So I’ve been reporting on some things I’ve been learning from my beta readers—mostly things I need to work on. Today, I’ll take a 180-degree turn and look at the positives.
My #1 piece of advice for writers who are receiving feedback from their beta readers: Always read the email cover letter before you look at the returned manuscript with its comments and/or Track Changes (or equivalents on other writing software or on paper manuscripts). Why? Because that’s where you’ll find the most encouraging and uplifting responses—not to mention some excellent ideas. And that should soften the blow when you dig into the manuscript and find out all the aspects of your writing that you still need to work on.
All my beta readers have been very honest about improvements I need to make, as well as including bits of encouragement along the way. Still, when you get into the negatives of your writing, it’s easy to forget the positive comments. So here’s a thought: why not gather those positive comments from the cover emails, print them out, and post them above your computer where you can see them at a glance when you’re feeling down? You could even frame them in a bright, cheery frame—or list and post them on colourful poster board (ideally framed with cheerful pictures or designs). If you take your laptop or tablet with you to another location when you do your self-editing, place a copy of your “encouragement file” on your desktop. Then you can access it quickly and easily when you need some happy moments during your self-editing.
If you’re a beta reader (or an editor), keep in mind that starting your commentary with some positive, upbeat thoughts will encourage and prepare the writer who may well be facing some heavy-duty self-editing after learning the sometimes brutal truth about their writing issues. With that in mind, here are some comments that have been encouraging to me:
“Non-fiction is definitely a very strong talent of yours…. Keep going—you have an admirable talent for explaining things. I’ve heard any number of people mention your broad knowledge and remarkable ability to handle detail.”
“I just want to say how impressed I am with what I have read so far. Your style and tone is personable and folksy and… the whimsical tales enclosed in it… would resonate with people learning how to edit their written work…. Nice flow to your book plans. Based on what I previewed, I’d say you are well on your way; so organized.”
“I like the notion of [your book] being a journal/workbook of one’s personal writing journey. Neophyte writers … would probably enjoy and appreciate this…. If the members of [writing groups] answered the questions and then shared, I expect they would learn a lot…. Working in a group drives the process to actually take the questions seriously…. I think developing this manuscript for groups … might be good. A workbook would be useful and novel, and might help you target writing groups and societies.”
“Please let me congratulate you on the enormous amount of work and effort you’ve put into this book. I can easily see it’s not only taken a lot of experience and knowledge of writing and editing, but hours and hours of effort to distill what you know and make it readable. I hope you are proud of yourself.”
“This was a great exercise for me. I learned so much about editing and got the wheels turning over what lies ahead. It stirred up a ton of thoughts about my own writing projects and I included a lot of those thoughts in the commentaries…. I learned a TON going through your manuscript and really enjoyed the exercise. Thank you!”
“WOW!! Your proposal has me totally sold on the book and I want it on my bookshelf right now. I have never been a beta reader before, so this would be a new experience for me…. Congratulations on the completion of such a fantastic undertaking. I am totally blown away by your writing talent and your knowledge of this subject. I love the idea of having a writer and muse lead us in this huge writing curve!”
“Writing is definitely a lot of work, but your project is so worth it…. I for one look forward to having that at my fingertips for my projects.”
“Your comments about considering tossing out the manuscript made me shudder. No, no, no, that’s not an option. This work is too good and has too much potential to abandon.”
“Wow! This is a remarkably comprehensive document. You have left no stone unturned, and I think it will have wide appeal to a broad cross-section of readers (writers, new and experienced). You have a comfortable narrative style which makes one feel like they are being coached with compassion, as opposed to being instructed to (or talked down to).”
Thank you so much to my beta readers who have been so encouraging! I have a LOT of work to do on my manuscript (or possibly manuscripts, if I do decide to divide the original into parts). But I’m not going to chuck it out, no matter how discouraged I felt at first. With your wonderful encouragement, I know I can do this!
By the way, when I finished reading and listing the comments above, I couldn’t help but jump up from my laptop and do a happy dance and hum a cheerful tune. If I was younger, I’d have probably done some cartwheels, too 🙂
Why not check out the entire series of my Beta Read Saga? Here are the links: