What is a trusted “first reader”? The term seems to vague and flexible; every persons writing style varies and therefore requires a different kind of “first reader”. For me, I need a person that is open to various genres, topics, and writing styles, but will challenge me, offer me new ideas, and insist that I put my best work forward. While criticism may be tough to take at some points during the writing process, when coming from the right person it can be extremely beneficial for me as a writer and for my readers. I want to be putting out my best work and I’m able to achieve this through the right kind of “first reader.”
If I’m trying to pin down one person to fulfill this role, it would be another person my age, as I am often writing to an audience of my own peers, specifically when I am in the academic setting. I have a specific friend that helps me with my longer stories I write outside of my classes. She acts as an outside reader who can point out areas that are unnecessary for the piece or areas that I could focus more on to improve the point I am trying to get across or strengthen an image of a certain character in my work. Even if I am writing to a younger audience of readers, someone my age can point to areas that need less detail to keep my readers engaged and offer up suggestions to make sure my piece flows well without large interruptions or awkward pauses. Even though I don’t have a specific name for this someone, the characteristics I have listed above would give me what I seek in a “first reader.”
If I am to fulfill this role for others, my biggest goal would be to keep an open mind and to understand exactly who the author is writing to so I can rework my goals for criticism and suggestions. Ideally, I have to be attentive and flexible to the needs of other writers just as I need others to be understanding of my own needs.
We are all different and this leaves us with varying writing styles, topics, and ideas. A “first reader” will keep an open mind about what their corresponding authors need from them. They will strive to meet these needs and expect the same out of their own “first readers.”