We’ve talked about the beta-testing process, so now it’s time to take a look at the feedback you’ve collected. You need to figure out how to use the feedback to make your novel better, but it can be hard to know where to start. So, I’m going to share with you my 5 steps for feedback analysis, and hopefully it’ll help you to make sure you improve your novel as much as possible after beta-testing.
#1: Confusion & Plot Holes
The first thing to do, is to go through your beta feedback in search of confusion and plot holes that were pointed out to me. These will usually appear where you asked readers about confusion or plot holes, but I did find a few scattered in dislikes, thoughts on scenes, etc., so make sure to check all of your feedback. Then, make a list of each piece of confusion or plot hole (the first of many lists to come). Then, after looking over that list and determining which were valid, and needed to be changed, you can make a new list. This list, which I called the “Immediate-Fix List”, detailed all of the changes I needed to make, and how to make them, in order of priority. The confusion and plot holes, to me, were the most important to be fixed right away. This is because communication of a story requires understanding. A reader can’t enjoy a story if they are constantly confused or find the plot poorly thought out. In order to become attached to scenes and stories, you have to understand them first, so this was most important for me.
I then went through the list, crossing out each change as I completed them, and writing my total “score” on the top of the page. For example, I had about 16 changes on the list, so I tried to be 4/16 higher each night. This will help you feel motivated to work on the feedback, because you don’t just have to look at the large-scale goal of “revising after beta feedback”. I was able to set not only the goal of completing each list, but also of completing 1/4 of the list each night. These small goals really drove me to keep going, and make more and more changes. I actually ended up far ahead of when I had anticipated I would finish revising after beta testing, which felt rewarding.
#2: Likes & Dislikes
These two must go hand in hand, because often different betas will contradict each other, and this can impact whether you decide to change things. For example, Beta A could hate a scene that Beta B said is one of their favourites. This is why you’ll need have a list of each beta’s likes (each beta gets their own list) and a list of each beta’s dislikes. Go through Beta A’s feedback, jotting down their likes on one list, and their dislikes on another (note: this includes opinions on characters, scenes, plot premises, and anythign else they could like/dislike). Do the same for Beta B, Beta C, and so on. Look through all of the lists, and highlight in yellow wherever there is an agreement between betas. This will help you to see which things have a majority opinion, and which might be a bit out of the norm. Next, highlight in orange anything that betas contradict each other on. Like I noted in the example I gave you with Beta A and Beta B, this will help you to weigh both the pros and cons of making a given change. This can be hard if the feedback is about half and half, but that’s where you’ll have to use your own judgement on whether to make a change.
Next, you want to make a new list with the changes you intend to make, and how you will go about it, just as we did for confusion and plot holes. Again, you’ll make the list numbered by priority, and set goals of accomplishing so many changes per night. However, it should be said, that you should in no way limit yourself to your goal. If your goal is 4/16 changes per night, but you have a night where you can do 8, then do it. The goals are to motivate you to work and keep you on track, which means that any extra you do is great (you’re motivated to work more, and you’re getting ahead).
This is where you re-read your feedback, and make a list of anything else you may need to address. Sometimes there will be things you have missed, or things that don’t fit into the other categories that need to be changed. You can do the same thing as the other lists, numbering them by priority and setting goals.
Now, it’s time for a break. A short break, but a break still. Now that you’ve made all of your changes, you need to take a few days away from revising (no, you aren’t done yet). Use this time to read, work on some other writing projects, expand your knowledge of writing strategies, invent a new fruit, whatever you want to do. It should be noted though, that this is meant to be a break of a couple days. This is not a reason to forget about it for a month.
Now, it’s time to open up your laptop again. Find all of the changes you made, and re-read them. I did a light highlight of all of my changes as I made them to help myself find/remember them, and it made revisiting them a lot easier than it might’ve been. The reason we revisit, is because sometimes we write things thinking they are great, or make perfect sense, when in reality, they still need fixing. Revisiting your changes will help you ensure that they were the right ones to make, and that you’ve done them well. I mean, the last thing you want is to try and fix a plot hole, only for it to have made a whole new plot hole, right? As you re-read the changes and feel confident with them, you can unhighlight them. If you don’t like one anymore and change it, then keep it highlighted. When you are done revisiting, if you have none highlighted, then congrats! You’re done with your beta feedback! You get to move on to either the next round of beta testing, or to professional editing. If you still have some highlighted, you’re going to have to repeat #4 and #5. Do this until you are confident with all your changes, and then you can proceed, too.
In short, making lists of the feedback and changes you need to make, as well as setting goals, will help you to keep on track and thoroughly analyze your beta feedback.
I post new advice on Saturdays, so please click “follow” to keep learning more! What would you like me to blog about next? Do you have any questions about writing? Please be sure to let me know in the comments, or contact me via social media!
With all of this in mind, go out and write your masterpiece!