I met up with my writers' group the other night where we discussed manuscripts and ate oreos. So that was all good. Anyway, as I read through everyone's comments later I was struck (again!) by the notion that every writer needs at least three types of readers.
The Cheerleader/Mom Reader: This reader loves, loves, loves everything about your manuscript and also YOU and doesn't care who knows it. It's good to have someone like this in your corner when you're busy beating up on yourself because you think you're worthless. My mother is this person for me. (She wasn't a cheerleader BTW.) (But she was a rodeo queen once.)
The Intelligent Lay Reader: This is the person who you hope will buy (and like!) your book. Typically this person is a reader with innate good taste who reads for pleasure and enlightment. You know. The way YOU used to read before you started writing. This person isn't looking to find better ways for you to tell your story, necessarily, but he or she IS good at picking up on the things that don't make sense. My neighbor, Kathy, fills this niche for me.
The Writer Reader: This reader writes, too, and is therefore focused on elements of craft. You can find these people in writing classes, online, and in writers' groups. Lucky me. I have some REALLY experienced people in my group. A word of caution, though: in the end it's still your manuscript. A potential downside of groups is that people occassionally start writing by committee. You might want to avoid that.