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Audrey Caylin: What I Learned From My Alpha Reader

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What I Learned From My Alpha Reader

I recently had the experience of someone being the first to read my novel, the first to ever read my work.  In other words, I had an alpha reader. An alpha reader is the person who looks at your novel for the first time. The first set of eyes to glare at it after you. ;-) Some people have critique partners do this, or friends or family. I would suggest someone who knows you well enough to give positive but honest critique and lots of encouragement.

My mom was my alpha reader. Now of course I learned something from her (how could I not?), but this post is about what I learned from someone reading my novel for the first time.

We writers are so infamous for thinking our work is the worst to ever be created. 
It's not.
 Alphas come in as innocent readers who have no knowledge of the ugly parts of the novel you've tried to hide. When you read your novel, you look for the worst parts of it; they are looking for the best parts of it. You'll come to realize that your novel is not the mess of chapters and scenes you think it is, which will give you a huge confidence boost.

This is important.
Writers usually know when there's something off about a scene. If your alpha notices it, don't deny it. They're like a conscience you can physically hear, repeating what your writer mind has told you: this scene doesn't work. If your alpha isn't a writer, they might not be able to diagnose the problem, but they have great instincts for when they just aren't buying something.

This goes hand and hand with point #2.
 I think everyone who has ever had someone else look at their novel is surprised by the crazy ideas their readers bring to the table. And why not try one? Several I took to heart ended up making my book ten times better than before.

That's right. Stop.
 Any alpha will get tired of you wincing and saying this is the worst scene in the world and that you should cut it when they're trying to help you. And if they give you a compliment, don't brush it off. You're getting acknowledged for your work. Yes, you need to work on a lot, but be kind to yourself. Admit that the certain section was better than others. 

Admit it: writing can be hilariously funny at times, just in general.
Do you know how many crazy things we creative writers come up with? Laugh at it. I mean, who says "the wall glared back at her?"  ;-)

This is obvious, right? But is it?
I can think of a dozen times when, being asked a question about a certain scene, I paused and realized wow, I have no idea what the character was thinking/feeling here. It's good to recognize those points so you can catch them next time.

Your book isn't going to be perfect after you take the alpha's feedback and work on it.
It's just another step, preparing your book for betas who will have a more critical eye for plot and characters. And maybe, after your alpha reads your novel, you'll look back and realize that some points aren't strong enough, and your alpha missed them as well.

An example would be several weeks ago. I was reading through my novel, getting it polished for betas, and I came upon several scenes that had always bugged me. Suddenly, I couldn't stand the sight of it anymore. So I called up my alpha (because you always call your mother on the phone on a Sunday morning when she's just upstairs, right?)

"Hey, I need to rewrite three chapters," I told her. "But I need help brainstorming."

Being the wonderful mother she is, she came downstairs and brainstormed with me until I was able to fix those chapters. I know my novel isn't perfect now that those nasty scenes are gone, but it's better than before. Just like life, it's a process of constant improvement.

I'll probably do another post like this after I finish with betas ;-)  But I have one last bit of advice:

Don't be afraid to share your work.

Bring it out of the darkness of your brutal self-critic. Let someone else look at it and urge you along in your writing journey. You'll know when you're ready. You just have to take that step and do it. Just do it.


Audrey Caylin

So... have you worked with alpha readers before? Were they family or friends? What did YOU learn about sharing your novel with someone else for the first time?

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At February 25, 2017 at 5:21 AM , Blogger Amy said...

What an encouraging and inspirational post, Audrey, thank you! <3 I needed to hear this, haha ;) I'll definitely try keep these things in mind as I write.

Have a lovely weekend :)

Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

At February 25, 2017 at 7:41 AM , Blogger Karyssa Norton said...

This was so encouraging, because I am currently getting one of my novels ready for alpha readers. And this is going to be the first time that I share a WHOLE novel with people.

You're so right. Our writing is never as bad as we think it is. Just the other day was one of those days when you wonder why you even write, and I said as much to one of my close friends. And he said, "Because you like it and are good at it." It definitely lifted my spirits, because I know that he wouldn't lie to me. :)

You laugh at your writing to?! I do it quite a bit, and I didn't know if anyone else did that. So good to know that I'm not the only one, haha. :D

At February 25, 2017 at 8:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW. This was soooo encouraging! Thanks for this, Audrey! <3

At February 25, 2017 at 8:50 AM , Blogger Marrok Macintyre said...

