Just what is a pre-reader? Who are they? How can they help?
In my opinion, pre-readers are your cheerleaders. They read along either as you write, chapter by chapter, or when your manuscript is finished. Then they make comments on what works for them and what doesn’t.
See that last bit? The best pre-readers will tell you when something doesn’t work.
Having said that, as the author you should take their comments and weigh them as to whether they help your story or hurt it. You know your story better than anyone. You know if their advice to remove a scene will improve the flow and clarity of the story line or harm it.
If you have five pre-readers and their feedback is totally at odds, you need to weigh their words carefully and see what works. Take those suggestions and leave the rest. If a suggestion seems totally out there, ask them what they meant and why.
Pre-readers can be very helpful since they can’t see into your head. They only see your words, so they can point out where you may need to clarify your thoughts so your readers will understand your story better.
This brings me to: How many pre-readers should I have? That is totally up to you. I do suggest that you choose wisely. Choose people that won’t share your work without your permission. Choose people who already like your words. Choose people who have the time to read what you’ve written. A bonus is someone who knows a bit about grammar and spelling.
Having someone that already knows your story to bounce ideas off can help you as a writer. If you’re wondering whether a scene would add to the story, you can always ask your pre-reader about it. The act of talking it out will usually help your decision, even if that decision is to not use it.
Writing is a very solitary job and having someone to bounce ideas off and to get feedback from is one way to fight the loneliness that authors often experience.
Pre-readers, as opposed to editors, don’t usually get paid to read your work. They do it out of friendship and in an effort to help you get published. A lovely way to thank them is to mention them by name in your acknowledgments. Ask them if you can use their full name, their own pen name, their Twitter handle, or some other moniker. But do thank them.
Kathie’s Corner is a bi-monthly column by Kathie Spitz. Kathie has two blogs, First Page to the Last (a book review blog) and Kathie’s Favorite Recipes (a recipe blog). You can also follow her on Twitter via @GuardingKatmom.