Rules for First Readers

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What do you expect from your first readers of your novel or picture book?

Rules for First Readers

  • Encouragement. First and foremost, I want my first reader to encourage me to keep on working. That means the first reader needs to be aware that first drafts can be really, really, really bad. And they need to have faith in my process of revision.
  • Honesty. However, I want my first reader to honestly point out major flaws. Not details at this point. Just major stuff.
  • Send Me Back to Work with Hope. First readers should be so enthusiastic that they want to read more, to see the next draft, the rest of the story.

Notice that I sandwiched honesty in between encouragement and urging me to work. At this fragile point, readers need to sandwich criticism in between enthusiasm. Please, keep me working.

Two Experiences

Picturebooks
I’m still working on Friday Ideas picturebooks. Last week, based on the Word-of-the-Week, “Baby,” I turned out a series of three pre-school books. My first reader was my DH. He’s a good first reader for picturebooks because he loves language play. So, he liked one of the three, but thought he language in the other three stumbled too much. Great feedback, but because he loved the first one, I’ve worked hard on the others.

First Draft of a Novel
For some reason, I need someone to look at the first draft of my novels. I wish I could just forge ahead without that step, but it seems to be necessary for my process. A friend reported back yesterday on the first draft of my new novel and — SHE LIKED IT!.

Yes, she kindly pointed out what bothered her, but mostly, she was enthusiastic.

You’d think that I could skip this step, because I know that my first readers will be encouraging and enthusiastic. I know that because they know I need that. But — I just can’t skip this step. I’m worried and hopeful and scared and this is the first time for my baby out the gates and please, just think she’s pretty, or has the potential to be pretty after I get her fixed up. Ah — SHE LIKED IT. Now, I can forget my audience for several months and work.

Ain’t the emotional side of this business confusing and frustrating?

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