Joe Abercrombie on Readers

Over on his blog, Joe Abercrombie has written up some thoughts on the importance and value of early readers; what some authors call Beta Readers:
When I first started writing I did it in extreme secrecy, scared to lay bare my sensitive innermost ramblings to the world.  But after maybe six months working on the loose collection of drivel that would later become sharpened into the modern masterpiece that is The Blade Itself, I felt the need to consult some kind of outside authority, to get some guidance as to whether what I was doing was utterly worthless or not quiteutterly worthless.  My mother worked as an English teacher, an educational publisher, is widely read and possessed of razor-edged critical faculties, particularly where her own children are concerned.  My father was an academic and university administrator, also widely read though in somewhat different areas, perhaps.  My brother is like an older, less handsome version of me, also widely read and with a more than passing familiarity with genre.  I knew they’d tell it to me straight.  And they have, ever since.  I can’t articulate how vital discussing my writing with them has been, especially in those early days before landing a deal.  They helped me work out where I was going right and wrong, both at the micro and macro levels, and in giving me the confidence to continue, as well as just convincing me that there was actually something there worth working on.  Hey, even if I never got published, it was a fun point of conversation within the family.  Mum tended to look at the detail of the way I was writing, Dad tended to look more at the plotting and development, Brother gave a less detailed summing up.  Usually I’d write blocks of four or five chapters, revise them carefully to my own satisfaction, present, discuss, revise.
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