3. Feedback & Revision
(ii) FEEDBACK FROM ORDINARY READERS
Different types of reader give different types of feedback, all useful if you know how to interpret and make the most of them.
Ordinary readers with no connection to the writing business are the basic touchstone. Better if they’re not friends who’ll want to like your book even before reading it, and who’ll probably pull their punches after reading it. Ordinary readers with no connection to the writing business or yourself are the audience you’re ultimately trying to reach.
From ordinary readers who aren’t friends, you can expect genuine responses, but usually not very articulate ones. Ordinary readers may feel negative about a particular scene or character without knowing exactly why. They may not even recognise a source of dissatisfaction until you start probing them about it.
So, yes, you do need to probe. As soon as a query surfaces with one reader, you need to check it out with every reader. Ditto your own queries. Wherever there’s a problem, try to dig down to the root of it.
Above all, don’t try to prove yourself right. A reader may have failed to absorb or understand something that’s there in your words, but the failure may be significant in itself. Maybe you weren’t clear enough, maybe you did something contradictory elsewhere. A misunderstanding that occurs once is a problem for the reader; a misunderstanding that occurs more than once is a problem for the writer.