I Popped My Alpha Reader Cherry…


I’ve been working on my novel since November. I finished the first draft at the end of that month, and put the manuscript away until after the New Year.

Come January, I read the entire thing to myself, out loud, and made notes.

I then ignored that pile of paper for the next four months. Why? Because I saw some big changes I needed/wanted to make, and the thought of actually making those changes was daunting. One big shift I wanted to incorporate was to change the time in which the story is set from present day to 1989. That’s a pretty fundamental change. Not to mention I needed to choose a different point of entry for the story that was far more active than what I had written and which required entirely rewriting the first few chapters.

So the thing sat there for awhile. I glanced at it from time to time and felt guilty. I piddled around with the first few pages but didn’t get much farther than that.

I finally got off my ass in April, thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo, and forced myself to sit down and complete the second draft by the end of the month.

I actually did it.

But then comes the scary part. It’s time for someone else to read it.

I’ve read all about beta readers and having a non-professional pair of eyes (or several pairs of eyes) look at your work and critique it before you start sending out queries. But, this being my first novel, I’m scared to death of having people read it and think it’s a total trainwreck. I’ve lost the ability to clearly ascertain whether or not what I’m writing is good or total shit.

Fortunately, I have a husband and he is a very good sport.

So, I asked him to be my alpha reader. What’s the difference, you ask? Here’s a great breakdown of the difference between an alpha reader and a beta reader. In a nutshell, I wanted someone to read it who could tell me whether or not it’s good enough to show to other people. Someone who will be honest with me but in a very loving way. Someone who can save me from the embarrassment of sending shoddy work off to people I respect and admire. Someone who has actually made a commitment to me with that ring on my finger and who has a vested interest in my success. I only had a tiny amount of courage to show this to someone, so that someone needed to be the most loving, least judgmental and smartest person I know.

Luckily, I have good taste in spouses.

I finished the second draft a couple of days before I was scheduled to go on a mindfulness retreat in Colorado with an old friend from college. I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to hand the thing off since I wouldn’t be hovering over his shoulder and my mind would be occupied with other things, like being mindful.

I ripped off the band-aid, and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Hubs read the whole thing in the few days I was gone, and even sent me text messages now again (my favorite – “There’s SEX in this story?!). He gave me a few notes, lots of encouragement and the confidence to let other people read it.

My plan is to polish the second draft in the next 10 days, before hubs and I leave for three weeks on a 40th birthday/our-friend-is-getting-married-in-Bulgaria trip to Eastern Europe. I figure my mind will be well-occupied in those days so I don’t dwell too much on the idea that PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY READING THOSE WORDS I WROTE RIGHT NOW.

Wish me luck, friends! The adventure continues…

2 thoughts on “I Popped My Alpha Reader Cherry…”

  1. Congratulations on the 1st draft!!! Will offer myself up as an additional reader if you’re still canvassing volunteers – and regardless I’ll demand an autograph at the 1st post-publication Christmas-Eve gathering! Enjoy the trip overseas! :o)

    1. Oh my gosh, Ray, you are awesome. Thank you! Would you like to be in my second round of beta readers (what is the step after beta reader?). I think I may want more eyes on it after I incorporate notes from the first round, and I think it would be great to have fresh eyes for the second round.

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