Writing: My stages of receiving beta feedback

I’ve shared my thoughts on analyzing beta feedback and the issues the betas point out in mid-September. Today, I’ll share how the chain of events feels for me from receiving the feedback to acting on it.

Stage one: Fear

Have you ever felt this? You get a message from your beta with the next set of comments attached (or a notification about comment if you use a webtool such as Google Docs or betareader.io) and go into the ‘oh my god, here comes the proof my writing is sh*t’ mood. It’s how it tends to be for me, especially in the early chapters. Even if the beta is insightful and points out issues in a constructive way, I still fear they’ll tear my story apart. Worse, I fear it’ll be rightfully so.

Thus, it can easily happen for me to wait a few days (2-5) to actually look at the comments.

Stage two: A glance over

Then comes the first actual look. I glance over the notes and see how frequent they are and of what type – but don’t act on it yet. What I do is to make some guesstimate on how much time I’ll need for each of the next stages – preferably to take them in longer rather than short sessions.

Stage three: minor issues, major notes

In this stage, I fix the small things – typos, grammar, incorrect verb form, minor sentence structure issues… anything that’s mostly mechanical and doesn’t require much thinking or creativity – and is done quickly.

Then, I go through the rest of the feedback and put the notes into my ‘main’ file, in different color, so when I go through it next it’ll be obvious where the to-edit passage is.

Stage four: medium issues

At this point, I am entering the stage of actual rewrites. I begin with changes that span a few paragraphs such as a (part of) dialogue, an explanation of something (when changed for lack of clarity), a description of a character or a place, and so on.

There’s some amount of creative work in this stage but it’s still minor, focused on improving what I have without chaging much. Another example of this stage might be edits to remove head-hopping or changing from telling to showing.

Stage five: chapter-sized issues

Then, I get to edits that require major rewrites – a page or longer. This might mean a major overhaul or a complete rewrite of a scene (or sequence of scenes) for various purposes. Even if the core of a scene stays the same and I only change the approach (or tone), it usually requires some degree of creative thinking (compared to ‘autopilot fixing’) which means this stage is much slower. Re-write of a chapter can take almost as long as writing a chapter from the scratch.

Stage six: pondering major issues

This is what comes if there’s an issue spanning more than a chapter. In most cases, it happens when I consider a major cut/rewrite. So far, this had happened twice in the larger scope: when I made a massive cut to the beginning (removing 3,5 chapters with edits needed in a few more) and when I added a series of 3 chapters where the MC goes through some internal struggle in the middle.

Now, I am consideiring a third major change, which would lead to cutting maybe 3-5 chapters but with significant impact on 10+ other chapters, including several major events (from the MC’s PoV) which would need to be solved before I would make the call for/against the cut.

Stage seven: The big deal

The abovementioned issues are usually something I approach only after everything else was dealt with. Between the batches of feedback, I consider the options I have for sorting the problem out and make notes about those ideas but don’t go for it yet – maybe some note in the later part might nudge me in a different direction to consider.

Then, I try to delve into these major things in just a few days. Since those often include writing several passages from scratch, I usually give the new passages an extra typo-hunting pass or two.

Stage eight: Rest

When everything is done, I put the story aside for a while (2-4 weeks) to let it rest. During that time, I either read something or work on another part of my ‘grand project’ such as early drafts of the other books in the to-be series. Then, after that rest, I give it a self-read to see if there’s anything that should get my attention before the cycle begins anew…

So, this is a look into my writing process in this later stage. I’ll welcome your comments and questions.

See you next time, and keep writing.

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