Thursday, May 13, 2010

Toss Around Thursday - First Readers

I've had some goals to meet this week, and they've kept me busy! The wip is so close now. I've read through it start to finish, making edits as I go. After a short blogging/getting kids off to school/grocery shopping break, I'm going to go through it one more time (hopefully much more quickly this time!) before dropping it in the laps of my first line of beta readers: my mom, my dad, and my husband.
I know what you may well be thinking: Not such a good idea to depend on family critiques of my work. Well, my poor husband is being forced to read it for technical content. This wip includes guns and knives and cars. While he's not really an expert either, he knows a lot more about them than I do. He probably won't have much to say about the writing or the story itself.
My mom and dad, however, can and do provide invaluable feedback. My mom reads more books in a month that I probably read in a year, so she knows a great deal about what constitutes good writing. And she's not afraid to be brutally honest. She's one of my biggest supporters, and she's realistic enough to know I need honesty, not an ego boost. She also knows she won't hurt my feelings. I've learned from past experience that I don't have to take every piece of advice I'm given, and that the critiques I do receive are a gift, not a personal assault (I suppose sometimes they may be, but I've never received one of those - thank goodness!)
Late as always, I missed doing a Mother's Day post, but I've included a picture of my mom with me and two of my three sisters above. Can you guess which one is me? Happy Belated Mother's Day, Mom! And thanks for all your love and support over the years.
So what I'd like to toss around today is this: who are your first round critiquers? And do you ask your family to read and/or critique your work?
I know I haven't been around much this week, not posting or commenting nearly as much as I'd like. I even considered taking another blogcation, but I honestly miss you guys too much so I didn't want to do that unless I had to. But with a little luck and a lot of hard work, I should be able to get enough done today to spend some time in the blogosphere tonight.

And don't forget to enter T.J.'s Famous Friday Contest! I probably won't be entering this week (I don't have much creative energy left after a week of heavy editing), but I'm looking forward to reading/watching the other entries! Especially because Jen over at unedited says she made a video and it has my name in it. Eek - I hope that's a good thing! :)
Late Breaking News: I just signed up for the Let's Talk Blogfest over at Fiction Groupie. On May 18 post a short excerpt of your favorite dialogue scene. Roni's even giving away a $10 Amazon gift card. I hope to see you there!
P.S. Does anyone else have trouble getting line breaks in between paragraphs in Blogger? I had to put those asterisks between my paragraphs because it wasn't recognizing my line breaks and ran everything together. Are there any tricks to that I should know about?


Joanne said...

My daughters do read my work, and are astute in their observations. We all understand writing is part of the process, so they are honest in their feedback, and I always consider all suggestions with an open mind. And that's a beautiful photo of your family. I'd guess you are the one sitting closest to Mom!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My husband reads all my work first and he's not afraid to point out mistakes. I think that's a fine lineup of test readers.

Anonymous said...

First, I love the picture! You all look very natural, and have beautiful smiles! My two daughters have been my first readers lately. They both are big readers. And they can let me know if my teenage characters are acting realistically.

Kristie Cook said...

My "alpha" readers are my husband and best friend - they read as I write, a few chapters at a time. Their sole purpose in this stage is to cheer me on and point out any HUGE blunders. Beta readers range from my mom, my aunt, friends and other writers. I like to mix "just readers" with writers to get various perspectives. But I've learned not to rely on "just readers" because there are things they just don't know how to put into words so you understand what the problem is.

I'm not sure what the line-break problem is. Do you hit enter twice after each paragraph?

Old Kitty said...


I think you are the second to the right of that pic?

I love the pic - all the girlz together - brilliant!! What a proud mum to have such lovely daughters.

It's great that you have a good source of constructive critique people to rely on - an objective and helpful reader always helps with the wip.

I rely entirely on two friends - they don't mess with niceties - and are brutally honest! But also very very very helpful.

Oooh as for blog para spaces.. I find that using the edit html option most useful - the html at least shows where spaces are/paragraphing etc (the >p or <p) and so I can delete or add spaces. The compose section is really not so helpful when it comes to formatting. I hope this makes sense!

Take care

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

Susan, I'm happy to say I know which one is you! But it's nice to see your family. You all look so happy!!

