I have a beta reader for my novel. She has had some good things to say, but I don’t agree with some of the changes she suggested. Should I trust that she is right? How do I know if her advice is good?
The short answer is that you really don’t have a strong way of knowing whether a beta reader is giving good advice.
In a perfect world, every beta reader would have an excellent grasp of writing style and story structure, but using a beta reader is a bit like reaching into a grab bag. Even if you know the person well, you don’t really know if they’ve been honest about their experience level or if they’re familiar with industry standards.
For example, your beta reader might say, “The character of Abby is so unlikeable. She needs to be nicer to Patrick and have more positive qualities.” While the beta reader is giving a specific suggestion of what to change, it is probably best to disregard the suggestion and focus on the reader’s opinion: Abby is unlikeable. There are many potential ways to solve this problem. Perhaps rather than being nicer, Abby simply needs to have clearer motivations for being mean.
Get to the heart of your beta reader’s opinion, but address the problems in a way that makes sense to you. And don’t assume something is definitely wrong because a beta reader didn’t like it. Every book does not appeal to every reader. It might just not have been that particular reader’s cup of tea. Getting multiple opinions is always a good idea!
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