We can probably all agree that time slows down painfully when someone is reading our writing in draft. And we’re particularly anxious about what our first reader will say about a first draft, yes?
When you decide your work is ready to be read for the first time, who do you ask for feedback? A spouse? A friend? Another writer? Your writers group?
Recently I came across an article from Poets & Writers that I’ve kept for a long time. Kevin Nance interviewed novelists and poets about the people they ask to read first drafts and what they expect from them.
Nance 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?”
Perhaps the feedback you’ve gotten in the past hasn’t been very helpful.
That might have something to do with who you asked. People who don’t read often — or don’t write — might not have the insight or vocabulary to give you the detailed response you need.
It might also have something to do with the way you asked. “Tell me what you think” assumes your reader will intuitively know how to respond to writing in draft.
Before you hand over your work for feedback, take some time to understand what you’d like to know about your draft. Then frame your request for feedback in a specific manner.
What’s your experience with first draft readers?