I’m envious of writers who show their work first to their spouses. My spouse has no interest in what I write and likely wouldn’t read anything if I asked him. My mom, bless her, is happy to help with grammar and typos, but doesn’t give much feedback on the plot or the characters.
For a long time, I didn’t have a primary, or a beta reader for that matter. It wasn’t until the last few years that I developed a friendship with the person who would become my primary reader. Just in the past year, I’ve found there are three people I am willing to show the raw and unedited draft that is my WiP.
It takes a lot of time to trust that your primary reader will be encouraging and have the insight to gauge the potential of a project in rough form. I am happy I put in the time because I find these ladies are an invaluable asset to my writing process. It’s also reciprocal; I am often a primary reader for each of them.
Beta readers are a little different. I usually beta twice, once to my writers group and later to an extended group that includes a few trusted friends and relatives. I take the advice and notes of people in the first group, who understand the craft of writing, revise, and then release to a wider audience of people who regularly read and buy books. The questions for each group are different as well.
My writers group will tell me when the plot is lacking, a character seems one-dimensional, and where the prose is sloppy or ineffective. The second group tells me if the characters are likable, where it got boring, if all questions posed in the beginning are answered by the end, and if the ending is satisfying. I also ask if plot twists were surprises or if I put in too much foreshadowing. Both groups help identify typos and grammar slips.
I imagine there are writers who do fine without primary or beta readers. I am not one of them.
Who reads for you? Who is the one person you trust with your rawness? Has it changed over time? What would it be like if you didn’t have your primary reader around to do what they do?