1. Dr. Mambo
    Offline

    Dr. Mambo Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Iowa

    When Betas Collide

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Dr. Mambo, Aug 12, 2016.

    Brief backstory: I have a small but diverse group of betas who read my stories, they're always very helpful, and I am grateful to have them. Most of them have very different tastes from one another which usually makes for a good mix of feedback.

    Yesterday, for the first time, this caused a conundrum.

    Beta 1 loved my most recent story and said x and y worked really well and made the story.
    Beta 2 hated my most recent story and said x and y did not work at all and ruined the whole thing.

    After some discussion, Beta 2 and I came to the conclusion that Beta 2 is probably just the wrong audience for my most recent story as it isn't her usual genre and she hates x on principle. No big deal. It happens. I'll write again and she'll read again.

    That said, it got me thinking. Have any of you ever had two trusted betas give you the exact opposite feedback? What did you make of it?
     
  2. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,160
    Location:
    London, UK
    Yep. The only thing surprising about this is it's only happened to you once! Most authors on sub will get totally conflicting feedback from real editors, so it stands to reason that betas often give polar opposite advice. As a prime example - one agent wanted me to split my first book into two because she didn't think the romance side and the suspense side worked together. But the agent who signed me fell in love with it partially for the mix of romance and suspense. You win some, you lose some.

    I generally only act on beta feedback if:
    a) it's consistent among multiple betas;
    b) it's a really small change that doesn't bother me one way or the other;
    c) it really resonates with me.

    If it's just one beta suggesting a significant change that doesn't give me a light bulb moment after some thought, I generally don't act on it. If I did everything every beta suggested I'd end up with an incoherent mess.
     
  3. Dr. Mambo
    Offline

    Dr. Mambo Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Iowa
    Amen to that. I usually only act on beta feedback if their critique is something I've already identified as a potential issue. I've found that usually if I'm worried something is a bit off, the betas notice it. A lot of the time they have really good suggestions as to how to fix the problem too!

    But yeah, this is the first time I've gotten polar opposite feedback. Most of the time when my betas disagree on stuff I can see both sides. A lot of the time it's just reader preference. Beta 1 likes the open-ended conclusion and Beta 4 wants a clear resolution, and all that jazz.
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  4. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,675
    Likes Received:
    1,072
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Don't I know it. I just got my critique back from . . . let me see, my fifth beta reader, and she's questioning some things that are fundamental to my whole plot, that previous readers either liked or didn't mention. And of course now all I can think about is "Oh, gosh, my book is terrible, dump it in the bin, aaaaaggghhhh!"
     
    Tenderiser likes this.
  5. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,160
    Location:
    London, UK
    Could you make a few minor tweaks to address her reservations? If so, win-win. If not, meh. 4/5 is pretty good!
     
  6. Lifeline
    Online

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,405
    Likes Received:
    1,554
    Location:
    UK - the place betwixt and between
    Yep, happened to me too. I got around to just concluding that I can't please everyone, and my WIP will very likely not appeal to the masses anyway. I'd rather stick to the advice of the readers who are within the group I am writing primarily for. It is a bit uncomfortable to really get it that some people just don't care for my premise/style at all, but I will have to get used to it anyway.
     
  7. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,736
    Likes Received:
    1,285
    Absolutely. There's no reason to use multiple readers if you're not looking for them to agree on some parts and disagree on others ;)

    I looked at why each reader felt the way I did, and then I just picked the one I agreed with more.

    You've actually hit the nail on the head for why I disagree with the "never get feedback on the story itself, only the SPAG" crowd you see a lot here: the complaint is that if you get feedback on the story itself, then you are "writing by committee" and the work will become formulaic instead of reflecting your own personal vision.

    However, the fact that the alleged "committee members" are going to disagree with each other means that the author is still the one choosing which feedback works and which feedback doesn't.
     
    Dr. Mambo and Catrin Lewis like this.
  8. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,675
    Likes Received:
    1,072
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Funny this thread should pop up in my alerts . . . the difference of opinion involved my villain at the beginning of the story. The one reader said something like* "I really like how you're making X devious and rotten from the start. I'm tired of being told I have to sympathize with the bad guy." I read that and thought, "Well, I didn't think I portrayed him as that rotten; just impatient and a little domineering. But you liked it. Fine." The later reader said something on the order of* "I don't believe that your hero wouldn't see through a guy like that right away. If he doesn't, he's too stupid to live." The other readers accepted the situation at face value.

    When I got the latter reader's comment, I was focusing on the hero. Dammit, if he doesn't initially believe the villain, there's no story! And the former reader didn't have any problem with him being taken in by him at first. But after a while of thinking about it (like three weeks worth of thinking), I realized that the problem wasn't with the hero, it was with the villain. And that despite their opposite feelings about it, the two betas were really making the same point. I've accepted that I do need to rewrite the villain to make him less obvious, because the kind of guy I've already established him to be (classic psychopath) demands that he not show his Evil card at this stage.

    So even conflicting feedback can be useful, if you can synthesize it and get at the truth somewhere in the middle.
    ______________________
    *I'm too lazy (and my computer's too slow) to look for the verbatim comments. Sry.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
  9. Dr. Mambo
    Offline

    Dr. Mambo Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    167
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Iowa
    I don't let anyone read my stories until I've eliminated all SPAG errors (other than those used for effect). If I can't identify and eliminate those on my own, then I shouldn't be writing.

    The whole reason I utilize betas is to see how the story works. If something is bothering me and I can't figure out how to fix it, one of my betas will usually notice it too. Then we can chat about it and figure out how to fix it. Problem solved.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.

Share This Page