In the September issue of The Writer, novelist Alice Hoffman gives this piece of advice:
“Be careful who you let read your work. I’m a big believer in writing programs and workshops, but you can’t listen to everybody’s voice. You have to decide who you’re going to trust. First yourself.”
Hoffman brings up an important topic, one that each writer should consider for his or her own work. The answers and strategies vary, and each writer will find a system. I know couples that share first drafts with each other, parents who let a son or daughter serve as the first reader and others who share early work anonymously online.
I like to have my closest colleagues be the first to read and judge my work. I have several co-workers whom I interact with on a daily basis – both on a professional and personal level. I trust and respect their opinions and notes. They know my work intimately and have a handle on both my strengths and weaknesses. They also know what I am trying to say, even if I am struggling that make a point clear in my own writing. Therefore, the feedback I get from this small group of fellow writers is vital in moving my work forward.
My husband, a strong and confident writer in his own right, doesn’t write for a living. When I ask him to read something of mine and offer honest feedback, he says: “It’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.” He says this every time. While his sentiments are sweet, they are not terribly helpful to the editing process.
Hoffman doesn’t go into detail about her own personal process and who her first readers are. But she does make one point clear: You are the final decision maker on what words go on the page. Trust your instinct and have confidence in your abilities.