Last week I had a new experience that, as many new experiences are, was both thrilling and terrifying. No, I did not get to ride a new roller coaster at Cedar Point. (In fact, due to my interesting condition, I was reduced to the Ferris wheel and Sky Ride this summer.)
No, I’m talking about having someone who is not related to me read my writing.
Several months ago, a fellow blogger was running a Kickstarter to fund her trip to a writer’s conference in Iceland. One of the perks she offered was a critique of the first chapter of the donor’s WIP. This sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to get some feedback on the draft of a fantasy novel I started for NaNoWriMo last year.
I was so elated when I won NaNo last year, I figured I would be able to channel that energy into a second draft this year. However, when I started re-reading what I’d written, I really started hating it. It did not seem at all like the story I’d had in my head. The prose made me cringe, and the tone was all wrong. I didn’t want to look at it, much less edit it.
So I figured I should really take this opportunity to get a fresh opinion in the hopes it would give me some direction for where to go next. I didn’t really end up having any anxiety over it at all. I already knew there were things wrong with my text, so I was actually eager for someone to tell me what exactly was wrong so I could fix it!
And that’s exactly what happened. Sara wrote me a nice list of comments with her first impressions, things she was confused about, etc. The most important comment she gave me was that my very first scene lacked tension. There was nothing to hook the reader in, and nothing to foreshadow the larger conflicts of the later story.
She also mentioned a lack of visual cues for worldbuilding. Although I implied a setting based on ancient Rome, I gave no physical descriptions of characters, buildings, etc.
As far as the writing, one of my goals is to re-read some of my favorite historical fantasies by Guy Gavriel Kay, who is kind of my “model” author for this story as it was heavily inspired by his works.
So this first chapter critique turned out to be a good experience for me. I definitely feel more inspired and up to the task of revising my story now. Letting others read your writing is always difficult, but hopefully it will get easier with time and practice.