Dear Sherry: Conflicted Feedback

Dear Sherry,

I’ve been working hard on edits on my novel. I sent it out to my beta readers, and I now have all their feedback, which is great. The problem is that I have a bunch of conflicting comments, and I don’t know how to resolve them. Sometimes it is easy. If one suggestion clearly makes the story better and the other doesn’t work for me, I take the one that works. What about the comments that are exact opposites? How do I know which one is right, and how do I fix it? For example, one person said that the last third of the book is completely passive, that nothing happens, and the main character is being lead around like a puppet. Another reader said that the last third of the book is awesome, that the main character takes the lead and totally kicks ass. What do I do?




Dear Conflicted,

As always, do what is best for your story. It is your name on the cover. In a situation like this, it isn’t so much about the actual feedback as it is about what isn’t being said in the comments.

Let’s look at the example you gave and deconstruct it. Do you need to increase the kick-ass action of the main character? Is your main character taking the lead or being led like a puppet? With these questions in mind, re-read the final third of your manuscript. If there are any places that stand out to you where there could be more action, put it in. If there aren’t, then read it again, this time looking at how you wrote the scenes. What is it about the way they were written that would make someone think there wasn’t enough action, that the character is too passive? It can be a much easier editing fix than adding in whole new action sequences, but it can also be more difficult to spot.

Have you written your scenes from the correct character’s point of view? Are you in their head too much and writing their thoughts rather than showing the action? Or conversely, are you telling the action without allowing the reader to also feel the action from the character’s emotions? Don’t forget to consider the pacing of the scenes. Perhaps they are moving too fast. In action scenes, use shorter sentences to describe everything that is happening. It reads faster. Elevate the tension in your language so it stands out, such as stronger verbs and getting to the emotional and physical impact for the reader. You want them to be drawn in, invested right to the end.

This kind of feedback, while frustrating, is also the best kind. It is the kind that will help you make sure you’re telling the exact story you want to tell.

Creatively yours, Sherry

Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at



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