Posted by: oneyearbook | March 24, 2009

The ideal reader

I'd do it, but I'm just so busy

I'd volunteer, but I'm just so busy

So, it’s been said that every book has an ‘ideal reader.’ Now, I’m not currently particularly concerned with that in the marketing sense (the question of how to best target a book to its ideal readers, and thus the people most likely to purchase it), but, rather, in a sort of mentorship sense. It’s a while off, now, but at some point someone besides myself will need to read through my manuscript and offer both constructive criticism as well as the necessary back-patting that will push me through the work of editing the thing. All writers seem to have a collection of these people – they’re the ones that get thanked in the acknowledgements for slogging through drafts, for pushing the writer in a direction they would never have foreseen, etc. etc.

The question is, how to find one (or more) such entities? (Here is where the benefit of writing projects like this in a workshop setting becomes apparent, although I wasn’t always sure during my degree that the people I entrusted my work to were, exactly, the ideal readers I envisaged. Also, on more than one occasion, the comments that I received on my work, rather than pushing me to continue working, simply stopped me in my tracks. The problem was often how wildly varying the comments could be, with some people hating one element of the work while others thought it the best part.) I suspect, though I could be wrong, that family members and significant others are not the right answer; either they are too positive, or, if they are critical, it is too hard to distance oneself from their criticism.

I’d also prefer an ideal reader that reads widely and regularly; that enjoys literary and historical fiction; that isn’t put off by whatever experiments in structure I eventually decide to make with the book; and that has some experience critiquing or commenting on writing.



  1. O.K. I read the first and last, thanks.

  2. With no expectation of your actually taking me up on the offer, I’ll volunteer. I’m not particularly into historical fiction, but I’d say I read widely and regularly, and hopefully five years in English Lit at UBC counts as experience commenting on writing?

    Just putting it out there, in case you need it later πŸ™‚

  3. I admire your decision to devote so much time to completing an entire novel. I’ve been slogging away at mine on weekends for several years.

    You’re right though, having the right set of people to read and critique is essential. You need people who will be honest about your work and who are not going to just tell you how much they like it and how brilliant you are. (thanks mom.) I did the UVIC writing program, and I recall those moments where no one could agree on a certain portion of a story. It could really hang me up too, but I think that in itself is kind of valuable, esp once you take into consideration the kinds of things the others read/write.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to add you to my blogroll.

    • Please do – I’m glad to hear from someone else working on a novel that’s been through the schooling aspect of things.
      So how is your novel going? Can you see a finish line or is there a lot more work to be done?

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