Who’s Your Reader?

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We can probably all agree that time slows down painfully when someone is reading our work in draft, yes?

Recently a writer friend directed my attention to a piece in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. Kevin Nance interviewed novelists and poets about the people they ask to read first drafts and what they expect from them.

He wrote, “Once a writer and first reader connect, they negotiate, consciously or not, what type of feedback, what level of criticism, the writer hopes to receive. Is she looking for analysis on a micro or macro level? Close line-editing or big-picture observations, especially those related to structure? More important, does the reader understand what’s going on? Are the characters and/or voices authentic and internally consistent? Are the writer’s messages and themes coming through? Is it interesting? Does it produce an emotional response?”

When you decide your work is ready to be read for the first time, who do you ask for feedback? A spouse? A friend? Your writers group? What type of feedback to you expect? Have your first reader experiences been helpful or hurtful?

4 Responses

  1. Chris Malkemes
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    I have had different experiences with firts readers. I use to show my work freely and that was that. I showed my husband a piece I was working on and he didn’t like it so I put it aside but it kept calling back to me so I worked on it some more. I now have many people telling me it is my best work so far. I have learned a good lesson: keep what you write close to your heart until it grows. Showing it too soon will stunt it’s growth.

  2. Nancy Fairbrother
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    Hi Mary Ann,
    When I submitted the first draft of my first book to 6 people (peers, friends, and family members), most of whom didn’t know anything about the subject matter (Numerology), editing comments were of secondary importance. The most important thing to me was whether it was easy for my readers to understand, since it teaches people how to calculate their own numbers to find their life purpose and I wanted it to be clear to everyone. I also wanted my readers’ emotional reaction to the book (like or dislike, useful or not useful, interesting or not). I did receive editing comments, since a couple of my peers are editors. All comments were helpful. It was a good experience for me. It was exciting to receive the comments, and they helped me make it a better book. My writers group suggested a better title than I had. I read an excerpt to them and they had constructive comments, as well.

  3. Bob
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    I ask my wife to read my work and she gives me great feedback.
    I ask her if it reads well and if she notices any errors in clarity or anything else.

  4. Suzette Standring
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    My husband has been my best constructive critic. He looks for a clear message, good flow, use of language and he gives me the truth, straight up; comments like, “So what was your point?” Or “too many digressions,” or “you sound too flippant on a serious subject.” Also, my writing groups is terrific. I value their “first impression” when I share a first draft. Go to people whose writing you already respect and be open to changing what doesn’t work versus defending “why you wrote what you wrote.”

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