I’d imagine that quite a few writers hand off their finished (or first draft, second, third etc) novel to someone they trust after they’re happy with it. I’m lucky enough to have four people, my wife, my mum, my sister-in-law and a colleague at work that I trust. But the very first reading is always done by my wife.
Now, my wife reads a lot but doesn’t generally read the sort of books I write. Even so she still puts the time aside to read them for me. After I’d finished the first book I handed it to her (well, emailed it to her Kindle) and after she’d finished the book she had been reading she started on mine. Since she only had a couple of chapters of the book she was reading I think that was completely reasonable.
She did admit later that she was a little concerned, after all I’m not an author, I work in IT and in 11 years of marriage had never mentioned writing. But she read it, said she enjoyed it, that it was quite good, but that it needed tweaking. I knew that already, but I also wanted her advice on how it could be improved and she provided input on that as well. The end result was a book that was way better than it would have been had I just sat down and continued editing it myself.
I also knew that she’d be honest with me and she was – where things just didn’t hang together right, or she thought something wasn’t in character she’d tell me. And then apologise. And then she’d apologise some more. As I kept pointing out to her though, this is what I wanted her to do and what I needed her to do! If it was rubbish I wanted to know, if it needed changing I wanted to know and I appreciated all the work she did. I might not have shown it sometimes when I had to rewrite a chapter, but deep down I knew she was right.
The only little issue was down to me because I was trying to second guess her as she read. Every sigh was interpreted as a problem, every crinkling of her forehead was met with me asking what it was that was wrong with the book. I hadn’t noticed before but she actually does these things when she reads other books and she said that I needed (and she needed) to treat is as any other book she read. Fair point.
But you know what, I don’t think I ever really thanked her for all the work she put in. I might have said thanks, but probably didn’t make it clear how much it meant to me that she’d taken the time to read the book. This applies equally to all of the test readers, but living with me she has to suffer the occasional bombardment of questions, ideas and plot points. When one of the test readers has finished the book I tend to discuss it with them, discuss the plot and other stuff and I probably did thank them at some point – just not enough. So……
To my wife, mum, ‘S’ and ‘L’ thanks for reading the book, it means a lot to me that you’ve read it, given me feedback and helped me make it better. I couldn’t have done it without you.