Incorporating alpha reader feedback

So you’ve written your novel, you’ve had some people read through it, you’ve gotten their feedback, and… now what?

Incorporating alpha feedback should be rather painless, to be honest. For one, there isn’t that much of it. And two, the things they are looking for are the things you suspected to be wrong anyway. I mean, we all kind of know where the sticky spots are anyway, right? We just want someone to confirm them.

Uh, this is paragraph is weird. Yeah, it was weird. *delete*
Not sure what point you’re trying to make in this paragraph. Yeah, that point didn’t work. *delete*
I went to his house. Whoops, missed a word. *insert*
I think you should add an example about that time you…. Oh dear, I don’t think the world needs to know that one.

What about the last one? What do you do with THAT kind of feedback? That prescriptive feedback, where they start telling you HOW you should fix things instead of just describing what’s wrong?

I am so guilty of getting caught up in prescriptive feedback. I start second guessing myself and editing entire chapters based on incorrect perceptions or assumptions. I start thinking that my reader has the final say in what my story should say. I start to lose my sense of study direction.

You too? *whew* I’m not alone!

When we start to feel the pull of the prescription, it’s time to stop and step away. Take that time to refocus on what you want your story to say. Once you’ve remembered and recentered, then it’s time to move ahead and resume editing.

Just because your alphas suggest you should make a change doesn’t necessarily mean you need to make that change. If only they always stuck to descriptive feedback, right? If only they just told you what they felt was off instead of trying to offer (not so helpful) advice about how to fix it!

Then I remember when I’m reading for others, I get caught up in that same trap. I see a problem and I think about how I would fix it and I start writing up how I think they should fix it. Then I remember that it’s not my job to fix it. How they say what they want to say and how I would say it are different. And that’s okay!

My only job as a reader is to point out what isn’t working for me. What they do with that information is up to them. I can’t make them do anything or change it to the way I would change it. So as writers, we need to stay strong in our direction and our conviction and avoid getting sidetracked by well-meaning alpha advice.

If you’re one of the lucky few who get MULTIPLE alpha readers, this is where things get fun. If more than one person is tripped up on something, it’s probably time reevaluate that particular thing (made up words anyone??). If only ONE PERSON of three or four gets it, dang. Maybe I have to admit I’m not as clever as I thought.

However, it’s important, I think, to not get too caught up in correcting everything alphas say. At the end of the day, it’s your story, your MS, and YOU have the final say.

Where do you struggle the most with receiving and incorporating alpha reader feedback?


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