Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Fart in Your General Direction: Taking Criticism

If you are a sad creature who has not experienced Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, then my intro is lost on you. Get thee hence and seek out Netflix with due haste!

Recently I participated in a first chapter contest. This is one of the better contests of its sort because the judges give you detailed feedback via a score sheet. Not only do you get a rating, you get comments. These forms cover things like: hook, conflict, characters, pacing, and setting, among others. 

I'm going to share with you some comments I received from two of the judges.

Judge #1 
This judge gave me 18 out of a total 40 points.

Overall Enjoyment: Was this a story you'd recommend to others?
Comments: It's a little early yet for me to tell, but I would have to say that yes, I would. Because of the uniqueness of the story. I'm really curious about where it's going to go.

Additional Notes: I'm afraid that everything I've said will discourage you. That certainly isn't what I want to do. I hope that you keep writing. You have an interesting idea. I could see what you wanted to do and the kind of story you want to write. What you need to do is learn all the intricacies of the craft. Unfortunately writing right now is very competitive. If you have the dream go for it, but you have to learn and read everything you can get your hands on. That's how you'll get better and you'll be able to write for the rest of your life. What I hope you'll do is get some how to write books, take a lot of classes, (even established authors continue to take classes from others*) and practice your craft. That's the reason I gave you some things here that will help you with your story. Keep working and make this the best story out there. I think you've got what it takes. 

Judge #2
This judge gave me 38 out of a total 40 points.

Overall Enjoyment: Was this a story you'd recommend to others?
Comments: Yes, I would recommend this story. The characters seemed real and had diversified personalities.

Additional Notes: I enjoyed the unique personalities of the characters. I enjoyed the idea of having an ability to read the land and go barefoot to feel vibrations through the earth. I had fun speculating that "Name Day" was a birthday. The action was appropriate, the mannerisms believable. This was a rewarding piece of literature to read.

What am I to think of these two reviews?

They are both positive. Judge #1 is encouraging even if s/he feels the writing is inferior. Clearly, we didn't click. Judge #2 is also encouraging while praising the writing (CLICK!).

This experience can be summed up in one word: subjective. Writing is art. Like any art form, it's subjective. What you put on the page will never be received in the manner you intend it to be. Every reader receives your art via his own perspective and applies the lens of his own life experiences. 

I hold no ill will toward Judge #1. S/he gave me some great advice. I'll review it and incorporate it as I see fit. Conversely, what I wrote resonated (in a good way) with Judge #2; and, despite my school girl crush on Judge #2, I can't let myself get too carried away.

In the end, it doesn't matter what I intended to convey with what I wrote. All that matters is the reader's response to what I wrote, and that response is wholly and completely his. I have no claim on it or rights to it. 

Where do I go from here? I'll keep writing. I'll keep reading (both how-to books and books in my genre, and even some not in my genre), and I'll continue to attend classes and hone my craft. You should do the same.

*One of my favorite authors, John Brown does this at every conference where  he presents. When he's not presenting, he's attending classes taught by other writers. Aside from his writing, and his classes, this is one of the things I love about him.


Jenny Moore said...

I totally agree. My comments were just like that. One judge loved the main character. The other didn't connect. One thought the setting was good, the other thought I needed to add setting.
So, whateves, right? Sometimes, you just gotta do what you like and believe in yourself.
I think you are amazing. And how much can you really tell from a chapter? Especially with the word count limitations?

The Damsel In Dis Dress said...

Love this post, Chris.

Unknown said...

I'm a little curious, where did this first chapter contest come from?

Chris Todd Miller said...


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