Finding Good Test Readers

I believe that although having your family and friends read your work could sometimes be useful, most of the time it’s not. As a writer we need constructive criticism and our family and friends are not usually able to give it.

This isn’t always true, of course, and if you have someone close to you who will read your work objectively and give comments that will help you improve your work – well, my advice is to go with it and let them.

This is not usually what happens though. Have you ever let someone read one of your stories and they come back to you and ask: “Was that character based on Joe, because he wouldn’t act like that? You must have misunderstood something he said.” That is so frustrating. There might be one action that Joe does which you included in your story and instantly someone picks up on it and thinks you’re living out your problems through your writing. They don’t seem to realise that the character may have a characteristic of Joe but is NOT Joe!

Also, your family and friends don’t know what to look for, in your writing, to improve it. Yes, they can tell you if it’s readable or not and that is the first step but after that you need to know if you’ve got grammar problems, plot holes or inconsistencies.

So what do you do?

It’s hard to know exactly because you must remember that not everyone can be trusted and you certainly don’t want someone else stealing your idea. So talk to other writers (who you trust) and find out if they can recommend a writers group that will help you turn your draft manuscript into a polished manuscript that can be sent to an agent or publisher.

You can also join a message board that has a protected area where you can share your work with the other members yet no one else can view/steal your story. Remember, it’s common curtesy to return the favour too. If you are receiving good critiques on your work, you should endeavour to do the same thing for other people. In fact, doing this often changes your view of writing and this will help you see your own work through fresh eyes.

There are a lot of resources on the Internet which will be very helpful. Some critique groups expect you to critique three other stories to get a critique in return. Others allow their members to critique the stories they are interested in, only when they have the time. Yet there are groups where members seem to love to “flame” other members – these groups should be given a wide birth. No one should ever flame another person’s work – NEVER!! There is good and bad in all of our work and both of these things should be pointed out in a friendly helpful manner.

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