I recently read L.A. Witt’s excellent book, Writing Faster FTW. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. There are lots of good tips in there for maximising your word output and staying on track when you’re drafting.
One of the things she discusses in the book is the use of alpha readers. This was a term I’d never heard before, and it was a lightbulb moment for me because now I finally have a name for what two of my best writing friends are to me.

My alphas (as I like to imagine them)

An alpha reader (as I understand it from Lori’s book) is a reader who gets to see your unedited first draft–often while you’re still actually writing it.
I know plenty of writers prefer to complete a draft and polish it before anyone else reads it, but I’ve never been that kind of a writer. Maybe it’s because I’m used to instant feedback. (I come from a fanfiction background where I used to post my chapters as soon as they were written). Maybe it’s just because I’m a needy attention hoor? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. But whatever it is, writing into a void doesn’t work for me. I lose all confidence in the story without someone peeking over my shoulder once in a while, patting me on the back and telling me it’s awesome (I’ll settle for okay)–or gently pointing out that it sucks and needs fixing.
So thank you, L.A. Witt for enlightening me. I now finally have a better name for two people who are amazingly important to me.
Annabelle Jacobs (a fellow m/m author) and Justyna (a friend from my fanfic days) read every word of mine after I vomit them onto the page. They keep me going when I feel like quitting, they make my stories better, and without their support and encouragement I would never have written any of my books.  Thank you, you guys. I love you <3
So how about you – if you’re a writer, do you have alpha readers? Or do you prefer to wait for feedback from beta readers after you’ve polished your draft yourself? What works best for you?