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  • Writer's pictureDavid Salariya

A Writer's Guide On How to Handle Revisions And Feedback From Young Beta Readers On Your Children's Book Manuscript

Updated: May 17

As every budding author knows, writing a children's book is a journey filled with creativity, imagination, and countless revisions!

One of the most valuable resources in this process is the feedback from Beta readers, especially young readers.

Paper boar, navigating criticism. Paper boat in.a full moon.
Navigating criticism in a stormy sea

But how do you navigate this feedback effectively? I’ll explore the art of handling revisions and feedback from young beta readers.

Let's get the condensed answer first before we find out more about receiving critical feedback from your chosen young audience.

Handling revisions and feedback from young beta readers involves setting clear guidelines for feedback, embracing criticism with an open mind, deciphering vague comments by seeking clarification, prioritising feedback based on relevance, and systematically revising the manuscript to strengthen its appeal to the target audience.

So let's start by finding out why using feedback from your potential readership can help you create the best stories for children.

The Importance of Young Beta Readers

Young beta readers are essential contributors to the creation of a compelling children's book.

Their candidness, innate curiosity, and genuine reactions provide invaluable perspectives on how your target audience will perceive your story.

Children being given a presentation in class. Children, with their fresh and unbiased viewpoints, can pinpoint elements that either engage them deeply or miss the mark entirely.
Children with unbiased viewpoints make good critics

Children, with their fresh and unbiased viewpoints, can pinpoint elements that either engage them deeply or miss the mark entirely.

Many experts such as The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) outline  the importance of incorporating young beta readers into your creative process.

Children have the unique ability to identify what resonates with them, highlighting areas of where your manuscript excel sand pinpointing those areas that may need some work.

In essence, young beta readers are invaluable allies, guiding and enriching your writing journey to create a truly impactful children's book!

Establish Clear Guidelines

Clarity is paramount when getting feedback from young beta readers.

Set clear guidelines outlining what it is you are seeking

before starting the process of getting feedback, whether it's clarity, character development, or pacing.

Providing specific instructions empowers young readers, enabling them to offer more focused and constructive feedback.

Writer's Digest explores the importance of clear guidelines. They suggest that when young readers understand what you're looking for, they feel more involved and confident in sharing their thoughts.

Ship within the pages of a book
Receiving feedback can be difficult - like navigating a ship in a stormy sea.

This involvement ensures that the feedback you receive is both meaningful and relevant, enhancing the quality of your revisions and ultimately, your manuscript!

Embrace the Feedback

Receiving feedback, especially constructive criticism, can be a little daunting! Especially when you’ve most likely sweated both blood and tears in the process of creating your masterpiece.

It's a journey filled with uncertainty, challenges, and the occasional storm. However, just like a skilled navigator guides a ship through rough waters, constructive criticism can steer your manuscript towards success.

Sailing ship in stormy seas
Navigating the stormy seas of criticism

Imagine your manuscript as a sturdy vessel, navigating the vast and unpredictable sea of literature. With each draft, you set sail on a new adventure, braving the waves of creativity and imagination. But no voyage is without its obstacles, and that's where feedback becomes invaluable.

However, it's essential to embrace this feedback with an open mind and a positive attitude. The primary goal is to refine your manuscript, crafting a story that resonates deeply with your readers.

The well known children's author Judy Blume once remarked,

"I rewrite a lot. It's like cooking. You can't just make the recipe once and expect it to be perfect."

This sentiment simply explains to any children's author the importance of embracing feedback as an integral part of the rewriting process.

Essentially, feedback serves as a roadmap, guiding you towards refining your story until it hits the mark you dreamed of on all those hours creating it!

Deciphering the Feedback

Navigating the feedback from young beta readers can feel a bit like solving a puzzle. Sometimes, the pieces fit perfectly, while other times, you might find yourself scratching your head over a particularly cryptic comment. Don't worry; it's all part of the process!

When faced with vague or contradictory feedback, it's perfectly okay to reach out and ask for clarification. After all, understanding the essence of what a young reader is trying to convey can be the key to unlocking valuable insights.

Literary agent Mary Kole offers some comforting advice:

Engage in a friendly dialogue with your young beta readers.

By asking follow-up questions and encouraging open communication, you can delve deeper into their perspectives.”

This interactive approach not only helps clarify ambiguous feedback but also strengthens your connection with your young audience.

