I Read You Like An Open Book – Tips for Authors and Beta Readers

While moving forward with a sequel to Love’s Forbidden Flower I have also been reviewing yet more reader feedback on the first book. As a result I have decided to make a few small changes. It’s tough deciding when to make changes based on someone’s opinion. I have been told several times that if you get three pieces of feedback and they are all different then take it or leave it. If two people agree then it is likely you need to make alterations. If all three agree then there is a definite problem you need to deal with.

I learned a long time ago that when obtaining feedback a writer needs to ask targeted questions related to specific items along with a request for general feedback. This gets you reader reaction and addresses what is important to you. But one reader showed me that I could get so much better. What she did was extraordinary, yet so simple and obvious. As she read the story she took notes on her reactions. If a character did something she liked she commented, and she noted exactly where she had her reaction—down to the paragraph or sentence. (Perfect! Then I know I am on track.) If a character did something that seemed out of sorts then she expressed that too. (Also perfect, because maybe that is the reaction I desire. Or maybe I want the opposite reaction and I need to know that I failed.) When the big reveal came, she told me how it affected her, which was awesome! She didn’t see the twist! I needed to know that along with how she felt when she read it. Both were equally important to me.

So, I have learned that when asking for feedback I will now request the following:

* answers to a list of specific questions that are important to me
* grammar issues (as in, clarity of sentences)
* clarity of story
* reader reaction notes regarding details, plausibility, how he/she feels about the character, or anything else the reader would like to express at any given point, even if it seems as if it is not noteworthy

I admit that this may seem like a no brainer scenario, but I have found that a lot of people wait until they finish reading either a chapter or the entire project to comment. Valuable reactions can be lost. It’s important for me to get inside the head of my audience and know how they are reacting. It’s not only how I know my writing is clear, but also that I am successful in conveying emotion.

I would love to hear from other writers as to the type of feedback is most helpful to them.

P.S. I Can Read You Like An Open Book was by The Tages (I love British men!)

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