Christine asked two important questions in the comments on the Draft Dodgers post:
I’m curious who you select to read your work along with you – friends, family, perfect strangers?
Is it hard for them to be brutally honest?
I know how I chose the set of people I am using but I’m not sure how to advise anyone anyone else to find people like this in their set of friends. So maybe I’ll describe them and that might help.
Reviewer 1 – Nick Ollivere
I’ve known Nick since we were 12. We were also flatmates for around 4 years. So we have a secure friendship. Nick is also a writer. During most of the time we’ve known each other we’ve worked on projects together. Writing with somebody else means, to a certain extent, having to try and get your bit in ahead of what the other one wrote. And part of doing that involves being able to criticise the other. So we have a long and secure relationship, and because he’s a writer he tends to read it in a slightly different way. Brutal honesty is guaranteed. We’re used to it, because I guess when writing together we are making something together and so he’s used to changing my writing to make our project better.
Reviewer 2 – Katherine Hall
Well most people in a relationship know where their best critic is – their partner. Fair, balanced, truthful and unwilling to let you get away with cheating yourself. The only problem is that while you imagine you don’t write with your own voice, of course it’s all in there – and Katherine has to hear my voice a lot! This is going to make reading something this long a bit tricky. I mean Katherine is editing this
article before it is published too. But on the other hand that familiarity means she is used to giving me the feedback I need. So brutal honesty – check, secure relationship – check.
Reviewer 3 – Adrian Lightly (fourstar)
I spend a lot of time with Adrian as we are friends and we work together for about 11 hours a day, and we have been doing so for about 5 years. We don’t write together but we do create software together. This means that a large part of what we spend our days doing is a kind of critical creativity. We are finding problems and solutions together. When you hear the word criticsise you imagine it as a horrible slight to the receiver of it. Constructive criticism is such an abused phrase by people who want to dress up their mean criticism. But constructive criticism is our
trade I guess. “This button should be blue and be over here because when people press it they are thinking of the kind of actions that go with these other blue buttons, rather than these orange ones over there”. There is no malice in there, it’s making the whole thing better, and how was I supposed to remember the users were that crazy? So brutal, practiced honesty and long-term secure friendship.
The group so far are the reviewers who helped with the Book with the Missing First Page. We got the band back together. But because of the length of the novel I have decided to bring in some new eyes.
Reviewer 4 – Dei
Another friend and colleague, Dei is an actual editor for a living. Even though I have known her for less time than the others, it is her job to tell people the truth for a living. So this should be pretty easy for her.
And two others who haven’t reviewed for me before, are both good friends, but I haven’t asked – so I can’t really announce. It will be interesting to see if they will be able to tell me the truth as well as the others, but they will give me a fresh perspective.