When beta readers disagree

Since the (apocalyptically heart-breaking) rejection of my last novel, I decided that I had no perspective on my own writing, so I would use beta readers to give me some for this novel. Except my beta readers had the balls to disagree on something I really wanted advice on: the chapter headings.

In December when I sent the manuscript to my agent, she didn’t like separating them by Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. She suggested that I nix the chapter breaks altogether. I thought that was, um, crazy. So my remedy for that was to name each chapter. If you’ve been following, you probably already know that I am yet to come up with a decent name for the book, so coming up with names for every chapter, while easier, was a little strange. And because I never used that method before, I specifically asked my beta readers what they thought of the chapter titles. One of them thought it worked fine. Another thought they were too revealing about what was coming next.

Aaargh!

My agent wants no chapters. One beta reader feels “meh” about the chapter titles. Another dislikes the chapter titles.

Now what?

Better chapter titles, of course!

I figured the best I could do to marry all of the feedback was to look at what each comment was really about. My agent didn’t want to stop the flow of the story. Beta reader #1 didn’t seem to think the titles stood out. Beta reader #2 thought they had too much going on. The comments seem disparate, but I found a way to use them all.

I’m definitely keeping the titles. Because they are descriptive, they break the flow less than a chapter number. But, I’m making them a little more punchy, shorter, and therefore less revealing. Hopefully this will make them stand out more and still be a little less revealing.

Of course, I can never please everyone. But since I asked for advise, I’m going to make every effort to take it. The trick is not to follow everyone’s idea to the letter, but to find ways to tweak things so they work better, and still satisfy the most important person in the equation: the writer.

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2 thoughts on “When beta readers disagree

  1. Jenny says:

    That sounds like a good decision, Tracey. I think making the titles short and punchy will work– maybe even one-word titles?

  2. Tracey says:

    Hey they don’t pay me the big bucks for… wait a minute!

    Yeah, I like the shorter chapter titles better. Some of them are one-word titles, but most of them are two.

    Thanks for all your suggestions. They have been invaluable.

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