Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Privileged First

As a writer there is a need for a reality check from time to time. For me, it comes in the form of my "First Readers". They are the people that I hand my baby over to, my manuscript(ms) in rough form, the people who see it before I do any major revisions, before editors and before any other form of critique. These are the people who will catch any major boo-boos in the ms, plot problems or characters that are one dimensional. They tell me if it stinks, they are completely honest with me and I appreciate that. But there is another kind of first reader out there, the kind that too often writers(myself included) are tempted to give our ms to.

They are the "everything looks fantastic and you shouldn't change a thing!" readers. Parents, spouses and good friends often fall into this category. They stroke our egos and calm our fears and anxieties. But I am going to share a secret with you about these kind of readers...


Telling a writer that their work is fantastic when in fact it is sheer drudgery to wade through only sets the writer up for failure down the road. Just because your mother says your work is the next Harry Potter, doesn't mean it's true. In fact, I would be tempted to say that it would be just the opposite. Our loved ones want to encourage and support us, so they don't tell us what they really think as in, "Holy crap that was the worst use of paper in the history of the world."

Want to improve your work before it goes to the editor? Gather together a small number of people who you would normally be afraid to show your work to. This is probably because you know they will tell you the truth, good or bad. For me, it's an older brother and a good friend, both of whom have no problem telling me if my writing sucks or if it rocks.

And if you want to be a writers "First Reader" be prepared to give the bad and the ugly with the good. Being dishonest with a writer only does us a disservice, it doesn't help at all. So break out your red pens and say what you really want to say. Don't worry, your writer can and will learn to handle it, if not, they are probably in the wrong business.


Suze said...

I am THERE sista! I'll be a "First Reader" any day! I'll give you the good, bad and the UGLY!

Shannon said...

You got it! Soon as I finish my next one (should be by Christmas)I'll send you a copy. Tough love is all I need!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I found myself an excellent beta reader. Just got my notes back from her and can hardly wait to start my next draft.

Shannon said...

You're lucky to have found a great Beta reader Tamara! They are few and far betweem for the most part :)