Ah, the alpha reader. The person you trust most in the world. This is the person to whom you turn with your writing first because he or she will immediately tell you how great of a writer you are and only then proceed to tell you everything about it that sucks. This person tells you the truth. For some this person is their mother, but as I have probably mentioned before, my own mother is not a literary person and after she told me to change some of my writing at 9 years old I never showed her anything again.
I have gone through a series of alpha readers (Kaity, Kiki, and Shelley) in high school and Gabby and I are kindred spirits and always read each other’s material any way. But my true alpha reader is a one Ralph J. C. Belvedere.
Background: Ralph is my dearest friend in the entire world. If I had to chose between him and giving up writing and singing, it would be him hands down. We’re the kind of friends who know each other and can be comfortable with each other without talking at all.
He’s also a boatload of fun. I mean, what person would agree to be the Ricky to my Lucy for Halloween with no questions asked?
Ralph was the first person I ever showed a completed novel that I seriously considered sending to an agent. He was the first to read through Becoming Mrs. Kennedy and give me his thoughts. Without being asked, he printed out the entire document, kept it safe in a an envelope covered in his exquisite calligraphy and added grammatical edits …
… commentary, i.e. “this makes NO SENSE!” or direct reactions to characters “Reverse psychology is NOT GOING TO WORK HERE, DEREK!!!” …
… and humor.
The bottom line is, an alpha reader must do all of this for you. Sharing a first draft, or even a second or third draft, is so personal and frightening. If your alpha reader is cold and only points out the flaws without the good parts and humor to make you more comfortable with showing your work to others, he is not a good alpha reader. The initial first step toward publishing: showing another living human being your work. Without a good alpha reader … let’s not even think about it.
Side note, beta readers (people you reveal writing to after making changes according to the alpha’s opinion) are just as important and must be just as on top of their game. Good thing I have a great circle of fellow writers in the blogosphere! (sp? is that really a word?)
Ralph is my alpha reader for my novels, but also for my life. It’s a much better term for a wing-man isn’t it? Ti amo molto, il mio unico amore!!
Haven’t done this in a while …
Creative Writing Goals
Becoming Mrs. Kennedy – finish edit and write synopsis by the end of this week. SEND TO AGENT!! After I officially send it, I will post the first chapter (the re-written one with which I am much more content).
Rescue Me – Get Laura into college by Wednesday during free time between classes (ha! What a joke!! Who has free time when they’re taking 20 credits? Sigh. It will be done. A writer is never defeated!).