Advice, Critique, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Novel, Opinion, Questions, Read, Reader, Reader, Tips, Writing

Who do you trust?

Because I have a surplus of questions, but a dearth of answers, I’d like to trade a few of the first for more of the second. The big question today is: who do you trust to read your writing? But that’s too simple, so I’m going to complicate things with qualifiers.

I’m curious about how other writers get feedback on their work.

  1. Do you let anyone read your work in progress (first or second draft) or only when you feel it’s nearly polished?
  2. Do you have a spouse, or other family member, who reads and discusses your writing with you and if so, is this person a writer?
  3. Do you have a close friend who read for you—and if so, is this friend a writer? (Revised)
  4. Do you have a mentor?
  5. Do you submit your work to a critique group—and if so, is this a face-to-face or online group?
  6. Do you submit only in a workshop/class situation?
  7. Do you think writers should rely on their own skills and listen only to feedback from a professional (agent or editor)?

I’ll start first by saying that none of my family members read my work … or maybe I should say, not anymore. And I have only two non-writer friends who read my last novel—one in progress, the other read the short version. Other than that, I must depend on the kindness of strangers. Actually, that would be my critique group members and two writer friends who read my complete novel, and a couple more writer friends who gave me feedback on a story or two. Presently, I’m in a small face-to-face critique group, just four of us, and these other three have read my novel, some short stories, and a few versions of my agent query letter. This group is most familiar with my style—and also my faults—which makes them my valuable front line. And though I bug one or more of them by email between our monthly meetings, essentially it’s a rather “formal” arrangement. I’ve often wondered if I should seek feedback from real strangers in an online group (I used to do that ten years ago) or what it would be like to have a true mentor.

Okay, I gave you some of my questions; will you give me some of your answers?

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33 thoughts on “Who do you trust?”

  1. 1. I will let some people read short stories in the early stages – normally this is because I’m trying to get a feel for whether it’s worth pursuing, or because they’ve asked. I have a couple people I will trust at the early stage but you have to find the right person for it to work.
    2. No. My husband doesn’t read. My family have read my stories but I would never ask them for critical feedback. They are a great source of encouragement and praise, but that’s not entirely helpful (though lovely, and much needed at times! I’d like to keep it that way).
    3. Yes, I do. Several very good writer friends read my work and give me varying degrees of comments/feedback on my work. I let other friends read my work as well, but they don’t tend to give a lot of feedback other than ‘loving’ my work.
    4. No.
    5. I used to put some of my stories through which was a great way to get a variety of feedback. I don’t have the time to participate at the moment though so am ‘inactive’. I do have a pool of writers who I trade work with though, and that’s all done online. They send me things to read and critique and I do the same. Each writer has a different way of looking at things which I find helpful.
    6. No.
    7. I think having a community of writers is very important, but only so long as the feedback is honest – you can be respectful of others while still giving an honest opinion. In the early stages, we have to write for ourselves, but in the long run the reader is who the book/story is for and we have to take them into consideration – are we getting across the messages we want to? Does the story make sense and hit the right mark? I think this can be hard to do in solitude. Definitely if you can get ‘professional’ feedback that is a plus, but a lot of people simply don’t have access to that.

    As an aside, I’ve found that the most helpful thing for me when it comes to my writing is finding other writers who have the same level of drive, motivation and commitment to the process. Having a similar output is also helpful because then you can keep a good balance going on.

    Great questions and I have loved reading everyone’s responses!


    1. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Cassie. I’m encouraged to read that several of you don’t have husbands who read your work. Before now, it seemed every writer I knew got valuable input from their spouse and I was feeling left out.

      Finding just the right person(s) to trade critique with is a dream come true.


  2. I let my best friend who is also my Alpha reader read my first draft when it’s done… When my manuscript is revised and polished, I have two- three more people whose opinions I highly value and trust so I’ll let them read it as well…
    But I don’t let my family read my work… I can’t have the ‘what will they think of ‘me’? question instead of the ‘what will they think of the book’ at the back of my mind…
    I believe feedback is an important and useful tool for writers and having a group of trusted people who can provide that is a blessing…


    1. I agree, Lua, family members are usually too “close” to be valuable readers. I, too, believe feedback is an important tool, so it’s been interesting to see that not all writers agree.


  3. Hey Casey, am a first-timer on your blog – it’s very cool and I especially like this topic! Good luck with your writing, and here my answers:

    I usually give it away already in pieces of around 50 pages, while I am still writing (having said that, I usually review the stuff constantly so the language at least is quite polished). The input and thoughts of my early readers is usually invaluable for the development of the manuscript, open my mind and make the work more complete to me.