I do have trouble getting line breaks sometimes. Not always though. I do the same thing you do, except I use a period.

For critiquing, I have two critique groups and a beta reader. I think I need another level though. I'm feeling like I still need more...

Susan Fields said...

Joanne - My daughter is 14 and she's just getting to the age where she can read my work and give me feedback (I write YA). My niece is 15 and she does also. It is nice to get a younger person's opinion!

L. Diane - Unfortunately, my husband is not a fan of my genre (even less so now that I've moved more into romance), but he'll still slog through it if I ask him to. Hooray for husbands!

Lynn - Yes, I'm grateful my daughter and niece can now read my work and give me a younger person's point of view. I also recently found a college student beta reader (and you know who you are - hi there!), and since my wip takes place on a college campus (something I haven't been on in almost twenty years), I'm sure that will be very helpful!

Susan Fields said...

Kristie - You make a very good point. Luckily I do have some writer friends who read my stuff, too. I think a mix of writers and readers is very helpful.

Old Kitty - I hadn't thought about trying to edit it in the html - that's a great idea! I'll try that next time. Sometime I have this problem and sometimes I don't, but I'm sure editing the html will be more effective than just taking line breaks out and putting them in, hoping it will take this time. :) It's so important to have honest readers, they're a huge blessing.

Amy - Yes, I knew there would some of you out there, those that actually know me :), that I couldn't fool with the picture, but it doesn't sound like I've fooled anyone else, either! I'm glad I'm not the only one whose had to resort to forcing the paragraph issue with typing a character (I'll try periods if I have this problem again, less noticeable). Hopefully editing the html like Old Kitty said will work and there won't be a next time.

You know I always love to read anything you write, just send it my way! :)

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

Old Kitty--Thanks! I'm going to try editing the html next time. Sometimes it drives me crazy!

And Susan, you read plenty for me already. I really appreciate it!

Crimey said...

My first readers are always my mom and my Better Half. They are literally hunting me down for the novel so I must abide.

Susan R. Mills said...

My mom and daughter are always the first to read my work. My daughter because she is part of my target audience and is incredibly honest without fear of hurting my feelings. I think she actually enjoys it. I have my mom read for the opposite reason. She strokes my ego. :)

Robby said...

I don't let anyone read my work. I probably should, but I don't. :]
I use line breaks and they seem to work, so I'm not sure why they won't work for you. Hmm...the internet is so trivial.

Talli Roland said...

What a lovely photo!

If Blogger takes out your line breaks, go to 'Edit HTML' and put < div > (without the spaces) after the paragraph where you want a space to occus.

Hope that helps!

Theresa Milstein said...

Stephen King thinks family and friends are perfectly fine. It's a personal preference. I've had my sister, husband, father-in-law, and four different manuscript exchange partners tackle my manuscripts. All help in a different way, based on their strengths.

Susan Fields said...

Amy - I love to read your stuff, keep sending it my way!

Crimey - Isn't it nice to have people hunting you down to read your work? What a wonderful feeling!

Susan - Your daughter sounds a lot like mine! She sees no reason to put anything delicately. Must be a mother/daughter thing. :)

Robby - Most of the time my line breaks work, but every once in a while they'll just refuse. And you should let people read your work! It's hard at first, but it gets a lot easier the more you do it.

Talli - Thank you (for the compliment and the tip)! I'll definitely try that next time Blogger acts up. :(

Theresa - That's great you have so many people willing to offer critiques! My sisters will also critique for me, and they're very helpful, but I usually go to Mom first. :)

Kelly@ JustWrite said...

I have a critique group who are brutal, thankfully! My husband has never read my stuff and my mom would just tell me how awesome I am!

Congrats on your wip!!! Yay you!

Hema P. said...

What a lovely picture, Susan! Are you sitting right next to your mom?

As for family being part of your critics group, my first beta readers are always my daughter and my two sisters. They do invariably love what I write, but are not shy (believe me! :)) about pointing out what doesn't work -- each of them reads quite a bit, too, and hence my trust in their judgement. And then I take my work to the critique group I'm part of.

I'm so excited for you!! Good Luck with that quick run through your MS!

