Today, on Mythic Scribes (a forum I’ve started frequenting), a debate got started about whether or not an author should have someone else look over their manuscript.
My answer is an unequivocal YES.
Let me explain with another thing that happened today. This morning, one of my readers pointed out a place in the manuscript where I hadn’t completely connected the dots between event A and later event B. He thought it might confuse readers.
Now, when I wrote that, I thought I’d had the dots connected sufficiently. However, I have the advantage of knowing what I meant to say, and he didn’t, so I accepted his word that I hadn’t made the connection obvious enough. So I went in and made it more obvious, and we’ll see if it passes muster this time.
If I hadn’t had a second (actually, fourth) pair of eyes looking at the manuscript, I might have left that connection too vague for the reader to pick up on. What’s interesting is that neither of the other readers picked up on that, but he did. In fact, each of my three readers so far has picked up on different things that could be improved, which I think is strong evidence that not just one person, but several, should look at your manuscript.
A writer really can’t look at his own manuscript the way a reader will, because the writer knows what the story is supposed to be. The reader only knows what it is. Sometimes the differences can be large, so it’s well worth it to have others read it.
Now, some of you are likely screaming at your screen, “what about editors?” I have nothing against editors, professional or amateur, but they’re not always reading it from the perspective of a reader, a lot of the time they’re scrutinizing it for things like missed commas or extra periods. When you do that, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. Certainly you should get your manuscript looked at by an editor of some sort, but just as certainly you should have other people read it just to see if they find any plot holes or things that don’t make sense.
Your manuscript will be much better for it, and a better manuscript will probably sell better.