My first novel, Vintage, would have never landed an agent and gotten published if it had not been for the help of my posse of early readers who helped me whip the manuscript into shape. They included, in this order: me, two different critique groups, me, me, me, my college roommate, my law school roommate with a background in journalism, me again, lots of agents, me again, MY agent (once I got one), my agent’s colleagues, me again and again, a handful of editors, my editor’s assistant, a friend who lives in India, a friend’s mom, moi, my editor again and her assistant again, at least two or three copywriters, and… sheesh, I lose track.
Anyway, each of these times, the novel went through changes, and each time it got better. So if you’re questioning whether you need someone to read your manuscript before it goes on to its next step (queries, submission, contests), the answer is probably YES.
Here are a few tips to help make the most of those early reads.
- Make sure your manuscript makes sense. Before you bestow your friend/family/acquaintance with the buden–er, honor–of reading 300+ pages of your precious precious, make sure you’ve given it a good, critical read yourself. You’ll save your readers and yourself frustration and time down the line if you make sure that, even if it’s not 100% polished, the manuscript makes logical sense when you hand it off to your early readers.
- Grow a pair. Yes, even if you’re a lady. You’ll need some serious cojonoes to be able to read the feedback you’re going to get. News flash: not all of it will be positive. This is good. This means your readers are doing their job. Toughen up, have a shot of whiskey or what have you and listen to what they have to say.
- Settle down there, sparky. If you’ve asked more than one person to give you feedback, there’s no reason to scramble and let your head spin every time you get a set of notes. Read through them. Digest them. Give yourself time to figure out what resonates with you, as well as what you’re not willing to change. It is, after all, your precious. Don’t be rash.