Tara said...

How exciting to be so close to the finish line!

I have a few friends who do a read-through first. And I have belong to a crit group that does a lot more than a read-thru. *gulp*

Anonymous said...

I had that trobule until I figured out I could select the Edit HTML tab and add or remove line breaks with ease. And I have family and friends who read the draft when I'm finished. Od course, I'm stubborn so I do not change the plot, characters, or setting. Mainly just editing stuff like sentence structure and syntax .

Stephen Tremp

Jen said...

You guys are beautiful!!!! All big beautiful smiles too! You could be in a movie that has a good-looking family... okay enough flattering, sorry I got carried away!!

I'm so bummed you got to busy this week to set something up for T.J. Carson's Famous Friday but I think you'll enjoy my video... don't worry it's all good! You'll have to tell me what you think of it though for sure!

YAY for being so close to the finish. My hubs is the first one to read it and critique it, he helped me get through spouts of writer's block or things that didn't make sense, I loved it! Then it is a few friends of mine I consider very close, and then a few bloggers I've entrusted and their opinions mean very much too me!

Happy Thursday!

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

I'm constantly fighting with Blogger, so sadly I have no helpful advice to offer.

Gorgeous pic of your family!

Keep at it :)

Jen said...

OH my gosh you made my day! I'm excited that you were able to enter her contest! Super special or not I'm just glad you posted this week :)

Thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it! His book is a must read, I loved learning more about him and in turn learning more about myself!

Lydia Kang said...

You're lucky! My family isn't interested yet in reading my early drafts.
Happy Belated Mother's Day to you! I'm sorry to say I don't have problems with line spaces in Blogger. Guess I'm just lucky!

Dawn Simon said...

Nice pic--beautiful family. :)

My first line of defense is my critique group. They critique as I write, even though it's the first draft. I find that works best for me because it helps me avoid some wrong turns (not all, of course). I don't usually have family read it, but it depends. For example, one of my brothers will read my current WIP (once it's finished) because he's an expert in one of my main character's hobbies. I also have a couple writer friends I ask to beta, once I have a clean draft.

When I have spacing problems with Blogger, I delete the paragraph spaces then hit hard returns. No idea if that's normal or "correct," but it's been working for me. Good luck!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Katherine is my first reader then the WAD...

Susan Fields said...

Kelly - Thanks for the congrats, it is very exciting! My critique group always has great suggestions, and some of them will read the entire manuscript, which is so helpful!

Hema - Thanks for the good wishes on the wip! I got rather distracted today, so I have some time to make up tomorrow! My sisters are wonderful critiquers, too!

Tara - yeah, sometimes those critiques can be pretty painful, but oh-so-necessary! A good critique group is a wonderful find. :)

Susan Fields said...

Stephen - I just finished a five month revision based on the critiques of my first four critiquers (a writing friend, my sister, my daughter, and my niece). There were A LOT of plot changes involved! I guess the ms needed them, though - it's much better now! And thanks for the html tip - I'll definitely try that next time.

Jen - It's nice to have a hubs who likes to read your work. I don't think my hubs' reading tastes and mine could be much different, but he will read stuff when I ask him to.

Wendy - Thanks for the compiments on the picture. Each of us three sisters had given our cameras to one of our kids, so we had three cameras going at once (which is why three of us aren't even looking at the camera.) :)

Myrna Foster said...

I have a sister who writes and a bunch of older nieces and nephews who like to read. I think family readers are great. I just have to take their personalities into account when when I listen to their critiques. And then I have writing friends I've met through blogging and stuff who've offered. I'm just starting to trade manuscripts with them. Feedback helps a lot.

Susan Fields said...

Lydia - Yes, I feel really lucky to have family members so gracious about reading my work and giving feedback - they're a real blessing!

Dawn - It sounds like you have some great critiquers - first draft critiquers, technical critiquers, and final draft critiquers. That's awesome! I don't think I could show anyone my first draft though, they're usually not fit for human eyes. :)

Sharon - I'm so glad to have a member of my target audience right in my house to read my stuff - such a huge help! And the Wad too, of course. :)

Susan Fields said...

