Writers, y’all will know what I’m talking about when I mention trusted first readers. These are the folks you hand your writing off to when you have finished a rough draft and edited it at least once. Trusted first readers will give you honest feedback on your writing, but they’ll do it gently, trying not to bruise your ego while delivering their critiques. (Or they know you well enough to understand when they can be tough with you.)
All writers need a handful of trusted first readers, but there’s a point in the relationship that may require negotiation, particularly if one of your trusted first readers is new to the game. When you’re ready to hand your piece of writing off, you need to let your trusted first reader know what sort of feedback you want. Are you at a point in the piece where you mostly need encouragement, but aren’t ready for corrections in grammar and punctuation? Do you need someone to fact-check a piece for technical accuracy? Do you want a full-scale edit in advance of sending a piece off to a publisher?
Having served as a trusted first reader for several writers in the past, I know that my tendency is toward editing overkill, which has been a surprise to writers who wanted only general feedback or fact-checking. (Allow me to wipe the egg off my face, please.)
A writer friend and I have also discussed the topic of feedback in relation to our writers group. Writers groups tend to serve as venues of first readers (or listeners, as the case may be) and it isn’t always clear what sort of feedback each writer wants from the others gathered in the room. A diarist may be using the group as a way to validate her life experiences, as opposed to an essayist, who is hoping the expertise of those assembled will increase his chances of publication.
To assist with both of these scenarios, I’ve created a Trusted First Reader Form. Writers may use this form to communicate what they are seeking from a trusted first reader. Plus, the form will assist trusted first readers in knowing what to concentrate on when reading a piece.
The form can be distributed at writers groups whenever necessary in order to clarify the goals of each writer. Or, rather than dealing with a bunch of paper, writers may use the form as a guide in asking for help from the group.
I consider the Trusted First Reader Form to be a work-in-progress. The effectiveness of forms in general cannot be proven until they are used and the bugs are worked out. If you have suggestions on ways I can improve the form, let me know. (Do I need space for the writer’s name, title of piece, trusted first reader’s name, or date?)
I’ve slapped a Creative Commons public domain license on the form, as well, so feel free to use it as you will, adapt the thing for your use … whatever. Below is the Creative Commons language that waives my copyright to the work, so have at it!
To the extent possible under law, Mary Warner
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to
Trusted First Reader Form.
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