My experience of a Full Free Read by Thea Buen


Spread the Word are delighted to be one of The Literary Consultancy’s partners for their Free Reads scheme – an opportunity for talented, low-income writers to get free, professional feedback on their writing. Thea Buen shares her experience of getting a full read.

“I’m writing my first novel, ‘Sleep the Clock Around’ and have been for about a million years. I’m always looking for ways to improve, signing up to workshops, courses, and online classes to help me with my writing and build my confidence.

Last year when I finished the second draft of my novel, I felt stuck, and I didn’t know what else could help me propel forward. I was unsure of the first five chapters as I wasn’t getting much excitement from writers who kindly read it nor was I getting most of the opportunities and schemes I’d applied to. When I sought advice from a literary agent, she suggested to continue redrafting and re-editing. I felt that I needed something that would be useful before delving into draft three but didn’t know where I could find it. That’s when I came across The Free Reads Scheme.

Initially, I was unsure if I fit the criteria as I didn’t have the relevant paperwork, so I emailed Spread the Word, and they immediately responded. My advice is if you’re unsure if you meet the criteria, just reach out to them. They are helpful and supportive and will do what they can to clarify anything.

A few weeks later, I was pleased to find out I’d been granted a full read: this meant that a professional editor was going to read my entire manuscript and provide feedback. Whilst excited, I also felt quite daunted too – I had taken a significant step in my writing and wasn’t sure what to expect. It also marked the first time that my entire manuscript would be read by someone I didn’t know. That was a terrifying concept.

In the feedback report I received; my reader pointed out that I lost track of the plot development within the novel as I’d been working on it for so long. This was incredibly insightful. She suggested I go back to the beginning – not of the story but of my journey with this novel. Why did I want to write it in the first place and what ignited my passion for this narrative? As I’m now working on draft three, her recommended exercises helped me clarify my themes and dig even deeper with my characters. Most importantly, her report gave me the ability to look at my novel with a fresh pair of eyes. She admitted to being tough on me because she truly believed in my novel, but I didn’t feel she was harsh and welcomed her feedback. I was – and still am grateful for her advice and encouragement.

Since then, as well as working on my third draft, I’ve been working on other prose such as flash fiction, poems, and short stories. I’m pleased to say that I’ve been published online a few times. I would not have had the courage to submit to these literary publications if I hadn’t received a Free Read. This experience has given me more confidence to seek further help and advice from other writers and artists.

I am also particularly grateful that this scheme platforms writers from marginalised backgrounds. As a British-Filipino-American, it’s promising to see organisations focus on underrepresented writers and know that there is a space for me and my writing.”

Photo credit: Sam Tipton

Published 17 September 2020