making changes from feedback

I'm thinking ahead to next year, when I will be revising the Jan Sleet mystery stories based on some excellent feedback I've received from some excellent beta readers.

And I find I'm not 100% sure how to do this. This is the first time I've done revisions based on feedback from a few different people at the same time.

First of all, I've been thinking that the feedback (at least for this project, though I think it may be true more generally) falls into three basic categories.

1. Micro: errors like commas that should be periods, quotes in the wrong place, etc.

2. Macro: questions like how the book flows and what order the stories should be in.

3. Mid-level: everything in between.

What I'm thinking about here is #3, all the things that are neither macro nor micro.

The micro stuff was the easiest. Since the stories are all online already, I fixed those sorts of mistakes right away, though I will double-check them as I go through this process.

The macro stuff was pretty easy, too. I've decided to tell the stories in chronological order, and I've figured out a way to move one of them later in the series, improving the flow, while also removing a character who I didn't really want in that story to begin with. I wasn't about to make any other major changes to the stories themselves. Once you've published a mystery, you can't start changing the victim or the murderer. 🙂

(They used to do that sort of thing in the Hardy Boys mysteries, rewriting them every few years, and it used to freak me out.)

I think it's important to separate out the different levels, since I know if I'm going through a story thinking about punctuation and verb tense, I can't also be thinking about the overall effect on the reader, character development, pacing, etc.

So, my plan is to take each story, read through the feedback on it, double-check that the proofing changes were made, make notes of what I want to think about changing, and then work through the story itself. My goal is to do this without thinking about macro or micro, confident that problems on those levels have been solved.

How about you? Have you tackled this sort of feedback (or are you tackling it now)? What methods work for you?

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4 Responses to making changes from feedback

  1. Tiyana says:

    I can’t say I’ve gone through this yet with a large-scale story or series of stories, so this is giving me ideas on what I should ask my beta readers to lookout for in the next few months and how to process their feedback. (Grammar, punctuation, etc. is important to me, though I suspect I’ll be more on the lookout for feedback on how I’m handling various story mechanics–namely effective and interesting characterization of characters and settings, smooth dialogue and narration, and plot coherency.)

    So yeah, just lurking around & looking forward to what others have to say. 😀

  2. Great breakdown of the editing process, Anthony.

    Will you cycle through each beta reader’s feedback one by one as you work on each story? That’s a lot to factor in and juggle. I’ve worked with multiple readers in my novel group, where I’ve gotten six or so copies of my manuscript back at once, plus matching editorial letters about the big picture. I usually tend to work through the whole manuscript person by person, six (or however many) times, making the micro changes and thinking about the macro and in-between levels. And then I get down to the serious changes.

  3. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I’ve only ever really done this on a small scale — with a short story where I had feedback from four people.

    In that case, I printed out a hard copy of the story and hand-wrote notes on each page, amalgamating all the feedback into one place. Then I colour-coded by reader.

    (Because I gave more weight to the opinion of some readers than others on particular issues, depending on their skills and experience.)

    But I don’t know that the system would work particularly well on such a big project… At the very least, it would be incredibly time-consuming.

    Good luck!

  4. Tiyana: I think that (in my experience) the single biggest factor in a successful beta-reading experience (for the reader and the writer) is to have a clear understanding in advance of what the process is trying to focus on.

    Laura: I’ve only done the first story so far, which has very few comments. I went through each set of feedback, making notes in my draft (including noting when a phrase bothered one reader but was apparently fine with the others). Some of the later stories will be more complex, since there are more comments and I’m already planning to make more changes.

    Jo: That’s kind of what I did (except on the Kindle, natch 🙂 ), including noting which feedback came from whom. As I mentioned, I’m working on one story at a time, so it’s not actually all that that different from your experience.

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