by Kim Long
I love hearing from my critique partners (CPs) or beta readers on a new manuscript. But I confess after the initial reaction of, "Yay, feedback!" is some dread, "How am I going to handle all of this?" It really can be overwhelming, especially when I receive feedback from several readers within a few days. That's a lot of information to take in all at once. In an effort to decrease my anxiety as much as possible, I focus on breaking things down.
First, usually, before I hand off a manuscript, I'll have an idea of a few potential issues. On my current manuscript, I worried about too much info-dump in the first chapter, whether chapter 4 was too early for a flashback, and if my MC played a big enough role in the ultimate conflict resolution. These weren't the only things, mind you. Let's face it, I knew I was going to be getting a bunch of, "What's she feeling here? Show some emotion!" comments because, yeah, that's par for the course. But those are small things. I leave the small things for the end. The first thing I want to know is whether my concerns on the bigger things match at all with my CP's concerns.
In this case, one CP totally thought too much info-dump, one CP thought it was "perfect," and one thought it might be too much, but she wasn't sure how to fix it. With that feedback, I knew chapter one was going to have to change. Got it.
The chapter 4 flashback wasn't a problem with anyone. In fact, two of the three CPs LOVED where it was in the book. WOO HOO!
The MC's role was called out by everyone. Not surprising. But, the great news was that one CP particularly had an idea changing something else in the story could work to fix that problem. Taking that suggestion, I brainstormed and developed a new sub-plot that will put my MC front and center.
Now that I had an idea what to do with the three main issues, I looked to see if any of the CPs had other, "major" issues that would call for more substantial revisions. I didn't really have any this time around, but in a previous manuscript I had a CP raise an idea I really liked that I thought could help the manuscript. I note those bigger things--things that will require writing new scenes/deleting scenes--for the next stage.
For my current manuscript, once I had my CPs' answers on the issues that I had and know their main plot/character issues, I tackled the opening first, working to reduce the info-dump. Good thing is the CP who also thought it was a problem had a couple suggestions on how to make it work.
Once I revised the first chapter and got it in a good place, I opened one CP's edits and looked for the first edit/comment. If I thought the CP's suggestion worked, I revised in my document. I did this through the entire manuscript, looking at each comment in chronological order and then editing my manuscript as I saw fit. When I reached a point that I had to make substantive revisions based on my plan to add the new sub-plot, I revised accordingly. (And in my last manuscript, this is the time where I wrote new scenes/deleted scenes to make the other substantive plot changes.) Then I returned to the CP's version and continued on my way. By the time I reached the end of my manuscript and the CP's notes, I had a revised version with the new beginning and the new sub-plot. YAY!
But I'm not done yet, of course. Next, I opened the second CP's line edits. I repeated the same process--reading each comment in order and deciding whether to revise in my manuscript. The good thing is that some of the second CP's suggestions were already taken care of through the first revision. And, if the second CP mentioned something was an issue, I had the luxury of referring back to the first CP's comments to see how that scene played with them.
I essentially repeated this process for each CP. Usually, I have only three CPs at a time. If a beta reader has overall comments, I'll read those as soon as I get them and note substantive changes I want to make.
Overall, I find the above process works well for me. I don't get overwhelmed by trying to incorporate every suggestion every CP makes at one time. Also, by focusing on a single CP's edits at one time, I can get a better idea of that CP's thoughts as they read the manuscript.
As for how many comments/suggestion I take and how many I don't, it depends on the CP, but overall I think I probably consider and make at least some kind of minor change over 80% of the time. If a CP wants a bit of emotion, fine, it probably needs it. Lol. If a CP thinks a line can be cut to better the pace, why not? If a CP is confused about something, why wouldn't I add a phrase to clarify in case that CP wouldn't be the only one confused?
Basically, I don't enter revisions with the thought of revising as little as possible. Instead, I want to make changes. I'm dying to make changes! The worst is getting something back with no feedback and no comments! (Luckily, I have a great group of CPs where that is not a problem!)
What are your tricks or tips for handling feedback? Let us know in the comments!