Yesterday I finally finished* the first draft of my novel and printed it out, planning to sit down, pencil in hand, and mark it up.... and I now find myself reluctant to read it. But that's another topic. (Any insights into it welcome, though.)
When I do read it, I'll answer the questions I'd like someone else to answer, subjectively and honestly:
- Where did you want more?
- Where did you want less?
- What did you really like?
- What DIDN'T you like?
- What made you laugh? cry?
- What confused you?
- Bored you?
- What did I explain that I didn't NEED to explain?
- Did you want more background information/backstory?
Those last two questions maybe only other people CAN answer....I really struggle a lot with them always.
These next questions I wouldn't ask anyone else, but I will also be reading for where I could:
- make the writing better, sharper, more vivid
- increase the intensity and drama of scenes (or eliminate them all together!)
- speak more in my own voice -- I really like it when OTHER writers do this, and find myself sometimes not doing it enough
- shift (or not shift) the POV...I tend to go inside the main character's head too much --often, it's more interesting to the reader -- at least, this reader, and after all, I have to love this before anyone else can! -- to stay OUTSIDE
I'll scribble the answers in the margin quickly, without pausing to think. Thinking can come later! These first reactions are most valuable when they come from the gut.
When MY eyes start to skip over something, I will cross it out.
What do YOU want your first readers to tell you? I say it in the plural because one of the many things that surprised me at the end of the book VERITY was how many first readers she had.
*I thought it was finished, but there were lots of little things that I wanted to add -- I was surprised by how many and by how quickly I wrote them. I guess it was easier than usual because they'd been niggling at me for awhile.