Myrna - How nice that you have a sister who writes! Do you guys ever got to conferences together or anything? It's nice that my daughter and my niece are now in my target audience - such a bonus!

Jonathon Arntson said...

I have never considered having a family member read my stuff. My BFF has, but she's an English guru, so she just tells me all my sentences suck and doesn't even know how to write a character arc. I do think it's awesome for you to have your fam as first readers!!

Susan Fields said...

Jonathon - My parents are both English gurus, too, which is especially nice when I have grammar questions. Every critiquer has something different to offer, and English advice is a must-have!

Jonathon Arntson said...

That is a great point re: the diff types of critters!

Btw, I was born at North Ottawa in Grand Haven, we lived in Spring Lake and then moved to Norton Shores, which is where my parents grew up! Hoffmaster is great...and crowded! Remember Pleasure Island?!?! Thanks for the connection.

Susan Fields said...

Jonathon - that is so cool! I actually went to Mona Shores high school in Norton Shores. The name Pleasure Island is so familiar but it's not coming back to me right now. I left another comment over at your blog, too.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Get your work looked at by as many readers as you can. You can never tell when a novice reader notice a glaring plot hole you were too close to notice.

Have a slower paced day tomorrow. Roland.

Me, I have to prepare two presentations to give at our city's Sci_Fi convention, write my blog, answer people's comments, read others blog, run rare blood, and finish my edit of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

Piece of cake. Devil's Food cake, that is, Roland

Susan Fields said...

Roland - I hope your day goes well and you get everything on your to-do list accomplished! That sounds like a tall order. And you're so right about having as many readers as possible read your work, chances are they'll all be able to help in different ways.

Velva said...

I would guess that your are the first sister, right of your mother.

Happy belated Mother's Day to you! I hope your day was everything that you wanted it to be-

Some of my best critiques come from my family and others from my co-workers. My friends have a more difficult time offerring an honest critique.

Great, that you are almost finished. I think that is awesome.

btw, I don't have a clue about the line breaks in blogger. You may be able to check blogger help or Google the question.

Take care.

Paul C said...

What a great shot of your mother and two of your three sisters. Best wishes with your editing.

Jen said...

I saw your comment on Creepy Query Girls blog... you must do one next week! Don't worry I can help you make one if you are having trouble! You just tell me what you want to say and I'll set it up! I would hate for you to miss the fun!

Stephanie Cheryl said...

i have a group of three people who are my first readers: my good friend janell, who looks out for typos and such and gives her feedback in the end, lorraine (whom i like to call my "editor"), who is great with grammar as well as characterization, flow, etc, and then jeni, my critique partner, who does it all.

love the picture!

Susan Fields said...

Velva - I hadn't thought of that before, but I can see where it would be more difficult for friends to give an honest critique than family. Your family knows you'll still be their family, even if they don't think your characters are properly developed. :) I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day, too!

Paul - Hey! What about me? :)

Jen - Okay, you twisted my arm - I'll give it a try for next week. It really looks like so much fun! I'm going to check out the rest of the entries right now.

Stephanie - It sounds like you've been blessed with some wonderful critiquers! They're like gold, treat them well! :)

Creepy Query Girl said...

I usually send it to my mom and my cousins first. Then I clean it up best I can and send it to my critiques group. They're really the ones that help me clean it up best I can!

Great pic btw- I'd say you're the second one in on the left?

stu said...

My first drafts usually go to whichever of my friends is slowest to run away. As for my family, they haven't even read the published one.

Danyelle said...

My husband is a great reader for me. He catches things that I miss over and over again. I also have a few writing friends that are made of awesome. :D (Well, I have lots that are made of awesome, but a few I bug every now and then for a crit. ;-))

Bossy Betty said...

So great you get feedback and what a lovely group! I usually send my stuff to my grad school buddies!

T.J. Carson said...

Hm my first round critiques are as follows:

(1) my BFFL Alexa
(2) my sister KT
(3) my mom
(4) shelley
(6) hopefully Susan Fields ;)

Well that's the order I have followed thus far for my first novel. It just kinda happened. so yeah haha.

And I think you are the one with your sunglasses on your head and the jacket with the red shirt underneath!

