Home » Writing » How was it for you?

How was it for you?

I found a link on Pinterest today that seemed quite relevant to me at the moment.

It’s called Ten Questions to Ask a Friend Who Just Read Your Novel, and it’s a great set of questions to ask more casual readers, rather than those who maybe you are asking to proof your work for errors and things.

I really love the idea of using friends and family as the first line of readers before your book goes out for publishing. I know that is a big no-no in the writing business, but I think writers should use every resource they can get. Luckily, my family and best friend know how much I want to succeed in my career so they are very honest with me.

They don’t worry about hurting my fragile writer feelings, because they know in the end it will be worth it if it makes my books better! 😀

Whilst I’ve been doing my final read outs of my books, I’ve been trying to think up questions that I can ask at the end. When I print off my manuscripts to give to my readers, I always include a front sheet stating things I want them to look out for, and looking back on them I realise I ask them to look on a lot of editing and technical stuff. I make them look at it critically, which is exactly what I want and need, but I also need them to read my book as a reader. I need to know if they enjoyed the story and characters itself.

Examples of my lovely front sheets :)

Examples of my lovely front sheets 🙂

But when I went looking for suggestions on questions to ask readers, a lot of them were focused on the technical side of things, such as: Were there many typos? How was my grammar? Etc. Which is important I know, and those are the things I always ask, but the questions in the article I found were different; rather than technical questions, they were more focused on story and character, and that is after all the most important part, right?

After having all my edits back on the technical side and working for so long on editing grammar and punctuation it was nice to be reminded to focus on story. And although my technical ability needs to be great (which is important to me), I also need to remember to look at my story as a reader and not just a writer. When I read a book, especially one I’m really enjoying, things like adverbs and how many commas a sentence has doesn’t matter very much. What matters is the story and the characters.

The technical side of my writing can be as brilliant as it wants, great editing and formatting, but unless the characters are relatable and real, and the story is fun and read-able, then all that lovely editing will count for little 😀 So, I’m going to make even more use of my readers, and ask them these new sets of questions and anymore I can think of (if you guys have suggestions, I would be very grateful!).

Are there any questions you always ask your readers? Do you wrangle your family and friends into reading your books before publishing? 😀

Also, I have finally got a Tumblr account for any of those who want to follow and connect 🙂 – awriterslifeformeblog. It will be a writing focused blog, with updates on my books and writing, as well as inspiration and tips.

Progress Report

Publishing status:
> StolenFinal edits. (Still to do: Cover, blurb, final read-out, formatting, marketing).
> The Queen’s JesterFinal edits. (Still to do: Cover, blurb, final read-out, formatting, marketing).
> Third ManuscriptEditing, 2/3 copies back from readers. (Still to do: Final edits, cover, blurb, final read-out, formatting, marketing).

April E-Book Review: Book read. Review ready.

59 thoughts on “How was it for you?

  1. Oh and I have tmblr too. Google plus and all that jazz. And I am definitely going to share questions I come up with in our chat.

  2. I always have my boyfriend read my work, not only because he’s actually a dynamo when it comes to spotting typos (grammar’s a big thing for him), but he’s also free of the technical background I have, so he can see the story for points of plot and things like that. The biggest question I have for him when he’s done, after he’s pointed out all the grammar fixes, is, “Does it make sense?” It’s a really simple question that opens up the floor to reveal any plot holes or questionable moments to consider. Followed by “What was your favorite part?” and “What didn’t you like as much?” Those two questions highlight what you’ve done well and what you can work on, which is helpful for both the piece in question as well as future stories.

    I spent a lot of time in college in workshop groups, so I feel pretty strongly on how to get to the core of a story, and I’ve found the most simple questions are the most enlightening. People will have different opinions on the niggling details, I’ve found, but the broader scope is where you can really make a big difference.

    • Having a range of different people read a book is a great thing to have, everyone looks out for different parts of the story and answer the questions in different ways, as you say 😀

      ‘Does it make sense?’ is probably one the most important questions to ask!

