Why You Shouldn’t Let Readers Read Your First Draft

“Hey, you like reading books, do you want to read mine?”

This might be the worst question you ever want to ask someone as a writer.


Because readers are expecting your book to be the same quality that they are used to reading. They’re expecting a fully polished manuscript: publish ready, grammar and spelling error-free, edited, streamlined, underwritten, overwritten, a killer cover. You get the picture.

So the reason why “Aunt Sal” hasn’t gotten back to you about your book is probably because, to be brutally honest, she thinks it sucks and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings.

And it probably does suck according to her standards of read-worthy manuscripts.

And on the opposite end, for those people who actually read it and are honest with you about it, it can be very hurtful to hear that the book you have poured blood, sweat, tears, and a ton of time and soul into is “boring” or “slow” or “full of spelling errors” or “I didn’t really connect with the characters” or something similar.

Trust me, I’ve been there, experienced both of these scenarios and a bunch in between too. And I’m hear to tell you:

Your manuscript doesn’t suck.

It’s just not finished yet. You have the bones, some of the vital organs, but the flesh is still inside your head, and you need to get that onto the page, because that’s what’s keeping your readers from experiencing your book the way you want them to. The way you experience it in your head.

“Well. Who do I get to read it then?”

Find a Writer.

Writers appreciate the writing process. They know what a draft looks like. More important, they know what a draft is missing.

Writers can pinpoint exactly where you need to beef it up to make it readable. They’re not looking at your manuscript as publish ready, they’re looking at it as a work in progress, and this is the most helpful perspective one can have when reading your draft.

Writers are not shocked or offended by grammar errors, plot holes, or character inconsistencies, but they are honed into them and can spot them so you can fix them. Sometimes, writers can have great suggestions on how you can rework these problem areas to make your manuscript really shine.

So, when you have “completed” your novel and you’re feeling super accomplished and wildly excited to share your masterpiece, don’t give it to a “reader” to read. Or a family member. Their feedback is unreliable, probably less than honest, they might not read it at all, and they don’t understand how to tell you constructively where your manuscript needs more polish.

Find a writer. A critique group. A freelance editor. Or a designated beta reader (they are also not expecting perfection). Each of these options vary in price from free to well over several grand, with different benefits and setbacks to each one. All of them are far more beneficial than Aunt Sal and will offer you much needed constructive feedback.

Happy Writing!


Who is the most beneficial person to read your first draft?
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Author: MJ Pankey

MJ is a writer and writing consultant devoted to her muse and to helping other writers gain confidence, overcome obstacles, and unleash the story within. She offers multiple services on her platform, mjpankey.com, and creates helpful content for writers on her youtube channel.

2 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Let Readers Read Your First Draft”

  1. Hi, MJ. Your tip is spot-on. Getting honest feedback, including opinion and corrections, can be hard on a new writer. I’ve edited thrillers for two authors, and I was concerned when I first submitted my list of sentences needing attention (correction). Fortunately, both appreciated my honesty and direct approach. One even started send me his manuscript with instructions to just fix the errors. I came across your blog through your MeetUp writers group. I’m in Columbia, S.C.

    1. Hi Gus! Thank you for your comment! It’s definitely challenging at first but so rewarding. I’m happy you’re a member of the meetup group! It’s been such a game changer for me. Hopefully we’ll see you at a future event!

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