Many writers advocate having a “first reader,” one person whom you trust to read your work first, and tell you the truth, while being gentle about it. Some, like Stephen King, even go so far as to suggest you write the book for that first reader (provided, of course, your first reader shares some traits with your eventual readers). I wrote my 1st two books for my 1st reader – and I must say, I agree completely.
Sadly, shortly before I completed the 2nd book, my reader developed blinding headaches that limited her ability to read for fun. She’s still not read the 2nd book, Awakening, although I’m sure she’d love the story.
Now I struggle, as I no longer have that 1st reader – mine was the person I trusted the most, my best friend, and a fellow writer. Without that voice – honest, but gentle – I have to rely on instinct. Instinct is overrated. I’ve had others serve that function, as early readers, but so far, none has replaced what’s missing. Nor could they: I’ve changed, and my needs for a first reader have changed.
Some readers think you need cheerleading. You do not. Others think you need critics or coaches. The Absolute Last Thing a writer needs is a writing coach. (Unless you are fortunate to have one whom published million-selling books.) There are plenty of books that can serve as coaches, and they won’t get annoyed or pushy if you choose to ignore their advice. No, a first reader should be, most of all, someone who is in harmony with you, someone who “gets” who you are and what you are trying to do.
So I wonder. What do other writers do? Coming from the Business World, I am surrounded by people who rarely, if ever, discuss fiction. In short, I know few readers. So where to find first writers – the real kind? It would be great if there was a website for that, but alas, I don’t think that would work.
Sure, I can pay a proofreader and then a copy editor, but what I want is someone who’ll come before a copy editor. Someone I trust, and that gets my work. I know what I want my stories to say – all I need is someone who can help me discern if I’ve said it. Maybe I’ll take out an ad:
First Reader / Friend Wanted. Must like fiction, violent movies, in-person (not online) conversation, being bought meals and coffee, and silliness. Gentle nature preferred, brilliance desired. Coaches, know-it-alls, and those lacking the ability to think metaphorically need not apply. Candidate must be comfortable with cursing and romantic relationships between two attractive females (in literature, at the very least). Free trip to the Caribbean for the perfect candidate.
Interested parties Apply Within.
My ideal first reader. I’m just sayin’.