Thursday, August 18, 2011

Revision Spreadsheet

Recently, I was blessed to have seven people read my MG novel and give feedback. (You are all awesome!) Then I discovered something. I'd never had more than three betas read a manuscript before. Organizing and managing feedback from seven people is more challenging than processing feedback from just three. Most of the readers agreed on the main points, but each also made comments unique to him- or herself. I knew that going through the ms. seven times from start to finish wouldn't be efficient, and could result in doing rewrites that would only be canceled out later when a suggestion I liked better came along. After a moment's thought, I turned to my spreadsheet program.

I highlighted the points from each beta reader's letter (did I mention these people are awesome?) that were major, that were important-minor, and anything else I agreed with. Then I listed the points in rows on the spreadsheet. This way, everything was mentioned, but mentioned once only. I assigned each reader a column, and put her or his name in the intersecting cell if they had brought up that point. When the spreadsheet was done, I could see at a glance, on one sheet, what needed to be addressed and which points were the most important, i.e., the ones with the most mentions.

I'm sure I'm hardly the first to try this method. Have you used it? Have you discovered/invented any other writing tips lately?


patesden said...

I've never done it that way and it sounds a lot less messy than my technique. I transfer the comments from all the critiques onto a single hardcopy and put post-its on pages which are hot spots.

Kim Kasch said...

Never tried that but it sounds like a good way to keep everything organized.

Thanks for sharing

Bish Denham said...

This sounds like an excellent way to keep track of everything! I could have used this a while ago... :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I use spreadsheets for outlining, but never for this. This is an awesome idea. Thank you for sharing it.

Anne Spollen said...

Wow, you are so organized, Marcia!

I sort of read through some things from my writing group and get a general sense. But this is a wonderful idea to make that general sense more accurate.

inluvwithwords said...

The mere word "spreadsheet" terrifies me. But you make it sound quite sensible.

Marcia said...

Pat -- the "put it all in one place" emphasis is still there. Using track changes and the reviewing toolbar in Word, I can really see this working.

Kim -- I'm not a big spreadsheet user in general, but this seemed like a good application to me.

Bish -- I found it worked pretty well. Even just creating the spreadsheet firmed a lot of it up in my mind.

Medeia -- You're welcome! I'm not a huge outliner, but I may give your idea some thought too...

Anne -- Well, I'm SORT of organized. I'm not in the big-time organized echelon. Like I said above, even making the spreadsheet strengthened that "general sense."

inluvwithwords -- LOL, I am far from spreadsheet-happy myself. But I just may have found a use for the thing.

Blogger ate this comment but I didn't have to redo it 'cause I copied it first! Yahoo!

Mary Witzl said...

I've just learned how to use a spreadsheet to keep track of data for students. I ought to do this to list beta readers' comments, but I've never had more than three beta readers comment on my work at once.

I really need to get organized. I keep most of the comments people have made in my own head or scrawled on calendar pages. Not the best way of doing things, I suspect.

cleemckenzie said...

That highlighting method is so great. I've used it in the past when I had several readers and it saves me tons of time during revision, especially if I have questions.

I've left a little something for you over at the Write Game. Hope you'll stop in and pick it up when you have time.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I have never used a spreadsheet for feedback, but I am impressed with the idea. Anything to keep me organized gets a double thumbs up. Thanks for sharing this!

Marcia said...

Mary -- I do have a tendency to use paper scraps for a number of things. They tend to cluster at the base of my monitor sort of like presents around a tree. :)

Lee -- How exciting! I'll be over there in a few...:)

Cynthia -- I use the spreadsheet for so little and would kind of like to use it for SOMEthing. I'm sure that helped push my thinking in this direction.