I am in the middle of one of the most challenging and encouraging processes of my writing life. A published author I connected with a few years ago is busy reading my finished novel. I took a chance asking him to read it because I knew he was busy but I am very glad that I did. His insights into the chapters so far have been mind boggling. Yes, there are times when I want to slap a hand on my forehead and cringe because I can’t believe I didn’t see it myself but maybe that is what Alpha Readers are for.
I’ve had other people read completed works but none have been as helpful. This author (who shall remain nameless for fear that you google him and flood his inbox with manuscripts) and I seem to share a similar mind set when it comes to story even though our styles are quite different. And unlike some readers in the past, he has not tried to re-write my novel as his own. Instead he asks questions about the story, calls me on things that aren’t working and suggests solutions to problems. We’re only in to chapter two and already I can see that the story is going to be much stronger for his comments.
Not every author needs Alpha Readers (or wants them) but I do. I love that another writer can pick the story apart with a writer’s eye without being too close to the story. Unlike all the other readers I have had in the past, this man has never met me and so there are none of those unnecessary emotional involvements that would make him be ‘nice’ when he needs to be firm. I appreciate that. It means I will grow as a writer.
In one week I have realised more of my flaws as a writer than I have in the last seven years. You would think I’d be gutted by that kind of revelation but instead I’m excited. By the time we are done with this novel it will be the best it can be and I will have full confidence in it when I send it out to agents. Plus, each thing I learn about my writing is going to make subsequent stories better. That is the benefit of a good critique.
I can’t wait to see what this story will become...
P.S If you would like to listen to an interesting podcast on Alpha Readers and what to look for you can do so here.