Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Way We Are: How many people read your manuscript?

I'm just guessing here, but I'll bet we all have different approaches when it comes to getting critiques. Maybe you have a critique partner that is so awesome, you don't feel the need to pass on your manuscript to anyone else.

Maybe you have a group of writer friends that you send your manuscript to, either all at once, or one at a time, making changes after each set.

Or maybe you send it to some writers and then to some family members.

Maybe you even send it onto a group of friends who aren't writers, but who are invested in you, and therefore want to read everything you write.

Or maybe you even go for a bigger group of readers.

The point is, no matter where you are in the writing line-- writing to leave something behind for grandkids, writing to self-publish, looking for an agent, on sub to publishers, have an agent and an editor working to publish your first book, have several books out.... You usually go to others
for critiques to catch things that could embarrass you later.

Maybe you just like people reading your book. I get that.

When we're "done," we might all send it different places-- to the printer, to sit on a hard drive while querying agents, or to your agent or editor. The point is, there's a time we call it "done," but we keep our fingers crossed that we aren't REALLY done.

So, here's my question:

How many people do you ask to read your manuscript before you call it "done?"

Here's my answer. For the book I'm getting ready to query, I sent it chapter by chapter each week to my writing group. So +3. I also sent it to my husband and my parents at the same time. +3. At revision three, I couldn't stand waiting any longer to read it to my kids, so +3 more. At revision seven, I sent it to my sister, a friend, and a writer friend.
+3. Revision eight I printed out seven copies and gave to friends / family. Some read it with their kids. I have no idea how many people got that version. Somewhere around +15. Then a teacher I work with read it as a read-aloud to her fourth graders. (Which, btw, coolest experience ever. I even got to be in the room, working with kids one on one while she read. Talk about a fantastic way to spot problems! Especially with someone else's voice doing the reading.) Then I sent revision nine to +3 writer friends. All in all, somewhere around 30, plus a class full of kids. So.. um... apparently a crazy amount of people.

Hmm. After all that, I suddenly went from being curious about everyone's numbers to hoping that someone else sends their book to a crazy amount of people, just to make me feel more normal.

Or maybe your numbers will make someone else feel normal. I'm okay with that, too.


Shell Flower said...

For my first completed (though not "finished") novel, I posted it online in a group on Goodreads chapter by chapter as I wrote. I probably only had 10 or so folks read the whole thing, but I was addicted to the instant feedback. My twin sister is always my #1 beta reader, but I like to get a variety of feedback and since I write a lot of YA, I love to get teen feedback. Nothing like an ADD 13 year old to tell it like it is when your story is dragging on.

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

I do it very similar, actully have my gal "Evil" wrote a post yesterday on it.

I usually have three or four firends read it chapter by chapter. Then when its "done" and properly edited. My grahmar sucks, can you tell? Then I send it too a few more people then we call it done.

Stacy Henrie said...

My crititque group looks at my stuff 10 pages at a time. My DH reads everything - in fact, sometimes he's tougher than my crit partners! :) I've also had a few nonwriter friends read stuff in the past.

Polishing stuff and entering it in contests is another great way to have another pair of eyes look at it.

Kelley said...

I've had my 'finished' manuscript sent to four other people. I first sent it to my cousin, who is an inspiring writer herself, just to make sure it was any good at all. She loved it... whew.

Then I joined 'Ladies Who Critique'.com and hooked up with three other YA writers. I personally like sending my whole manuscript to someone so they can go through the whole thing instead of chapter by chapter. That way they can tell me if they felt it slowed down, any continuity issues, etc.

I would send it to my family, but no one other than my two cousins... and I mean no one out of the 40 people in my extended family reads. They hate reading. So that won't get me anywhere :)

Richard said...

I have two critique groups reading my drafts, so, maybe 10-15 people have read the book (my groups change, losing and gaining some members on a fairly regular basis). I think the book is getting very thorough editing. Also, my wife reads my work.

J. A. Bennett said...

That is impressive! I'm not sure I could find that many people to read mine, but it would be great feedback!

Abby said...

I need to find more people, when I am eventually to THAT point. Right now I have a great crit group of 4, + my niece. But I know after revisions I will need some beta reader friends too. Hmmm - maybe I'll hit you up for a critique! :)

BTW- I LOVE that you shared it with a classroom! That is fantastic!

Faith E. Hough said...

