A little late getting this posted today as life got in the way.
The Reader Hat is worn after the first draft is complete; by complete, I mean you have the beginning, the middle, and the end. Your story will have holes (plot, characterization, etc.), and the Reader is the first instance when those problems present themselves.
The Reader is the softer and gentler phase, like the comfort of a fireplace burning peacefully for the last several hours—The Glow Stage. This stage requires a length of time (at least a week, preferably more) after the Creator’s hat is removed. During this time, work on another writing project, and that way you have something to keep you occupied while forgetting about the completed work; you want to sever the ties between the Creator and Reader as best you can.
Take time to congratulate yourself—not everybody finishes a novel. Wow! There’s a lot of work in that, so be proud.
I print out a copy and read through as if for the first time. It is not an easy thing to do, but I find the more time I allow (especially for a longer work like a novel), the more inclined I am to read it with a fresh perspective. I make few notes, only things like consistency issues or a rough spot that stopped me reading. I might circle a weak verb or the overuse of a single word, but nothing that takes any time. My goal is to read the story as quickly as possible. I go through the entire work, a single sitting for a short story and no more than four for a novel, paying special attention to plot flow and character development.
When reading the first draft, pay close attention to the story’s logistics. If your world is mostly desert climate, do you have clouds appearing in every other scene? Wrong. If your world is lush and tropical, is the sky normally clear? Not possible. Weather can be an important factor in works of fiction, just as they are in our day-to-day lives. Do not ignore the impact weather can have on a character, a scene, or as an added difficulty that inhibits your characters from reaching their goals, but most importantly, keep it consistent within the confines of the world you created.
Once I finish the first read-through, I take a couple days to digest what I read, making notes of my observations and things that did not feel right. At this point they are generalities, overviews; specifics will be addressed when I’m wearing the Critic’s hat, and you can be sure that hat is anxiously awaiting its turn.
Ignore the urge to make corrections to sentence structure and syntax—that task is left to when you put on the Editor’s Hat.
Just as the Creator’s purpose is to get the story down on paper, the Reader’s goal is to get a sense of story flow. Are there enough obstacles to keep the reader interested throughout the entire novel? Is the action and character reflection done in appropriate portions? Does the dreaded Info Dump—also known as Backfill—pull you out of the story’s progress?
Upon completing The Returning, I actually read through twice before I started to edit, each time a couple weeks apart. Because of the length of the tale (135,000 words initially), I needed the second time to crystallize observations from the first read-through.
Next: The Editor’s Hat, where everything comes together.
Go write; you’ll be glad you did.
This Week’s Quote:
“Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning; review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your friend, if he be an author especially.” A. Bronson Alcott