Not-so-constructive criticism

So recently I joined a writer’s forum that I stumbled upon online.  It seemed to be chock full of published and aspiring writers.  They have an intro forum, success story section, writer’s block party, and critique section.  I joined for the sole purpose of gaining access to these forums and to lurk around for tips and tricks.  Well, I got brave after a post or two and decided to post part of my first chapter in the critique section….  I reviewed my first chapter for the umpteenth time, copied, pasted, added a trigger warning in the headline, and pressed submit.  Then I waited.

After a few hours, I had my first response.  I saw the little new post icon on my thread and I literally squealed.  Oh someone has read my chapter! Of course, they love it and think it should be published immediately, right?! Big fat ‘Nur’.

The first response was as followed:
“Did not grab me,
Hard to follow,
Gave up.”

Say what?!

I closed my laptop, then and there, completely dismayed.  I was so put out that I couldn’t even bring myself to write for days.  And then I logged back onto the forum and found a few more replies.  Ok, so I was rewarded with a much more constructive critique:

“Personally, I have to be in just the right mood to read literary fiction, so it took a bit for me to move “into” the story. But then I read it a couple of times, and it wasn’t bad. I’d cut some detail, but not a lot – I think if you think about pacing a bit more, you’ll see where some things can be trimmed. Just a quick example:

“Earlier in his walk he had picked a flower along the trail and had spontaneously decided to present it to Mary as a love token.”

Perhaps something like “Earlier, along the trail, he had picked a flower to present to Mary; a love token.” This still tells us he was out walking and was thoughtful enough to think of Mary without doing a “a,b, and then c” type of description. (Just a suggestion, of course.)”  

Ya’ll, this was like a shining beacon for me.  The words “not bad” have never sounded so good!  The poster gave several other suggestions and advice which were exceedingly useful and the ‘gave up’ guy chimed in to say that ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad and maybe he couldn’t follow it because its a genre that he doesn’t like.  He only reads non-fiction and wouldn’t lower himself to read a work of fiction, especially literary fiction… But then he does kind of like a good Bond movie… K then gave up guy, moving right along!

So here I am the first lesson learned.

Lesson One:
Don’t take the opinions of people you don’t know as Bible.  If you are writing a story about the advantages of owning a puppy and the guy reading it hates puppies he probably is going think your work is garbage.  Move right along and wait for the next guy who thinks puppies are a-ok.

I did end up taking some of the advice posted in the critique forum and applied it to my work so far.  In my opinion, every tweak and addition have made the story better.

Not going to drink the hatorade today folks.  And yes I’m back to writing! I am taking the advice that my great-grandmother gave me years and years ago when I was just a kid: “Write something every day, it doesn’t matter what it is, just write something.”  

I didn’t much feel like writing last night but I did it anyway remembering these words.  The payoff was instant and the result was one of my favorite lines of the book so far.

“Until he knew her body he did not have a dwelling.  To be plucked from it now was to be cast into desolation.”


This is where I write.

This is it.  This is where I get all my good (or slightly mediocre) writing done.  I started about two months ago, hammering away on my iPhone in the total dark while I put my son to sleep.  So now I have a ritual, and thank God, a laptop.

It began with an idea, spawned from my family tree, about a girl who lives in the post-revolutionary era North Carolina.  So I let my imagination run wild and I put words to paper… or rather thumbs to an iPhone screen.  I have started this blog to keep myself on track, journal my progress, and hopefully, inspire someone else to chase their own possibly ignorant and obviously nutty dreams.

So here we are, the beginning of the line.  I am 14000 words into my first novel.  And get this: I dove in headfirst with a huge idea and grossly ambitious novel when I have never been published…. in anything.  Ever.  Outside of some angsty teenage poetry about 12 years ago, I have never done any creative writing.  But I have a story and characters that I adore and I want to share it!

So here I sit, half propped up on pillows, slightly smeared with a two-year-old’s drool and pressing the ignore button on my ringing iPhone..again, writing.  My son is sleeping, my daughter is quietly entertaining herself, my husband is wondering what I am doing, and I am losing myself in the year of our Lord 1792.

I plan to post excerpts at times, roadblocks I hit, general progress, and things I learn in this process so please stay tuned and feel free to send me an email or message! I will respond between novel writing, college courses, my full-time job, wiping noses, cooking dinner, and making time for my husband.. all the time in the world this girl has!