The First Reader

You’ve just put the final touches on your first draft; you’ve made a list of potential markets for submission; you’re almost ready to dive into the never-ending days of edits and rewrites, but before you take that plunge, your first reader needs to review your work.

The first reader is the first person to read your work in its most crude and vulnerable phase. They haven’t been involved in the world of your story for weeks, or even months, so they can read it without bias, find the incongruities and offer valuable input. The first time I give my piece to my first reader, I am looking for him to tell me about any gaping holes in my story. Does the story flow? Does it make sense? Does it draw the reader in? What does he like? What doesn’t he like?  Have I changed tense partway through? Is my protagonist consistent? Is he or she likeable? Should she be a he, or he a she?

I am lucky to have my partner in life as my first reader. I trust him to be candid, to point out the imperfections, to question my character’s motives, actions and behaviour; by answering his queries, I learn what changes need to be made. He reads my work without preconceptions, experiencing my words through a fresh perspective. My first reader will uncover the major flaws of my story I can’t see because I’m too close to the work. I take note of his questions, suggestions and insights, before I start editing and rewrites; after each revision, I give it back to him for another first read.

I believe it’s important for all writers to have a first reader. It helps build our skill and prepares us to accept criticism with grace and style. Who is your first reader?


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