Today, I’m going to address how I handle Alpha Readers and Critique Partners. To avoid any semantic arguments with myself, these are my definitions.
Alpha Readers: These are the people I send first draft work to, in order to see how they feel about the story, and bounce ideas, plot points, and twists off of them.
Critique Partner: This is a fellow writer whose writing and critique styles mesh with mine. We try to encourage, give feedback, and generally check in with one another.
I have two alpha readers, and I’ve known both of them for a LONG time. Like, 8-12 years long. I’ve been told it’s weird to refer to time lengths in human gestational periods anymore, but that’s 9-16 full-term singleton larvae?! That’s so many!
My alpha readers are two of my best friends, and they give me support and encouragement, as well as super-early reader feedback. I send them pieces of my work, including my first three chapters, and they tell me what they think, what they like, and if the chapters make them excited about reading the rest. I get a lot of influence from these two, believe me. (E.g. One loves puns, one hates them, and I enjoy both reactions immensely.) Alpha readers are great for world-building as well. If I can’t explain the world to these two, then I don’t have any business writing in that world yet.
My critique partner is pretty fabulous too! And Hella fast- I usually get feedback on my work in a few days, max. We check in on one another from week to week, which is a good timeline for us. Some do more, some do less. A critique partner should help with structure, tense, character development, identifying plot elements and lack-of-elements (HOLES), continuity… All sorts of things that you might miss on a first draft. Plus! Critique partners know how difficult and soul-devouring writing can be.
In my opinion, having both alpha readers and critique partners is important to the writing process. Maybe some people can get by without them, but I definitely don’t recommend it. Having this small support system for my writing makes me feel much more confident and competent, and fuels me to improve my work.
Do the thing. Find good humans.