One of the first poems I wrote was in fourth grade. Our church was having some kind of youth event and I stood proudly in front of the grinning crowd and belted out my own work. I got a standing ovation and an overwhelming feeling that heaven was smiling and the angels were rejoicing confirming my greatness. No one analyzed my prose and asked was the use of the word ‘sun’ metaphoric for something? They didn’t scoff because there wasn’t any rhythmic variation. It was a great poem…well it was good…O.K., it was a poem and I was nine. Most of the crowd had known me since I was a pup and they were there to give me what I needed—pure encouragement.
Yet even as we get older we want the people to read our work who will get it, but most importantly we want them to love it and tell us we’re smart and gifted and we would be crazy to do anything else with our life besides write.
As much as our ego loves to be stroked and tickled there comes a point when, we seek a more discerning eye before submitting it to the Wizard…uh…editor. So the question is, should we fiercely write trusting only our instincts that this is the masterpiece which we are after or should we seek out others to take a look?
Some say nope. Don’t do it; others will taint your inspiration and cause you to second guess the greatest work since Moby Dick. Others say you absolutely must, otherwise how will you know for sure that it is the greatest work…ever?
Well, I agree with the latter. It is good to allow what Stephen King calls the Ideal Readers a go at your work. Now I’m not suggesting that your mother or Auntie Em do it, pinching your cheeks and smiling over the rim of their bifocals telling you that everything you write is perfect and this is no different. Your Ideal Readers will not need to point out every grammar faux pas or tell you that there are too many spaces between ‘he’ and ‘said’. If they do catch them, great. But they should read just as Steve suggests (yep, first name basis), as the one most likely to peruse through your section of the local bookstore seeking that one book to delve into. They should read for pleasure, flow of story, sections that sound off and to ensure it hits the mark as a romance or mystery or whatever your genre might be. I’m talking about the IR who will read with a critical eye, pointing out the two-page description of the meadow that you just absolutely could not part with. Your IR will tell you that the name Jerome just doesn’t fit the tall, Italian hero. They’ll be honest, forthright and kind.
Face it, you’ve spent months inside of the story and even after walking away from it and allowing it to settle you’re going to miss things. You, like most everyone, love the sound your own voice. You need an objective look on things from someone who hasn’t lived and breathed it for the past six months.
Let them at it! Once it’s published don’t forget to send a copy to Momma and Auntie Em.