Can you believe we’re already halfway through December? I feel as if Novel in November – remember that epic journey we did last month? – is already yonks away in the distant past. Thoughts of Christmas and this busy season have set my dear little novel on a back burner this month, and I must say, I really miss it!
But of course I should be spending regular revising it as it’s our revision month! But boy is it difficult to stick to task when there’s no ticking clock & world-wide community keeping you accountable… am I right? Oh the blessing/curse of deadlines!
If you’re finding yourself in a similar slump – wanting to get that manuscript pressed & polished for the new year but failing to find the drive, then maybe… just maybe it’s time to enlist a Second Reader. Dun dun dun…
Now don’t flip out just yet! I did say maybe. And it might not be that time. For instance, if you know your novel is in bits & pieces that won’t stand a chance of being understood coherently, then work out the big issues before handing it over. OR, as Bri recommended in her revision post last week, if you feel you’re just too fragile at this particular moment to weather criticism & the inevitable of others not loving your book as much as you’d hoped, then maybe it’s not the time. Yet.
But let me encourage you to dare to share. Here’s when it might just be a good idea:
- Your story is more or less in place chronologically, but you’ve lost objectivity & need a 2nd pair of eyes to tell you if it all makes sense? It’s time to share! Amazingly, thanks to pre-planning, I don’t need to do any huge plot revision… I don’t think. I just need to know that what made sense in my head actually comes across on the page to the reader.
- Your story has a target readership that’s not you? Test it out! My own novel is aimed at 9-12 year olds (mostly girls). I happen to be blessed with five nieces & several friends around that age bracket who are excellent readers. So I’m sending off a copy to them all on 16 December. See what I’ve done there? I’ve got a deadline to get my engine revving up again! I mean, who wants to break a promise to a bunch of eager 9-12 year old girl??!!
- Your story contains specialist topics or lingo? Get in an expert! The main character of my story is an equestrian. I am not. Sure, I did a bit of research to get the basic terminology down. I even visited the Royal Horse Guard at St James’ Palace so I could experience period stable culture. But I’m still no expert. I want the horse language in my novel to be believable to my equestrian readers but still accessible to those less versed. So, I’ve asked my literary equestrian friend to be a second reader! Bingo! Don’t have a friend who’s an expert? Consider emailing a teaching assistant or grad student at a local college, for instance. They like showing off what they know;-)
It can be truly earth shattering to hand out something so personal and so precarious as a DRAFT of your novel. But overcoming the fear of criticism is essential to becoming a writer. We write for our own sakes, sure. But story is a craft meant to be shared with others.
So dare to share! Here a couple more tips to help you take the plunge:
- Choose your second readers carefully! Don’t only give your novel to your mum or your spouse (though by all means share with them if they can be objective!). But preferably go with folks who know the genre you’re writing, or who understand the craft of writing themselves. They will have a critical eye, but hopefully a gentle approach as well!
- Ask specific questions. I recommend putting together a review questionnaire for your second readers. Especially if they are young readers, ie. my nieces & young friends. They may have great feedback, yet if you only ask them “So, how did you like the book?” They’ll likely not know where to begin and just tell you, “Yea, it was good.” Not so helpful. So ask specifics! What did you like about this character? How would you describe the villain? Were you surprised when you discovered who the murderer was? … You get the drift.
- Brace yourself, and consider comments carefully. Novels are subjective pieces of art. They won’t resonate with every reader equally, but that doesn’t comment on their objective value (or yours as the writer!). Take every comment into consideration, but don’t be too hasty to make changes. You as the author must still love what you’ve written at the end of the day. And if you love it, chances are, there’s a readership out there who will really love it too.
So how’s editing going for you? Have you dared to share? Share your experience with us & the Brewhaha community in the comments below!