      Thank you for reading and sharing 🙂

  3. My husband is always my first reader. Then I have a few friends, but I think the beta readers that are people new to me picked up on subtle things and some glaring things that people closer to me might have been too forgiving of.

    • I think family can also tend to get used to way we write, and can skip over something because they have grown used to it 😀 Still, I am always very grateful for their input!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  4. I’m primarily a literary writer trying to move to better plotted work. For me, these are exactly the questions to do that. In writing group, when I share a first chapter, I always ask, did you want to read chapter two and, if so, why? (The answer can tell you as much about what the reader enjoys as it does about what you have written!) Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thanks for sharing your question, I think it will be useful for finding out if an opening is good enough to catch a reader’s interest!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  5. Great post! I come from a family that doesn’t read fiction of any kind, so I had to look elsewhere for readers. I focused on my target audience for feedback on my novel and that was super helpful. Test it on the consumers you hope will buy your book. I get the impression from other authors this is the best way to build an audience that grows. 🙂

    • It makes sense to target those you are writing for, generally those people will have read enough in that genre to know when things work and don’t 😀

      Thank you for the advice, and for reading 🙂

  6. I absolutely DO NOT wrangle friends and family into reading my book. I’m scared to death they’ll hate it and not know how to tell me. I let my husband proof read it and my daughter fact-check. That’s it. You are brave.

    • Well, I’m hoping there honesty is what will help me to improve as a writer 😀 If they don’t like it, at least I am confident enough with them to ask them why exactly not!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      • That’s what I’ve been trying to keep in mind, at least. I figure it’s far kinder to be brutally honest and help you improve your story than to let your work go to print with major flaws unaddressed.

      • And I am very grateful for it! 😀 Your edits help me make my stories SO much better! I really appreciate the energy you put into it, and how good you are at it!

        Thank you, for everything 🙂

  7. I did that exercise with a story I just edited for a friend, and she did the same for me. It was a lot of fun and very telling actually.

    Also, my husband did a read of my first novella and his critique was the harshest of anyone! It came from a place of love. He wants me to send out the best I can. And actually, I pretty much agreed with all his points. I think friends and family doing public reviews is perhaps a different matter.

    It’s clear you’ve worked very hard on your stories. I’m rooting for you!

    • My family is so supportive of the path I’ve chosen to follow, and they don’t hold back in their critique 😀 But it’s nice when family and friends want to help!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  8. I use non-writer friends who are avid readers in my genre as test readers because I want to know what works and what doesn’t from the reader’s point of view. I use a list of questions, too. Things like did the plot make sense, were there places where it was confusing, were there places where I explained too much or too little, did the characters’ actions make sense, did you care about the characters and why or why not, did the dialogue sound natural. Probably about twenty different questions, and I ask them to get specific about where the problems were and why they had trouble with those parts. And I tell them not to be afraid to be honest – pointing out problems with the book now, before I publish it, will keep me from embarrassing myself later on! The feedback I’ve gotten this way has been incredibly valuable.

    • Thanks for sharing the questions. I think it is so important getting a view of the story from a readers view, as well as from a critique view. The two will look at the book so differently 😀

      I definitely always make sure that I ask them to be honest, I want my writing to be the best and I can only get that with honesty.

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  9. I coax my husband into reading just about everything I write, and he’s no easy critic. Also, I have a group of friends I go to, and I’m always open to comments. Yeah, criticism is just important as praise.
    Great post. Thank you.
    Silvia @SilviaWrites

    • Having criticism is so important, it’s hard to hear sometimes, but definitely worth taking on board in the end 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  10. That’s a really great idea! I always feel bad for foisting my writing on my friends and family, because very few of them enjoy romance! But I like how you use a front page. That’s excellent.

    • Sometimes, asking those who don’t read romance to read romance is a good idea. They will look at your story from a different perspective, and I find that can help a lot. As long as they are willing to read through what they don’t normally 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  11. Excellent writing is a big plus. For example Nora Roberts’s writing is a work of art. There’s such a beautiful flow of words that I sometimes get sidetracked from the story 🙂
    Here’s some questions you could ask your readers – Can they SEE the world you created, the people you described? Can they visualize it in their minds?
    As a reader, if a book makes me ‘see’ the story, it’s great.
    Humor also matters, if the dialogue makes me laugh, if there are funny parts that add spice to the story.
    Hope that helps.

