Every novel goes through a test-phase. If it doesn’t, well, I think it should.
A test run of your manuscript means that you’ve pried your hands away from the keyboard, clamped down on your desire to continue editing and rearranging, and actually allowed others to read it.
I know it’s tough. You’ll want positive feedback, but the negative will be more useful.
This necessary step in the revision process affords you some time away from the text. When you come back, you’ll read with fresh eyes and new opinions. While it’s nail-bitingly nerve wracking to give something that you consider unfinished to others for the sole purpose of judging it, the feedback you’ll receive will be that last push you need to move toward completing the project. Finally.
Personally, this stage, which I’m about to embark upon myself, is exciting because I’ll get to hear from outsiders, both within and without my target audience, and who know nothing about the story, whether it’s as slow, redundant, cliche, or lame as I worry it is in certain parts. I’ll learn whether my jokes hit the right note, if my characters are relatable, and if I’ve classified the genre and age range correctly.
Help your test readers out by giving them a reader’s note along with the manuscript. Include your log-line and jacket summary. If they know what you intend to get across with the story, they’ll be able to tell you if you did or didn’t accomplish that. If they don’t know your intentions, they’ll find their own meaning along the way and assume you did a nice job. Include a bulleted list of concerns you have–things you want them to consider and report back on specifically. Include your prospective genre and age range to make sure you’re on target regarding content complexity and appropriateness. And DEFINITELY include a big thank you. Your friends and family have just agreed to do for free what editors charge enough to make a living doing.
And remember that no matter what kind of feedback you fear getting ahead of time, you will get to edit again because nothing in a manuscript is permanent.
Happy writing, happier re-writing!