Advanced Reader Quandary

About Writing

Dec 06

Several months ago I finished the revision of one of my novels. I gave out copies to six advanced readers. Two came back with comments, another came back blank, and three say they still haven’t read it. In the meantime I ended up writing the first draft of the sequel while I waited for the comments. With the sequel and its first editing round finished, I returned to the revised novel.

I’ve lost a number of advanced readers over the years to the normal challenges and changes of life. In those early years, I would have been extremely hesitant to submit anything for publish if it hadn’t been checked over by a few of those special advanced readers, one in particular. As it happens, that one is the only one who remains from the old list. Let’s refer to him as AR1.

I know as a writer that there will always be mistakes that I miss in editing simply because I have the book in my head and sometimes my head does the reading rather than my eyes. Additionally, advanced readers are invaluable for finding little continuity errors or places where I haven’t provided the reader enough description to understand what seems so easily understandable based on the information stored in my skull.

I also know that we writers improve what we turn out through practice and study. It is obvious in the difference between first drafts hanging around from years ago and first drafts that I finished only a month ago. So, for this particular story that I just revised, I’m anxious to get it off into submission land.

In my discussions with my advanced readers, I’ve often praised the work done by AR1. True he and I don’t always see eye to eye, but regardless AR1 returns phenomenal work in both his opinion and my own. When I completed this recent revision and the editing marks returned by the two advanced readers, my thoughts turned to submission. Talking with one of my more recently added advanced readers, he inquired whether or not I planned to send the new manuscript off to AR1.

In response, I hemmed, hawed and chewed my lip. True, AR1’s skill applied to this manuscript would probably improve it, but AR1 has a life – which means it could be a lengthy wait.

Over the years I have done my best to improve not only my writing skills, but my editing skills as well. I have a tendency to write a lot – not as much as I’d like, but I can be fairly prolific. With advanced readers to catch the things I’m prone to miss, my confidence in my ability to turn out a competent sellable work has grown. After all, it’s what I love. As such, most short fiction never crosses AR1’s screen. The question becomes, has my skill grown enough that not every novel manuscript needs AR1’s approval as they did in the old days, or has arrogance and overconfidence brought me delusions of competency that might hamper saleability of my work due to not seeking the AR1 stamp of approval? Maybe the more important quest becomes, how do we as writers judge ourselves as ready or unready to work without the net of our favorite advanced readers?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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