makes the point perfectly. We authors think we’re done. We think we’ve written our story perfectly. Then we find get feedback from those who are reading it fresh and we are hauled up short. We may not be wise to act on our initial reactions.

Read on:

How to kill a Beta…

Drew Barrymore in Wes Craven's "Scream"


Seems as though you and I need to have a little talk. This likely will be an uncomfortable conversation— well mostly for you, but listen to what I say very closely… And please don’t interrupt.

What’s that? I can’t hear you? You want me to remove the tape from your mouth?

All in good time, my sweet, all in good time.

You remember not too long ago when I was all about the finishing of my book? Oh how I toiled. And then one day! Start. Middle. Ending. It was finished! Done. Finito. Termine. Getan. Acabado. Fin. I typed the end…

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  1. Madeline Sharples on September 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    I haven’t gotten to the beta reader stage on my novel yet, but I went through it with my memoir. Having the critiques is so important – two sets of three or four readers at a minimum is what I learned in a novel revision workshop. Going through that is really what is going to get us really finished. It may also help us toughen our skin for some not so good reviews that are bound to follow.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 24, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      I didn’t discover beta readers until after my memoir was published. Now that I’ve seen how much they can improve my written effort, I wouldn’t write another book without them. Good point out their value in toughening our skin! Thanks for commenting, Madeline.

  2. Logan on September 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Totally flattered! Thank you! (shared)

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Logan. Great post.

  3. Paulette Mahurin on September 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I’m at the beta read stage of novel #2. Or, I should say back to rewriting the FIRST DRAFT. Was refreshing and helpful to read this piece. Thanks for the reblog!


  4. Carol Bodensteiner on September 25, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Yes, beta readers often send us back for rewriting, at least mine have done that for me, Paulette. It’s helpful to know in situations like this that we are not alone.

  5. Rachelle Ayala (@AyalaRachelle) on September 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I beta read for a lot of authors and I always spend a lot of time dithering over what I should say. I want to be helpful, but at the same time, i realize my opinion is only mine. Some authors take the feedback well, but others are more fragile. Not because they might be angry at me, but because my criticism may derail their efforts. It’s always hard to know how much glove to pad, but in the end, it takes knowing the personality of the author. Of course, if someone paid me to beta read, then my knuckles are bare. But for others, where I’m doing a favor or a last minute brush through, I usually give them a call rather than write down my feedback since words can look and feel much more brutal when written on the page than delivered by voice.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 25, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Thanks for bringing the beta reader perspective to this conversation, Rachelle. Beta readers do accept a major responsibility when they agree to read. Having spent a career in public relations where someone was always changing my work, I developed a very thick skin. When I ask beta readers to be honest, I mean it. I’m sure many authors are in a different place. I think the point you make about beta reader comments derailing the author is a good one – and it’s really the point Logan was making. We think we’re done and the fresh eyes of readers tell us we aren’t so far along the road to perfection as we thought. This reminds me of the advice someone gave me once: “Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.”

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