Recently I got back a bunch of beta responses on my most recent novel. I was proud that my acceptance of my betas' criticisms came much earlier than usual. But it gave me reason to reflect on the process that I (and others, I've heard) usually go through. It's much like grieving.
1. OMG, they don't understand!
You know, the initial gut reaction to a negative crit. You give the WIP to the beta reader wanting good and bad feedback..., but secretly you only want to hear good things. So when you get the suggestion that you change something major (whether major to the whole work, just a scene, a character, a very important piece of dialogue, and so on), you panic. How could they not like that aspect? How can they not see how important it is?
2. Wait, maybe that's a good suggestion...
After some reflection, you begin to realize that they had a point. I mean, the suggestion was given for a reason. You look back at it and try to look objectively at your novel, to see it from the point of view of the reader and agent and editor, and you sigh and realize that you should really see what you can do about it.
3. ...but impossible
You can do... nothing. You wrote it that way because it was the only way the novel worked. If you changed it, everything would unravel and no more novel. That wouldn't be good, would it? Nope, gotta keep it the way it was.
4. No, it's possible, but really overwhelming
Okay, so you can do it. You can see that you can do it. It's just... God, you'd have to change so much. And you'd have to make new transitions from the old stuff to the new. If you cut out that character completely, who's going to find that plot point he provides? If you have to add a scene creating tension, where is it going to go? Your story is so complex, anything you add or subtract to it needs to be worked around and made to fit. It's soooooo hard. You can do it, but where would you start?
5. Maybe I can cheat. Change very little to do the same thing.
Ah, bargaining. It'd be so easy just to change a line here or there and make it work, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it? Wait.... No, that doesn't really do it, does it? Dammit. Well.... Maybe if you tweaked this bit of dialogue to make this character sound a little more sympathetic, it'd carry through to the end.... Maybe if you describe this character and, hmmm, this room, it will convince the readers you can describe something. Maybe... maybe... maybe it doesn't have to be that much.
6. Procrastination time!
"Or maybe I'll go write this YAYA post instead. Hey, my laundry needs doing. And that new WIP isn't going to write itself. Look, the Renfest is in town! Shady's online... think she wants to Voice Game?" (Okay, that last one's just me ;-) )
7. *Buckles down and actually does it*
Yeah, yeah, you really should do it. I mean, you want the novel published, and you realize now that this is a necessary change. You go through and look for where you can fix it and you do it. This can take quite a long time, but it might be much shorter than you expected. And in the end, you'll probably be saying...
8. That wasn't so bad
That's right! It's done!
Well, not so much at first. But with each project, I find it getting easier. I think for this last novel I skipped right ahead to #6 with only brief detours at #4 and #5. But my YAYA post is done, and I've just posted in the Voice Game, Renfest isn't here yet, and the roommate is using the washer and dryer, and, hey, can't even work on another WIP because I don't have one at the moment, so I guess I get back to #7.
Feel free to share your grieving... I mean, revision process. How do you respond to betas' (or agents'/editors' too) suggested revisions? Meanwhile, I'll go work on the second half of my beta notes.