When Jay Asher wrote Thirteen Reasons Why (http://allevenson.wordpress.com/people/jay-asher—-makes-a-difference/), he had a support/critique group who brought chapters for review to their regular meetings. Every writer I know who is serious about his work has a group of trusted writers who make you open wide and take your medicine. The writer does not get to explain or defend the work. After all, the reader tanning on Luquillo beach doesn’t get to ask the writer what he meant.
Once the book was completed, Asher took another step somewhat different from what I’ve heard before. He chose four readers to read the book through and give their recommendations. The difference was that he did not ask them to read simultaneously, and he did not ask them to reread after he considered and executed their suggestions.
He believes in Fresh Eyes. Yes, of course. He understands peer editors don’t read the second version with the same diligence as the first.
So his final readers are consecutive.
Jay chose his first reader to find errors. When you write a book over three years and do four or five major rewrites in that time, errors will creep in. The author forgets the hero had a Corvette in chapter 2 when he gave him a Mustang convertible in Chapter 17. His boyhood pet is a collie in chapter 7 but a cocker in chapter 9. He learned his burger-flipping skills at his after-school job in a fast-food joint but not if he played intra-mural sports all through school.
The second reader was chosen to examine pacing. The narrative arc of each scene and chapter build the wave of the entire book. Does the book keep the pages turning from the start, through the long swamp of the middle and the wrap-up?
The third reader is for grammar. Jay’s wife is his Grammar Queen. Anne Fox keeps me honest. If she ever decides to retire, my backup plan is to take up bowling or bawling.
By the time Jay has licked the wounds and finished the surgery necessary after his first three readers, he is ready for Unconditional Love.
His fourth reader is his mother.