One of the biggest perks to going to graduate school for creative writing is coming out with friends who you consider to be your go-to readers. To quote my workshop professor,
You will rarely, if ever, find yourself in a room of reasonably like-minded adults you are not related to or sleeping with who are willing to attend seriously to your writing.
These are the people that you will continue to send your rough drafts to and get feedback from–well into your later years. Of course grad school isn’t required to find people like this. Even undergrad can promote this kind of kinship in people. A good friend of mine from my undergrad just recently sent me the revised first few chapters of her novel that she’s been working on and I plan on reading it and sending back notes as soon as I get a chance.
People like this are important in your life–they give you both the motivation of someone asking for the next installment of your story, but also that wise advise that will keep your work focused and grounded.
Just like Stephen King says in his book On Writing, you have to write for someone. Pick one person and write for them. Have that reader in mind and crank out that next 1000 words because they’ve been pestering you for days about what’s gonna happen next!
But it’s important to pick people who will be your Batman and give you the kind of feedback you need, not the kind you want.
Don’t sent it to someone who will just gloss over it and tell you it was “good” but give you no feedback. How is that going to help you?
Do send it to someone you trust enough to tell you what needs work.
After the Jump: More Tips on Picking Readers
Don’t send it to someone who is only tell you what needs work without telling you what they liked.
Do send it to someone who is supportive of your craft and will continue to motivate you.
Don’t send it to someone who doesn’t think reading or writing is a worthwhile pass time. (But you don’t have friends like that anyway, right?)
Do send it to someone that you’ve worked with in the past, like a professor or workshop peer, that you’ve stayed in contact with. (and DO stay in contact with these people!)
Don’t send it to someone who will aggressively try to change your mind. You want someone who will help steer you in a good direction, not tell you how they would write your story and completely change everything you’ve done.
When it comes down to it, use common sense. Who is going to give you the best feedback? Who is going to make you want to keep writing? Who is going to help you be the best writer you can be? The answer may not always be a parent or your significant other, but there is someone out there for you. You just have to look!