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Choosing Carefully

Now that the second draft of my novel is creeping into sight, I’m starting to think about who I should ask to read the second draft. I have a few people in mind, but it occurred to me last week that none of my second-round readers had read the previous draft, which got me thinking about whether or not that matters.

I’ve definitely heard of the term “fresh eyes” (who hasn’t, right?), and I agree with it when it comes to proofreading. It’s so hard to notice errors when you’ve already looked at something once. That’s one of the reasons I like to print things and mark them up when I’m editing. And as a writer, I also feel like it’s hard to see structural issues in your own work sometimes, especially when you’ve been shifting things around and storyboarding and outlining for who knows how long. I believe in taking a step back and trusting other people to take a look and let you know what needs work.

What I’m wondering is, is it worth it to have first-round readers take a look at the second draft? I can see the benefit of comparison here—these people haven’t been doing all of the shifting, they just read the first draft, and and if they now read the second, they would probably notice the differences (or the places where I failed to make a significant difference). I think that could be genuinely helpful, but I also wonder how many reads a person can do before it’s just not as effective to ask them anymore.

I also see the pros and cons of asking fresh readers to look at the second draft. They don’t know where the book started, which I think is probably more pro than con—in a way they’re getting a first look, so they don’t feel bad about how much work I may have already done on a certain part, because they have no idea. Maybe that’s the most important thing to me. I want to be sure I’m getting honest feedback.

I gave my first draft to the person I thought would be my harshest, but most honest, critic. I want these critiques to be just as honest, but maybe a little less brutal. At this point I’ve spent so much time reworking certain things that I think I need some feedback that’s certainly just as honest, but maybe a little sugarcoated.

How do you all feel? Do you use the same readers for at least two reads, or do you change it up with every draft? Are there certain people you really trust who read every page of every draft? Let me know in the comments below!

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