It is a wonderful experience to hear people debate for two hours about characters and scenes that came from your imagination. The story became a living, breathing creation!
The feedback was invaluable and proved that test readers are worth their weight in gold. Here are my Top Five Tips for making the most of your test readers.
1. Pick Wisely – all writers should join a writing group and there is no better group of people to use as test readers. Writers understand stories and the processes behind creating them. They are always happy to help because they may expect you to return the favour one day.
2. Save the Date – do not rush your test readers. Allow them a month to read your manuscript but be clear about the deadline. Set the time, date and venue of your feedback session in advance. A quiet pub or coffee shop would be ideal. Naturally, you will be buying the drinks!
3. Be Courteous – make sure your manuscript is finished and edited before giving it to your test readers. It is extremely discourteous to waste their time with a story full of spelling mistakes, under-developed characters or pages which say ‘going to write this scene later’.
4. Provide Direction – present a series of questions at the end of the manuscript for the group to consider after reading. This allows the group to gather their thoughts before the feedback session. Make sure these are specific questions which address real concerns that you have about your story.
5. Paper Copies – this is my top tip. Provide five of your test readers with a paper copy of your manuscript and ask them to scribble their thoughts all over it. Suggest that they cross out the boring bits, tick the good bits and underline any grammatical errors. This close analysis is by far the most valuable feedback that you can receive and will ensure every clunky sentence is ironed out.