Cutting It Short: Find an honest proof-reader. Give them a list of questions to answer. Discuss their thoughts. Adapt what you want.
This is an area in my writing experience that surprised me. I had some people in mind for proof-reading, but ended up asking someone I had only spoken to a few times. Someone I knew would be completely honest in their thoughts. It’s convenient to ask a significant other, but I’ve found that they often times don’t feel like they can give as honest answers/opinions as you need. (it’s also hard hearing it from them)
So, you found your honest person, what now? Give them your printed manuscript with a list of questions you’d like answered (sample questions will be listed below), and let them know it’s okay to add any other points they feel are relevant.
It does take time, since this person will be writing out their thoughts, and questions they want to go over with you. Give them the space to do that.
Once they are done, have a sit down to talk things through. I can’t stress enough how important it is to go into this with a completely open mind. It’s easy for us writers to grow attached to our characters, or scenes, but we have to remember that this person is coming at you from a non-emotional state, so their thoughts are normally more clear than your own.
Take notes. Lots of notes!
Take time to think through the opinions you got. You don’t have to change everything to whatever that person told you. Sometimes, speaking with them simply sparks an idea for that catch you’ve been trying to figure out, or another scene that opens clarity to the story.
In the end, it’s your book, your writing, your characters, your world. You don’t have to change anything based on another opinion.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
– Thoughts on each of the main characters? How are they coming off? Why are they coming off in those ways?
– Is the storyline sticky? If so, where are they getting caught up?
– What, as a reader, are they wanting to know? What do they want to see resolved? What are their own guesses on where the story is going?
__ These are just a few of the questions I wanted answered whenever my proof-reader was going through my manuscript. If you have any you’d like to add, feel free to drop those in the comments sections!
As always, I’m open to banter.