Hey and thanks for blogging about my contest!!! :D

Yeah and blogger has been messing up with the HTML. Sometimes it adds too many spaces and sometimes none. It's driving me nuts. Have to reedit about a BAZILLION TIMES!

Jackee said...

Cute picture!!! And you're the one nearest your mother. :o)

I am shy about my family reading my work because they don't tell me what to fix and I want them to see it in its best possible form. I have a couple of beta readers. When I finish my current WIP, I'm hoping to find a 3rd beta.

So glad your family helps you out. They sound like great readers. And yes, the new blogger layout isn't very good for spacing...

Have a great weekend, Susan!

Shelley Sly said...

The picture's really cute! You guys look so happy.

That's wonderful that your family are such honest, but supportive, readers. My husband is always the first to read what I write, then my mother and grandmother, then my friends and beta readers. Hubby and betas are the most honest with me. My grandma will only say nice things. ;)

Susan Fields said...

Creepy Query Girl - That's nice that your cousins will read your stuff! I have an online critique group (though we all met at a weeklong conference, so we know each other pretty well). They're so helpful!

Stu - Maybe that's why my family reads my stuff - they can't outrun me. I hadn't thought of that...

Danyelle - It's funny you should mention your husband. I literally just handed my husband the ms I've been working on for almost a year about twenty mintues ago, and what is he doing? Playing his guitar. Hmmph!

Susan Fields said...

Bossy Betty - You mean HOB doesn't read your stuff? :)

T.J. - I'm sixth on the list??? I guess I was kind of late to join this party. Maybe I'll be able to work my way up. :)

Jackee - I'm actually feeling a little shy about my family reading this ms, too. It's my first romance. But my daughter and my niece already read it, so there's nothing too shocking in there. :)

Shelley - Grandmas are only supposed to say nice things, though, aren't they? I'm sure when I'm a grandma I'll do the same thing. My husband's pretty honest, too, which for some reason is harder to take than coming from other people. Poor guy!

Shannon said...

Congratulations on the're in the home stretch!

As for me, I have a mix of friends and family for the first read through. After that it's critique partners.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photo :o)

My friend, Jane always reads mine. She is got me into writing for children. She is a former university lecturer and has her own editing business. I struck gold meeting her! :o)

Susan Fields said...

Shannon - Sounds like you do just what I do. It's great to hear so many other writers have family and friends as their first readers, also!

Niki - A professional editor? Yes, you struck gold indeed!

Tess said...

I haven't read all the comments, so maybe someone answered..but how to keep blogger from squishing your post into one massive paragraph:

1. save post (don't publish)
2. go into edit post option
3. see squished paragraph and re-format it
4. save post again
5. publish post (or, if you want, you can go into edit once more and confirm the spacing)

that's how I have to do it. it's a pain to go into edit and realign every single time, but I got tired of having to use asterisks or other spacers and blogger just wouldn't behave! good luck -- and, congrats on the wip progress...wahoo!!

VKT said...

Since I am not a writer, I don't really have anyone read my blog. I just put it out there. I love reading what you, Bossy Betty and Niki write though. I do know one thing though...your family is full of lovely ladies!!

Susan Fields said...

Tess - I do that, sometimes over and over, but it doesn't keep the line spaces where I put them. Arghh! It sounds like yours is a better listener than mine. :(

VKT - I wouldn't have guessed you're not a writer, your blogs are always very well written. I love reading Bossy Betty and Niki's blogs, too - they're fun!

Lisa and Laura said...

You're so lucky you have such great readers in your family! We have our go to beta reader and we do eventually let friends and family read, but that's usually after our agent has seen it.


Oh boy, don't even get me started with line breaks and blogger. Oy vey. Re: family as secondary readers, I don't think it's a bad idea at all. I love the support and feedback I get from my sister. Wonderful that you have such a great family!

Susan Fields said...

Lisa and Laura - I just read the review over at your blog. How awesome - congrats! I'm not very consistent in who reads the book first, but family's almost always among the first.

Samuel - Have you tried editing the html to get the line breaks? I'm going to try that with my next post (if Blogger acts up). Wish me luck! I do feel so blessed to have family willing to give me great feedback, hooray that you've got your sister. :)