  12. I usually ask if they enjoyed it, were there areas that dragged or felt too fast, who were their favorite and hated characters, was there something they wanted more of or less of, did the worldbuilding make sense, did I lose them anywhere, etc. Since I tend to not indulge in lots of setting and description, I’ll ask if there was enough or any places they wanted more. 🙂

  13. Those were some excellent questions. I usually have the opposite problem… people comment on my story but fail to tell me about the grammar and punctuation. Perhaps we should trade friends and family for a while? 😉

  14. I hsve a couple critique partners snd one friend that reads I sent my first two chapters to my sister (a fter a couple rounds of editing.. and editor liked those pages)
    Sister said it wss boring and all she got was a girl lusting after a guy and sex… umm yeah its a romance not horror story…snd where she got sex I have no clue there is none until almosy last few chspters…

    • Guess you got to take every criticism with a pinch of salt 😀 And the main thing is as long as your editor likes it!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  15. Thanks for the link! They’re great questions. I’m editing my mum’s book but I don’t think it’s a problem in terms of me being too nice. In fact she calls me a “mean editor”. Since I’m comfortable with her (and loving me is compulsory), I don’t feel a need to hold back 🙂

    I just started a tumblr too! I’m following you now. Mine is more about books than writing but if you’re interested it’s saturdaynightwriting.tumblr.com.

    • I think it’s great to help out family and friend, and yeah, family have to still love you after you’ve finished 😀

      I started following you on Tumblr. I want my tumblr to be about reading as well as writing, so it will be great to connect to others who enjoy this 🙂

  16. How does anyone find a beta-reader?! Haha, seriously!

    I like that link you provided – I always wondered how to approach my “beta” readers (friends, cough) with readerly questions and not the technical writing stuff.

    Also, added you on tumblr. :]

    • Glad you liked the link, I thought it was nice to have a set of questions to remember to think of story as well as the technical side of it 😀

      Will follow you back on Tumblr!

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  17. I think this is a timely post for me! Grammar and punctuation are important, but your question about story content and flow are equally important, if not more so!! Thank you for your prompt!!
    Congratulations with how you are managing to get your work completed too!!

    • Yeah, the technical side is so important, but if the story and characters aren’t engaging enough for the reader then it’s not going to matter much 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  18. My 16 yr old daughter and my spouse are usually my first readers. I write YA so she picks out when I get the lingo wrong or go off the YA character. He picks up what doesn’t make sense. I have other beta readers that I ask for character issues or plot holes. I have a professional editor pick out my grammar and punctuation at the very end. Great post.

  19. I think it is important to get honest feedback on the story and plot. I’ve had friends read my writing, but I didn’t ask for technical feedback (unless they saw grammar/typos – definitely note them!) I wanted to know if the story flowed well, if the ending was satisfying and the biggie – did I leave loose ends hanging. I don’t want them to finish and then think, “okay, but whatever happened with so-and-so…”

    • That’s exactly how I feel, you need the story to flow write and be good, or the technical side isn’t going to count for much. And I find friends and family, ‘normal’ readers rather than editors or technical readers, better at that sometimes, as they are the audience I am writing for 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  20. Is there anything Pinterest can’t do? 🙂 Seriously, though, it’s a great idea to have specific questions for people. My mom is a writer, so she reads e v e r y t h i n g. And she’s good at telling me the truth about it. Sadly, my handful of close friends don’t like to read, and I just don’t get that.

    • It’s good if you have someone who can go over it with a fine toothcomb, especially if they are family, I find family a bit easier to question on everything I need then readers I don’t know 😀

      Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  21. I find that people change the topic if I mention I am writing a book. I guess they don’t want to be ensnared into the reader mode.
    Maybe giving out sample chapters is a better method, since it reduces time-span and can fit the attention span of relatives.

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