Good points! well since I haven't shared my novel with anyone (since it's not finished yet) I would say nothing :P But those are some good point. I tend to look for criticisms and not positive feedback. The reason is because I grow more from critics then from high-fives. It's like when I draw something and I show someone else. I'm not really looking for "wow that's really cool! good job!" I'm looking for that person that is like "It's okay but you need to..." That is where I grow the most. Again these are some good point, great post!

At February 25, 2017 at 10:50 AM , Blogger Micaiah Saldaña said...

I kinda have had an alpha reader(Tessa Emily Hall read and gave tips about it for me) for my very first novella, AND I WAS SO SCARED. I learned that a. I'm not THAT bad of a writer and b. feedback is always good to have so you can grow. =)


At February 25, 2017 at 10:57 AM , Blogger Bethany R. said...

These are some amazing tips and I'll keep them in mind both as I'm writing and as I get to the alpha stage. Thank you!

At February 25, 2017 at 1:08 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

This post was helpful, Audrey!
I was originally going to skip alpha readers and go straight to beta readers. But after reading your post, I think I'll use an alpha reader.

At February 25, 2017 at 6:13 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Ahhh! Thank you, Amy! :D Happy writing and reading!


At February 25, 2017 at 6:16 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

EEEEP! That's going to be awesome! (well, a bit nerve-racking at first, but alphas are awesome!)

Sometimes I feel that I ask myself that too much :P After I had my novel alpha-read though, my confidence went up a lot.

Yep. I laugh at the most unfitting moments, too XD

At February 25, 2017 at 6:17 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

THANK YOU, Clara! I'm glad you enjoyed! :D


At February 25, 2017 at 6:21 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

I definitely agree with you there. While we do need those confidence-boosters, we DO need criticism too. I look at it like alphas are the cheer-leaders, and betas are more critical (and professional editors are probably the most critical xD)

At February 25, 2017 at 6:23 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Oh my gosh, that's awesome! I haven't read any of her books yet, but I hear they're really good :D

Even though my mom was my alpha, I was pretty scared too xD I guess it's all part of becoming a better writer.

At February 25, 2017 at 6:26 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Thank YOU. I'm glad they helped!


At February 25, 2017 at 6:28 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

I almost did the same thing. Then I'd realized that I probably should have someone who knows me look at my work before I sent it out to betas. I hope you have an awesome time with your alpha readers!

At February 25, 2017 at 7:06 PM , Blogger Marrok Macintyre said...

I think the most critical would be one of my friends :P she has the professional editor thing working for her. Like she would read my blog and be like "you have a typo here and there. And you used the wrong word, did you even bother reading it first?"

At February 26, 2017 at 10:09 AM , Blogger Abbiee said...

AUDREY CAYLIN HAVE I EVER COMMENTED ON YOUR BEAUTIFUL BLOG BEFORE?? BECAUSE I DON'T THINK I HAVE AND THAT IS A CRYING SHAME. First off, you're aspiring to be an indie author!!! *SO MANY HIGH FIVES AND SO MANY WAFFLES BECAUSE #SAME* you're obviously awesome. ;) AND THIS POST YAAAAS. JUST SO MUCH YAS. My mom also alpha reads, beta reads, and helps me rewrite my fiction (MOMS ARE THE GREATEST AREN'T THEY) and wow I have learned SO MUCH just from having her read/edit with me. It's really amazing. All of your points here are FABULOUS. Especially #3... I think a lot of writers struggle with that (I did too SO MUCH OMG) because sometimes it's hard to see things from a new point of view. It's so much easier to just stay stuck in one place and throw up your hands and be like "you don't understand my writing style." But if I've learned anything from having my mom beta read for me, it's that I'll never grow as a writer if I can't take opinions and recommendations into consideration. SO YES I'M RAMBLING NOW but whatever :')



At February 27, 2017 at 10:31 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...


AAAAAH. I've done that so many times. I try to convince myself that only I can make tweaks to my writing style, but it's the feedback that really helps me grow. My mom gave me so many ideas where I was just like "what? well...I mean, that MIGHT work, but it's a little strange..."

Thank you for stopping by! I love rambles! xD



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