Beta readers--they are invaluable, sometimes hard to come by, and often their feedback causes a lot of confusion for the author.
One reader may return a section covered in comments and questions. They hate it, or simply don't get it and you despair. Then a second reader returns the same section with lots of comments on how brilliant you are and this is "OMGosh the best scene EVER!"
As the writer what do you do with this kind of information?
Do you add or change a line or two to clarify for the first reader? Will this mess it up for the second reader who already "gets" it? How do you really weigh the comments?
My initial response is, "who knows?" Here's the good news, all those comments can still trigger an epiphany for your story. The trick is not dipping too far into the despair when someone doesn't get it. (Truism: Not everyone will get your story.)
The bottom line:
What is YOUR vision for the story? Who is your audience?
As the author you get to pick and choose what comments are helpful in reaching the goal you've set for yourself.
We will never be everything to everyone.
But we can write to the best of our ability, free the stories in our mind, bring them to life and share them with everyone we can. So, stop worrying about the world in general and focus on your vision, your intended audience.
How do I find my audience to pick Beta Readers? Well, I just might be able to help with that.
Carol (you might know her as Huntress) is starting a new critique blog. She has asked Marcy and I to help out. Our goal is to help writers get some feedback on their writing through critique sessions and partner mash ups while providing a fun, safe and informative environment. Think Miss Snark's First Victim on a smaller scale mashed up with Rachael Harrie's Crusader idea.
Our official first week will be Monday, 23 May 2011. But head over today and fill out the questionnaire about what you want out of the critique sessions. It will help us meet your needs easier.
I'm so excited!