word craft


My First Reader

Who is the first read­er of my books? My wife, Lin­da. (I read some­where that Madeleine L’Engle had her hus­band read her books to her. Now that took courage!) Some­times Lin­da is will­ing to let me read the book to her. Patient soul. Or she reads the book on her own, and I wait ner­vous­ly. She is a very tough, but good crit­ic. Once, famous­ly (in this house any­way), she said, “Avi, this is unread­able.” She can be gen­er­ous in her praise, and over the years has had far more pos­i­tive (and use­ful) things to say than neg­a­tive (includ­ing sug­ges­tions as to how to make that unread­able book become pub­lished suc­cess­ful­ly). It does not hurt that she is a pub­lish­er and good read­er in her own right. My own rule about ear­ly read­ers (I have a cou­ple of friends with whom I some­times share ear­ly drafts) is nev­er to argue or debate. Just lis­ten. Nine times out of ten, ear­ly read­ers artic­u­late some­thing of which I am vague­ly aware, but have not pinned down. More to the point, an out­side per­spec­tive is cru­cial to the process. Enter the editor—of which more later.

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