Every writer needs a reader. Or, preferably, lots of them. Eventually.
Tonight my new class will be sharing work for the first time. This is always a bit nerve-wracking. For the authors, of course, but for me as the teacher/mediator also. Even though I have worked with most of my students in previous classes, I never know how a group is going to gel in a critique session.
There are no “right” or “wrong” answers in a workshop, but it’s so important to me that the authors get what they need. That they are given something that inspires them to keep chugging along, to work harder, to find joy in the process.
Some of my writer friends like to get feedback early and often as they draft. Others wait until they’ve reached a certain point before letting anyone else in. Just the other day a friend said to me, “I love the first draft because no one else will ever read it.”
At some point you have to let others read your work. And that can be terrifying. It’s impossible to predict or control how readers will react to your writing. But it’s also important to know what kind of reactions take root. One thing that helps me to gauge reactions is knowing where my reader is coming from. One of the best things about having a trusted critique group is that I know their pet peeves and inclinations already.
The best critiques are well-rounded and look at many aspects of the writing. But I’ve found that often times critiquers seem to have a certain focus. One element of the story always takes a bit of precedence.
Possible roles of readers:
- ENTERTAIN ME: This reader wants to be surprised. To be amused. To be able to play the movie in his/her head and to stay engaged. This reader notices the excess, the places the story wanders off the path.
- LOGIC POLICE: This reader wants everything to make sense. Credibility and plausibility is key. The events and actions have to work within the rules and limits of this particular world.
- DARE DEVIL: Make this reader worry! The stakes must be high and rising. The worse things are for your character, the happier this reader will be.
- ANGST-ADDICT: Looking for heartbreak and longing but joy and delight also. This reader wants to feel all the feels all the time.
- CRAFTSMAN: This reader wants the writing to be exquisite. Perfectly crafted sentences jump out and sing to this reader. But the awkward clunky ones stand out too. A fine tuner, looking for tight and just right writing.
- BETWEEN THE LINES: This reader sees the symbolism and metaphors. He/she will identify themes and layers of meaning – that you may not even know you included – and question certain choices based on the bigger picture.
In a perfect (book) world, all these readers are happy.
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK