Beginning this week, I shall be trying something new, something that I stole from the very smart and very talented, Mary Robinette Kowal. I have some amazing and fantastic first readers for both my short fiction and my novels. Four writers, namely, all of whom read different stuff for me and all of whom have very different skillsets (I shall call them: The Wordsmith, The Plotter, The Storyteller and the Big Thinker).

I would be able to write without them, but I wouldn’t be able to edit without them, because they find all the things that I’ve fucked up, and they a. tell me where and how I’ve fucked them up and b. offer suggestions for ways to fix them.

Which brings me to the Something New: Once I’ve incorporated the suggestions for fixing the fuckeries, I don’t want to send the stories back to my first readers. Why? Partly because I’ve already imposed on them once and partly because they’ve already read the story once, which means that they’re not coming to the revision with fresh eyes. Lastly, because I’ve asked them to read the stories as WRITERS, which is a very different thing from reading the stories as READERS.

So, what I’d like is to offer up my stories in their close-to-final-just-about-to-submit-them-form on here to get the perspective of readers. (If you’re also an author, this doesn’t exclude you — I’m just looking for people who can wear their reader glasses instead of their writer/editor glasses for this particular project). There won’t be a lot of smut stories, namely because I’m fairly confident in my smut-story skills and those stories need less work. There will probably be a fair amount of spec-fic, steampunk, fantasy, horror and the like. I’m going to start with short stories and, if it works out, I’ll probably throw novels in there eventually as well (I have two I’m working on at the moment, along with a novella). In fact, I already know the first short story I’ll be putting up, a fantasy piece called This Is Red (see the image above for my inspiration).

What does it mean to read as a reader? In this case, it means that you’re reading namely for two things: Where do you get bored? and Where do you get confused? If you find typos, that’s great, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. I’m looking to make this the best experience possible for a reader. You’ll be invited to make your notes in the comments of the post, and please trust me when I say I’m looking for very real, very honest feedback. The point is NOT to make me feel good, the point is to help me make the story the best it can be so that readers feel good when they read it.

How will it work? My plan is to do a post, telling readers what the story is genre- and topic-wise and then password-protect the story. If you are willing to read that particular story as a reader, let me know and I’ll send you a password. I only ask that you don’t jump on a story unless you actually plan to read it and give reader feedback. Also, of course, everything you read is confidential, etc., although you’d be very welcome to talk/blog publicly about the process and the experience.

What do you get? Well, not much. My eternal thanks, of course. And a chance to read some nearly finalized short stories, novellas and novels (for free) by yours truly.

If you’re an author and want to play along with your own work, I invite you to do so. If you want to try this at home, feel free to do something on your own blog, and let me know (and I’ll let readers know) or you can host your stories here and take advantage of my awesome readers.

I have no idea how this is going to work, but I’m excited about it. I am, as always, open to suggestions, thoughts, notes, and everything else that comes along with trying new things.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.