I sent the first 97 pages of my new novel to my critique group yesterday.

Deeeeep breath. This is scary.

Terrifying, in fact. 

Before sending my pages to anyone–best friend, agent, editor, critique group–I always go through them one last, supposedly final time, to make sure my writing is as good as it can be. It’s kind of like straightening up the house before the cleaning lady comes. You don’t want her to know how sloppy you really are.

So I perfect the pages to the current best of my ability, and rocket them off across cyberspace to my friends.

A couple days later, I look at the pages again. I’m aware now that Mike is reading that first paragraph, figuring out how it can have more impact with just a few simple word changes. I’m seeing that I’ve neglected Liz’s advice on how to hook my reader at the end of each scene. I’m looking at the story through Jeana’s eyes, wondering if my heroine doesn’t have just a touch too much of the devil in her. And I’m wondering whether Mary will catch those klunky clichés and Heather will find the humor she appreciated so much in my last book. (I so want to earn more of her smiley faces!!!)

Seeing the manuscript through their eyes, I claw my way through it again, catching the weaknesses each reader might perceive, and finding ways to make the story even stronger than my last “best effort.”

So if you don’t have a critique group, don’t despair. Just imagine the various types of readers you’d like to impress. Read your story through their eyes. (Or imagine the woman above reading your book.) You can do it. You’re a writer. You have a creative imagination that lets you see the world through any character you choose, so look at your words with various readers in mind–and you’ll find ways to make your narrative flow, to make your characters glow, and to perfect every word, every image, and every turn of phrase .