Don't worry, you're not crazy. :) I send my book to different people for each round of edits, pretty much, because I want people who can read it with fresh eyes. Well, I suppose I recycle the readers, so in all, it may be about 10. But that feels like a lot for me!

Damyanti said...

I think I sent my latest ebook to more no, you're not crazy :)

Would like to invite you to take a look at The Rule of Three Blogfest ---a month-long extravaganza in the fictional town of Renaissance this October, with some great prizes, comment love, and of course, a lot of exposure for your writing.

Feel free to use existing characters, and write in any genre. Hope to see your story set in the town of Renaissance!

Jenny S. Morris said...

My niece, parents and my brother and his wife have all either read it or are reading it. I also have a friend that is a beta reader/editor that has read it.

But, my hubby and SIL (BFF) don't read. Their lack of reading is what sent me to the internet to find CP's. I have one CP right now, but I'm thinking about adding another. I'm not sure.

Tara Tyler said...

what i want to know is what did they say?
and how did you get so many to read it over and over?
i'm up to 4 at rev 3. i dont like to ask my friends, they all seem so busy...

Kristine said...

So, not being a writer (well, unless you call writing difficult e-mails writing) then I guess my answer is 2 people. You and Drew. lol!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This is very interesting. I think you are smart to utilize your willing readers-that's great. My process varies depending on how I am feeling about the manuscript. If I'm not feeling satisfied with it, I'll call in the troops. Or, if there is a specific problem, I'll try to call on someone with expertise in that area. Otherwise, I may just have my fellow author/critique pals read and review.

Jennifer E. McFadden said...

I usually ask my husband, my mother and one of my neighbors to read my manuscript before sending it out to my writer friends.

Jessie Humphries said...

I'm a ms hoarder! I let very few people read. And definitely only those I trust. Just a very few amazing crit partners for me...or just one super amazing one for now *wink wink*.

Tara 'Last Name Pseudonym' said...

I gave my WIP to my husband and my mother to read. I knew my husband would be objective and my mother loves to read, so I wanted their opinions. However, I wanted opinions from people who didn't know me, people who hadn't heard me talking about it incessantly, b/c I thought they would be more objective.

It was tough finding someone, though. I'm shy, so it's not as though I would ever go around asking someone to read my work. Then, I found Nancy Thompson (or she found me lol) and she offered to be a beta read/critique partner. It was a god send! She has given amazing and invaluable advice. I wish I'd met her sooner!

LOL, so I've had a total of 3 people read my first act (I have more, but I'm wordy & I'm waiting to finish the rest before sending). It's been a great experience

Tara 'Last Name Pseudonym' said...

I forgot to mention...I left you something on my blog. The 7x7 post ;-)

Leigh Ann said...

WOWOWOWOW That is a lot of people.

First I have to say I'm amazed by all you ladies who show your husbands. It took me months to admit to my husband that I was even thinking about stringing all my crazy typing together into a novel. He doesn't even know what my books are about. I'm too embarrassed.

I had a handful of loving alpha readers, including a college student and one of my best friends, and a college instructor. They were awesome.

I had three serious CPs, who gave me a serious run for my money.

All told? Eight people have even laid eyes on anything beyond what I posted at WriteOnCon.

It's not that I don't trust's just that I'm EMBARRASSED!

Alleged Author said...

I let two CPs see it before revision. After revision, I have a beta who reads it for consistency and flow. We'll see how that goes!

L'Aussie said...

Whatever works for you. I wouldn't show my ms to that many people, just CPs. All the best for your writing.


Chantele Sedgwick said...

The book that got my agent I had one person critique and then I had 2 betas. The one I'm writing now, I'll have three people crit and probably 3 betas. It changes from book to book. ;)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Shell-- I didn't know Goodreads had something like that! Very good to know. I think instant feedback is definitely addicting. And I love the 13yo add feedback! That's awesome.

Read my books-- That's a great plan. That was my plan, actually. Then... Well, I guess I just couldn't stop.

Stacy-- It's awesome to have a live-at-home critique partner! And you're right. Contests are a great way. I got a ton of great feedback on Storymakers' first chapter contest. That's the only one I've ever entered, though.

Kelley-- Ladies Who Critique is a great resource! Thanks for mentioning it! And very sad when family won't read. :( Maybe someday when yours is in print, it can be the book that turns them into readers.

Richard-- TWO critique groups! Very nice!

