In writing or anything else, the first step in achieving a goal is setting realistic expectations. National Novel Writing Month expects 50,000 words. A half marathon expects 13.1 miles. These expectations are clear and measurable, and when taken on with the right mentality, achievable. (Or at least that’s what I’m told.)
When you ask someone to read your work-in-progress, it’s only fair to set realistic expectations on both ends of the deal. When will readers receive the manuscript? How much should they read? And when are notes “due,” for lack of a better word?
Perhaps the whole work is too much for your reader, even if it’s a close and trusted friend, who is juggling her own day job, after-hours writing, and social life/family. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple readers, try dividing the manuscript into more digestible chunks, so that you get serious feedback on the whole, rather than incomplete feedback that focuses on just the first few chapters.
You, as the author, also set the precedent for the priority with which your work should be treated. If you get your pages out to your readers when you say you will, you can expect a response within a given time frame. If you can’t stick to your own schedule, your readers won’t necessarily feel bound to it either.
Even having written my own, I find that knowing a friend is working on a novel is exciting, and I want to help when I can. Knowing what’s expected makes it a lot easier to be useful—and a lot more fun, too.