Remember, every piece of feedback, no matter how puzzling at first, is a valuable clue that can guide you in refining your manuscript.

So, embrace the conversations, cherish the insights, and enjoy the journey of shaping your story alongside your young beta readers!

Prioritise the Feedback

Navigating through feedback from young beta readers is a treasure trove of insights. While every piece of feedback is valuable, it's important to prioritise them based on their impact on your story's core elements.

Author and writing coach K.M. Weiland offers some sage advice: focus on the feedback that resonates most with your vision for the book and addresses key concerns.

By prioritising, you ensure that you're making revisions that not only align with your storytelling goals but also enhance the overall narrative.

Think of it as polishing a gem; you want to highlight its natural beauty without losing its unique sparkle!

So, as you sift through the feedback, remember to treasure the insights that shine brightest, guiding you towards crafting a captivating story that truly connects with your young readers.

Revise and Refine

Armed with invaluable feedback and a clear roadmap, it's time to dive into the revision process.

Begin with the most critical areas highlighted by your young beta readers, implementing necessary changes to strengthen your manuscript.

Children's book editor Harold Underdown recommends a systematic approach to revisions.

By focusing on one element at a time - be it plot, character development, or pacing - you can ensure a cohesive and engaging narrative that resonates with your target audience.

Here are a few steps I find useful when organising feedback effectively

Embrace Constructive Criticism: Feedback is not an attack on your writing; it's an opportunity for growth. Approach each comment with curiosity and a willingness to learn.

Consider the Source: Not all feedback is created equal. Evaluate the expertise and perspective of your critics, and weigh their suggestions accordingly.

Look for Patterns: If multiple readers point out the same issue, chances are there's something worth addressing.

Pay attention to recurring feedback and use it to strengthen your manuscript.

Trust Your Instincts: While feedback is valuable, ultimately, you are the author. Trust your creative intuition and make decisions that align with your vision for the story.

Revise and Revise Again:

Writing is a process of refinement. Don't be afraid to make revisions based on feedback, even if it means rewriting entire chapters. The end result will be worth the effort.

Start by listing areas that need attention, like plot holes, typos, confusing sections, and any overly cherished phrases. Plan out how to address these issues, going chapter by chapter from start to finish.

Identify any misunderstandings or flagged concerns from beta readers, along with suggestions that don't match your vision. Set these aside for later consideration.

Collect all the positive feedback into a notepad file, print it out, and place it where you can easily see it during revisions. This will serve as a motivating reminder of your ability to create engaging content, especially during times of self-doubt!

So as a budding children's book author, you may be wondering where you can get together your team of mini-testers.

Finding Beta Readers for Children's Books in the UK

Finding the right beta readers is crucial for the success of your children's book, as they provide valuable feedback from a reader's perspective as we’ve discussed today in my latest blog.

In the UK, there are several avenues you can explore to connect with potential beta readers tailored to your target audience.

1. Local Writing Groups: Joining local writing groups or societies, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), can be an excellent way to network with fellow writers and find beta readers interested in children's literature. These groups often host critique sessions where you can share your work and receive constructive feedback.

2. Online Writing Communities: Platforms like Goodreads, Wattpad, and The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook forum offer vibrant communities of writers and readers. Joining these online forums allows you to connect with like-minded individuals interested in children's books, making it easier to find beta readers willing to provide feedback on your manuscript.

3. Schools and Libraries: Engaging with local schools, libraries, and children's book clubs can be a fantastic way to connect with young readers and potential beta readers. Offering to do readings or workshops can not only promote your book but also provide an opportunity to gather feedback directly from your target audience.

4. Social Media: Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, can help you reach a wider audience and connect with potential beta readers interested in children's literature. Using relevant hashtags and participating in discussions can help you identify and engage with individuals passionate about reading and reviewing children's books.

How to Handle Revisions and Feedback from Young Beta Readers

So as we’ve discovered, navigating revisions and feedback from young beta readers is an integral part of crafting a compelling children's book.

By embracing it with an open mind, prioritising it effectively, and approaching revisions systematically, you can create a captivating story that resonates deeply with young readers!

Embrace The Feedback

Each piece of feedback serves as a stepping stone towards refining your manuscript, bringing your story to life, and enchanting your target audience.

Embrace the journey, relish the process, and let the insights of young readers guide you towards crafting a memorable and impactful children's book.

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