Reading groups are a HUGE part of writing. You need people other than yourself to critique your work. (This blog post may have millions of type-os, the computer I'm on is lacking auto-spell check, sorry.) When you write, you write words like BARLEY instead of BARELY (common mistake of mine). Your mind goes so quick, you forget words like "He" or to finish the word FIRST. You as the writer know what you mean and graze over these seemingly minimal mistakes while editing.
The people reading and editing your work? Not so much. After four people had read several chapters, it was the lovely Sandy, last night, who caught the barley/barely mistake. Several times. Others found missing words that completed sentences. I on my own would not have caught this. Nor, would I have caught things like "So...if she doesn't bleed, how can she cry?" or other questions that I had left unanswered in the original manuscript.
I am super excited because the more I talk to friends and co-workers (also friends) about the publishing process or trying to secure an agent, the more people say, "I'd love to read what you write." I'm gathering a reading group, which is AWESOME. Even if they aren't editing, they can at least say "Good book" "Mediocre" or "Umm....please edit. There was no plot". Willing readers are where it's at. (For the less willing, like that sibling of mine, I bribe with cookies.)
My novel right now is starting to feel more like a cross over. I have some high school aged people reading it (mostly seniors as those are the ones I work with), but overall my reading group consists of the age ranges of: 22-40. For the most part (except, of course, my sister) they love it. This novel is aimed at YOUNG ADULT meaning 14+. Why? Because I started it when I was in high school, I was writing for that audience.
But the concepts of love, and loss, and anger....it's pretty universal. I'm still bitter that Kellie is dead and it's been YEARS. You don't recover from death. My 30+ year old cousin still talks about my grandfather who died before I was born. He is still haunted with dreams of the man he loved. We as people, always are. Love and loss are feelings that EVERYONE experiences. My young niece and nephew lost their uncle and experienced "Why can't we go to Uncle Drew's anymore?" They were under 5 years old at the time. They cried with my oldest sister.
As a universal concept, I wonder if we'd be able to cross market?