Last week I blogged about the importance of feedback for fiction writers, and that our good friend Ray Rhamey over at Flogging the Quill has devised the Flogometer (TM), a forum where he will critique the first 16 lines of your opening and see if it meets his exacting standards. If you can get him to turn the page, you’re in the running for a free three-chapter edit (and that’s money in the bank).
Unfortunately my sample failed the test.
However, I am thrilled with experience. See, here’s where it’s important to have unvarnished criticism from disinterested professionals. So I didn’t get Ray to turn the page, big deal. What I learned from my essentially first-draft sample was:
A) The idea intrigued the forum panel. They wanted to know more. My problem was I gave them too much back story before hooking them, so I lost them.
B) The writing itself was smooth and professional. Ray didn’t have any nits or copy edits. This tells me I’ve finally internalized the rules of grammar, and I’ve mastered a degree of rhetorical competency that used to take me many agonizing drafts to accomplish. And, most importantly,
C) My voice—the indefinable something that no other writer has or can take away from me—came through loud and clear.
D) As a bonus, the panel essentially came up with a killer hook for me. Later I might decide I don’t like it. But right now it looks pretty good.
A few years ago, an experience like this would have really taken the wind out of my sails. But now I recognize that helpful, constructive feedback can work wonders.
One still has to be very careful–I can’t stress this enough–to make sure that those who critique your work know what they are doing. Just as good feedback can take your writing to the next level, bad feedback can be damaging to your self-confidence, or worse, lead you down the wrong path. It’s a subjective business. At the end of the day, you—the artist—have to make the call.