Should we let a family member read our drafts?

When I finished revision nine of my novel, I decided to let my husband read it. He’d been asking for a long time, and I always held back from letting him. I had heard early on that asking family members – especially such close ones – and good friends to read our work could be a problem. It they hate the work they would be reluctant to tell the truth, and if they love it, they may have a subjective rather than objective point of view.

Well, I decided to risk it anyway, and considering how hard he worked on reviewing, I’m not sorry. He saved a copy and renamed it with his initials and started going through it – marking edits and/or typos in red font and inserting questions and comments along the way highlighted in yellow. He also created a separate timeline in a Word table. That is really his forte – he’s a numbers guy. And, he found a lot of inconsistencies in my dates (my novel is divided in three parts – each starting with a date in story’s history) and inconsistencies in the birth dates and ages of the children in the story.

I found these discoveries so valuable. It will take a lot of work to make the timeline and ages correct, but having my husband’s input on this will hopefully save my book from some publisher’s trash can.

I will also let a good friend read it. In fact, I’ve made her a hard copy to mark up. However, since she worked as an editor at the Oxford University Press and helped me a lot with the final revision of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, I’m confident that she will give me honest and objective comments and advice.

So, even though I thought I was finished once I saved my last edit on revision nine, I now know, there’s still a lot work ahead of me. My intent is to wait until my friend has completed her review and edit before I start making any changes to the document. I’ll tackle both her and my husband’s comments at the same time.

That’s a good thing. That gives me a break from the book and allows me to get back to it with fresher eyes.

PS:  It is my prerogative to either accept or deny any or all comments I get. I, the author, still has the last red pen.

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Comments

  1. Madeline. Off the top of my head, I would have to say it is “safer” for a family member to review a novel than a memoir. I remember when John wrote his memoir, a version I later incorporated parts of into my novel A PORTRAIT OF LOVE AND HONOR. He = and I agreed that I would edit it. BIG MISTAKE! It ended up in a fight because I hurt his feelings with my comments that it might not be attractive to a publisher because of how sad and dark parts of it were. Years later, when I wrote A PORTRAIT OF LOVE AND HONOR, I asked my son to read a working draft. He had ideas how to make it a bit better, but he loved it. Like you say, family members come in with a very subjective mindset so it’s hard to gauge if a reader might feel the same way. It sounds like you and your husband have a good working partnership on your novel Thank you for writing an important post. I will share with our Women’s Writing Circle.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Thanks so much, Susan. Yes, Bob and I have a good working relationship – we teamed many times when we worked in the aerospace business on proposals. Yet, I still feel he’s not been totally honest about how he views the book. His comments have helped a lot, but I have no idea whether he likes it or not.

  2. Doug Hicks says:

    Beautiful, Madeline, and well done, Bob. I’m a numbers guy too and delighted in your approach to collaboration.

    • Madeline Sharples says:

      Thanks, Doug. I very much appreciate your support of my work. Sorry we couldn’t get together when we were in Portland. Let’s keep trying.

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