I've said before that the real purpose of critique is to get a writer to look at their manuscript differently. You don't have to take every piece of advice your betas give you—in fact, you don't have to take any of it if you don't want. But that begs the question: Then what do you take?
For me, I go by my reaction to the suggestion. You know your story, and critiques that improve it will resonate with you. Those that don't, I tend to ignore. I'll give you a run down of some of my reactions to critique:
1. What the CRAP?
Sometimes I'll read a suggestion that feels completely out there, one that makes me think, "Did they read the book?" These are the ones I usually throw out, because they'd make my book something it isn't and there's nothing I can do about that.
2. Um, that's not what I meant.
When a beta mentions something I didn't intend or something they didn't understand, then it's an indicator to me that I need to make my writing clearer. For example, one of my betas thought my MC was naked at one point when she'd only taken her over-shirt off. Yeah—CLARIFY.
3. Dangit, I hoped I could get away with that.
These are the crits I knew might come back, but I was lazy and didn't want to do the work unless someone called me on it.
When I don't expect a huge suggestion—one that would take massive rewriting—but it makes sense, that's my first reaction. I try to wiggle my way out of it, but in my gut I know I'm going to have to dig in and rewrite.
5. Wow! I never noticed that!
Sometimes my betas point out themes or issues I hadn't intended, but are freaking awesome. Often I go back and try to bring those out if they strengthen the plot/characters.
Then there are the times when betas point out really obvious things that make me feel blind. Or they point out my excessive semi-colons or glaring typos or copious amounts of "just" and "even." These are usually easy fixes that I should have caught.
7. That's PERFECT.
Usually I know the trouble spots in my book, but I'm at a loss for how to fix them. My betas are amazing at helping me fill in those holes. Sometimes they'll say one little thing that opens up the story and makes it just right. These edits make me excited to get back to work.
As you can see, there's only one reaction that makes me throw out advice. I think that's how it should be. I seriously consider most of what my betas say, and I make changes accordingly. I may not do exactly what they prescribe, but I fix it in my own way. Sometimes it's hard to listen and decode, but my manuscript has always been better for it.