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Fresh Reader Feedback Rocks

Novel Incubator writer Caitlin Maskowitz discusses how fresh reader feedback helped energize her and improve her novel.

By Caitlin Maskowitz

September 27, 2022

Getting feedback from fresh readers (that is, readers who are new to my novel) has been instrumental in my revision process. Initially, I worried I wasn’t good enough to share my work with other writers. I stressed that my prose was weak and my plot too predictable. The careful reading and constructive feedback I received from my Novel Incubator peers helped banish these thoughts so I could focus on making my novel better.

First, A Positivity Pass

The feedback I received on the very first draft of my novel was positive by design. My Novel Incubator co-leaders call it the “positivity pass.” My readers told me what was working to move the plot forward, what they loved, and asked thoughtful questions. This initial feedback was much more valuable than I ever thought it would be. I initially was worried that this positive approach wouldn’t provide a necessary critique. But as it turns out, if someone tells you what’s working, it’s pretty clear what’s not. Even better, focusing on strengths boosts your confidence. After my positivity pass, I felt proud of my writing with a heightened awareness of where to focus my first round of revisions.

Next, More Pointed Feedback

Subsequent reading rounds pushed me even more. The readers knew I had revised the manuscript two to three times at this point and was looking for more detailed feedback. Readers went deeper into the plot and highlighted holes. When I asked them for ideas, they made suggestions. I learned to sit with the comments for a week before I jumped into revisions. In an early revision round, I jumped on the feedback too quickly and made some big changes based on a reader’s suggestion. I’ve subsequently rewritten those changes because they didn’t ring true to me, I was just nervous and second-guessed my writing.

Motivated to Revise

In my most recent reading round, I brought a list of detailed questions to the table. I eagerly anticipated the answers of trusted readers and plan to incorporate their feedback directly into a revision plan. When your readers have an understanding of where you are in the process and give feedback accordingly, it’s motivating. Great first readers hold up a mirror and support your process towards the best manuscript you can generate. Each time I share my work it’s scary but it’s made me a better writer.

Need help with your revision? Learn more about book inc’s Book Revision Lab.

Caitlin Maskowitz

Caitlin Maskowitz is a founding member of book inc.

Caitlin Maskowitz is a founding member of book inc.