Once you’ve done two three drafts, it is time to ask for comments from other people, and only now. Whom do you show it to? You can hire a writing coach to get his or her thoughts. The advantage of that is that their comments will be geared to help you solve problems, and the coach will not know you so they will have sincere distance on the work. And/or you can give it to a writer friend or someone you trust.
Trust is primary. Someone whose openness of mind and kindness you respect. Someone who does not have an agenda such as they always wanted to write a novel themself but never settled down (they would be brutal on you, just as revenge). Don’t choose someone who just loves to find fault. This kind of person is not your ideal reader and giving it to them smacks of a kind of self-sabotage on your part.
You should select a reader who is the kind of person who likes your genre of novel. If the person hates thrillers, why give them one? They won’t really know the genre and will not give you helpful information. If the person hates thought novels, well,why give your quiet literary gem to someone like that?
That said, getting comments is helpful. You will hear and see things you did not notice yourself and will wonder, Why didn’t I?
Don’t listen to all the comments you receive because some of them will just be peccadillos of the readers and have nothing to do with your novel. But those comments that resonate, implement. My agent told me that the ending to my last novel was not right. “Push it a bit,” she said, and I did and I am glad I did. So some comments are very good.
As you receive your “readers” initial comments, mark them in your margins or on your draft, and then use these to get ready for another draft.
If you get high praise, don’t go mad with hope. Selling a novel is hard and there will be many who won’t like it. If you get terribly negative criticism, weigh it and know that it is not the final say either. Many great books started as terrible early drafts.
If the comments are personal, “You never show your own traits to advantage,” ignore them. You didn’t write a memoir. You will know which comments to take seriously because they will stick, they will not “hurt you” but, instead, open your mind to new and better possibilities for your book.
This fourth draft is making changes to comments that you have found helpful and enlightening and you are sure will enhance the book.