I was talking with Laura Christensen, who is one of my alpha-readers, about how useful I find her commentary. She does writes a fabulous stream of conciousness reaction, which helps me know if the story is playing the way I want it to.
Laura, being the handy person she is, has written an excellent blog post about what an alpha-reader does and how it differs from beta-reading.
Here’s a sample.
An alpha-reader, also called a “first reader,” exists to help the writer know what it is she has written. Sounds odd, right? But actually they are incredibly useful. Since the story happens entirely in the writer’s head, it is hard for the writer to tell how much of that story has actually made it to the page and what impact the words she has chosen to paint the story with will have on a reader.
The alpha-reader’s job, then, is to recreate their reading experience for the author. They can do this in various ways, but the more detailed the description and summary of their various reactions (not just the negative ones and not just the positive ones), the more helpful they will be.
I encourage you to hop over to her site and read the entire thing. And if you are an author, point your new alpha-readers to Laura’s post.