I have said it before, and it merits saying again - I love my beta readers. They give up vast chunks of their free time to help me make my book better. They are awesome.
But as each one is awesome in their own way, sometimes they give me very different opinions.
Usually this is fine. If I give my new novel to four people and they each highlight four different flaws, I spend some time thinking about each of them and ultimately I change what I feel like changing. No giant flaw has stood out to everyone.
However, sometimes there is a problem that could be fixed in one or two different ways. I'm working on a few of those at the moment - making the main character more likeable in the early chapters (apparently she's a bit of a whiny cow) and upping the stakes in the earlier part of the book. There are dozens of ways to fix those.
And in the case of my stakes problem, I came up with a solution I liked, which I felt would boost the drama and the conflict and the peril for my main character. I asked two of the beta readers what they thought.
One loves it. One hates it. Both had excellent reasons and made strong points.
I tore my hair out for a while and then consulted a third beta reader, who diplomatically agreed with both of them but eventually came down somewhat on one side. A fourth refused to express an opinion. A fifth was only in the country for a couple of weeks and I had so many better things to talk to her about than my book (namely: Italian chocolate - any good? and Your couch - may I sleep on it?).
So what is a writer to do?
In this case, I'm very fond of my suggested fix - it ups the stakes effectively and it allows me to make a point about something on which I have strong views. I believe it has a good chance of improving the book. So I'm going to do it.
I am, however, going to do it while keeping the other beta reader's comments in mind. The beta reader who hated my solution made excellent points about why she feels it may not work, how she feels it may damage the book. Knowing these in advance, I hope I can write the new chapters with those pitfalls and mind and construct the story in a way that means they're not an issue - and if I can't, I'll be aware of the pitfals as I write and can scrap them if they become overwhelming.
Have your beta readers ever disagreed? What did you do?