    2) My hubby gets the first read, but he is not a very analytical person, so I take it mainly for a first impression. The rest of my family is too close and can’t stop searching for connections with my real life so I only present them with the finished manuscript.

    3) Three – one girl for the eagle eye of consistency and logic, another girl because she reads a book mainly with her emotions, the third is a guy who analyses motifs and questions a lot of actions of the characters. All of them are invaluable.

    4) All my writing friends are English speaking, my main fiction work is in German. Bummer, but they still do mentor me. In an indirect way.

    5) + 6) No.

    7) Both are very, very important. My submission process to agents and my current agent taught and teach me a lot. Still, it is up to the writer what to take on board. Writing for commercial success is not necessarily the only way to write, after all…


    1. Welcome, Eva, and thanks for reading and commenting.

      I especially like your answer to #3. It sounds like you’ve found a way to get a well-rounded critique of your work. It’s clever of you to consider feedback from each of your readers in terms of their strengths.


  4. You always manage to spark such interesting discussions, Linda!

    1. Sometimes a first draft when it’s complete, usually 2nd.
    2. spouse, he blogs and writes poetry
    3. no
    4. no
    5. had a face/face group, can’t manage time to critique others at this point in time so had to drop
    6. yes
    7. I think feedback helps to some extent, but for the most part I found that critique group feedback either gets me off track from my voice/vision or simply echoes what I already know! It’s helpful to bounce off my husband because he reads a lot in many genres, and I can annoy him with questions to dig out more detail in areas I know need re-writing, re-structuring, etc.


    1. Ah, Cathryn, you’re one of the lucky ones with “in house” feedback. That’s obviously why you find no use for critique group feedback. I do pump my husband for bits of info, mostly business related, which I know nothing about, but he’s neither a reader nor a writer. He supports my writing in many other ways though.


  5. Wow, sorry I’m late for this one. Lot’s of interesting feedback here.
    1. My husband read the first draft. I received some decent feedback, but he’s not a writer and not a reader. He reads non-fiction and magazines, never novels.
    2.Yes, my husband again. Of course with his attention span I get about 5 mins a day, then he glazes over and returns to the baseball game on TV.
    3. Yes, my best friend just started to read for me. It’ll only took me two years to convince her to hep me. When I can tie her down she is very helpful, but only one chapter at a time. If I print more than one chapter for her it ends up being a waste of paper, she starts and never finishes. (yes, I know this isn’t a good sign) At lease I trust her opinion and her honest feedback.
    4. No
    5. I have an online group, Critique Circle. I submit one chapter at a time. Now that I have regular readers, reading a chapter a week, the feedback is much more helpful. If I had to be more specific, I’d say it’s 80% helpful 20% crap. It was much harder in the beginning.
    I don’t think a live, month to month critique group would help me. I can’t wait an entire month for 5 minutes worth of feedback.
    6. No
    7. No. I think writers need fresh eyes and another perspective. You don’t have to take the advice given but anything can spark inspiration. I get tons of ideas from the critiques I receive, usually by accident.


    1. Better late than never, Dayner. 🙂 I’d ask my husband to read for me, if I wrote thrillers, otherwise no way. Once a month is not often enough for me either, when I have something ready for critique, but when I don’t it seems too often. I feel pressured to write something … anything … just so I can submit.

      I’ve found the answers to my question #7 very interesting. I know I’m strong in some aspects of writing, but I also know I’m weak in others, so I depend on “fresh eyes” to help me with my weaknesses. I guess some writers are strong in all areas, so they don’t need these other readers.


      1. “I guess some writers are strong in all areas, so they don’t need these other readers.”
        I disagree. I think every one should take advantage of fresh eyes, even of they ignore the advice. Doesn’t everyone need someone to read for them at some point? Even published authors? Agents, editors, and publishers can be considered fresh eyes.
        Although, I agree with the statement that feedback can often get us off track. That’s true too. I’ve fallen victim to this.


        1. That was my attempt at diplomacy, Dayner. 🙂 Since I’m always railing against writing rules, I don’t feel I should tell other writers what they have to do, but I can’t imagine not getting feedback. And yes, agents and editors are fresh eyes, though from what I’ve read fewer agents are willing to do much editing, so they look for near perfect manuscripts. They expect that you’ve run your work through a critique group before you query them … in fact most of them tell you that outright.


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