I Heart My Alpha Reader

I have beta readers who will read the novel when it's finished. In the meantime, I have one person who is willing to read each chapter as it comes out, even if it's weeks or months between, even when the chapters she gets are a confusing mess.

She's my alpha reader. The following is a random list of things I love about her:
  • She claps in excitement when I tell her I have a new chapter.
  • It's fun to watch her read. She winces and laughs and gets scared at all the right moments.
  • She asks me all kinds of useful questions, especially when what I wrote doesn't make any sense.
  • She doesn't put up with me when I try to argue why something I wrote is right. (Don't argue with the reader!)
  • Even if a chapter sucks, she encourages me by telling me what she liked.
  • Having her read each chapter, when I haven't finished the novel yet, helps keep me going. It helps me believe that what I'm writing is worth reading - or can be.
  • Knowing she'll read the ending as it happens forces me to plan everything leading up to it, so it (hopefully) strikes her well.
  • Her questions, and her convictions about what "has to happen next," give me ideas I hadn't considered and make the novel better.
  • She doesn't give me ideas often (usually preferring to let me do the writing), but when she does they're always good.
  • She believes in me.
Everyone's got their own process. For some, an alpha reader might just get in the way. For heavy planners like me, though, I recommend finding someone who can tell you how you're doing, chapter by chapter. They don't have to be a writer, just a reader. My alpha reader (who's also my wife, if you didn't already figure) has as much to do with the quality of my manuscript as I do.

She doesn't even like sci-fi or fantasy.

4 comments:

Natalie said...

I have two alphas myself (hubby and best friend), and I must say they are invaluable to me. So, so helpful. Knowing they are going to read forces me to really think about what I'm writing and what happens next.

They also push me to keep going too. Otherwise I might just give up.

The Wannabe Scribe said...

You've got a gem there Adam.

Elle Scott said...

Sometimes, it's difficult to find a good alpha reader. I've found the Critters workshop (http://www.critters.org/) to be a great resource. It can be a little time consuming, but the rewards are very good.

MattyDub said...

HBO did a miniseries last year on the life of John Adams (it was called "John Adams"). It was very well done all around, I thought. But the best part for me and my wife was the relationship between John and his wife Abigail. In the first episode, as John is writing closing arguments for a trial in which he is the defense attorney, he has Abigail read it. It's a great scene because she really calls out the best in him, as all our great alphas do.
-M