J.A.-- Some were writer friends, but a lot weren't. Some were just friends that I know like reading to their kids (it's helpful that mine is MG). Even non-writers give a lot of good feedback. Especially on telling you if things get confusing or if pacing is slow.

Abby-- Four is a great critique group size imo. When you get to THAT point, :) let me know. If I have the time, I'd love to. And yes-- the classroom opportunity was FABULOUS!

Faith-- Yay! Someone else who likes to use lots of critiquers!

Damyanti-- Yay! Someone who sends it to EVEN MORE people than me! I'll definitely check out the blogfest.

Jenny-- That's a good amount! That's a bummer about your hubby and SIL not being readers! But family/friends don't always make the objective CPs anyway. (Although sometimes that's nice. I like my mom reading mine, because I know that she will always love it. It's nice to have someone love your work unconditionally. :))

Tara-- I got feedback from every one of them, even if it wasn't detailed. Some people only said one or two things that confused them or made things drag on. And I didn't convince the same people to read it over and over. It was different people every time. It's hard to ask friends that don't read much, but if any of them are avid readers, they'd probably LOVE a great book to read. A pre-ARC. :)

Kristine-- I think you've written some emails that were more tough than even my query letter! Go ahead. Call yourself a writer. I think you've earned it. :)

Cynthia-- That sounds like a great way! Sometimes I wish I had a whole list of experts in every area I could call whenever needed. Sometimes the perfect expert is so hard to find!

Jennifer-- That's a great idea to send it to non-writer friends before writer friends! It probably helps you get the manuscript to a level where the CPs can bump it up to an even more fabulous level.

Jessie-- You just made me blush. :) And what's up with the hoarding? Your MS is INCREDIBLE. In a seriously huge way. If I was the owner of that baby, I'd be showing it to the world.

Tara-- I'm so happy you found the perfect CP! A really good one can make all the difference in the world. And thanks for the award! I'm so flattered!

Leigh Ann-- You killed me with that comment! And then you made me so grateful I write MG. When you don't write smooching scenes, its a million times easier to show your hubby, your mom, your neighbor, your friend... COME OVER TO THE DARK SIDE! The weather is fine over here. Okay, just kidding. I couldn't write a good smooching scene to save my life. The world needs people like you to write what you write. So... Um... I guess just get over the embarrassment. :) The world wants to read what you write!

Alleged-- I think it's the best of both worlds to have CPs reading chapter by chapter, and to have CPs reading the whole thing at once. They find such different things!

L'Aussie-- It definitely works different ways for different people, and even for different manuscripts from the same person. That's why I love hearing how everybody does it! I think it's fascinating.

Jeff King said...

I show my work to 12 people, that love the genre I am writing in. I prefer not to have critics from people outside my intended audience.

I wish you the best of luck!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Jeff-- That's great advice. Who better to tell you if your ms works than someone who reads lots in that genre all the time? Twelve is an awesome amount.

Good luck to you, too!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I think this is a great way to help polish your writing. Especially that read aloud one - great opportunity! Stephen King said something about this in his book On Writing. He sends his stuff to quite a few readers too. That way, you can get a consensus. If everyone is picking out different stuff, you probably shouldn't change anything unless it really resonates with you. But if most readers are saying the same thing, that's a good indication!
I'm like Cynthia, it depends on my project. But I normally send it to three crit partners for sure.
Great post!

Peggy Eddleman said...

TerryLynn-- YES! Finding whether the comments are totally crazy or something everyone has issues with is a very valuable thing indeed.

Kaylee Baldwin said...

Peggy--I just have to say that I love your blog. You really go all the way and it shows. It's awesome.

Okay, readers. I have a TON of people read my manuscripts before I feel like I'm done. Partly because I like the feedback and partly because I just like people reading my books (esp people like Mom who won't ever say anything negative and gets all upset if other people do--its good for the ego). My first book probably had close to 30 people who read it for me--that I know of. I gave copies to my grandmas and I think they both got passed around in the family and at church (I don't recommend that)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Kaylee-- Awww, thank you so much!!

I have a ton of readers for the exact same reasons you do. Sometimes my mom for the ego boost, partly because of the addiction to feedback that's going to make my book better, and partly because I just really love having people read my stuff. It definitely works for me. It's nice to hear someone else that it totally works for, too!

Carterista said...

Every author of children's literature should have their work read aloud to a group of kids while he/she listens in. TOO COOL FOR WORDS!!!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Carterista-- It was too cool for words. Best experience ever.