Getting constructive criticism

No one has read my story that I posted up on Zoetrope as of yet, and honestly I’m not too surprised. One problem is that it is 4,000 words, and I think that puts it down on the list of choices to read when you can read and review a 1,000 word story instead. I’m just impatient because I want some feedback because I want to send the story out, but I know it needs more work. My new roommate read it, and said that it was beautiful, but that she felt I should expand more on the Native American part, she said, as it is that it sounds cliche. I agree with her, so that will be my next step in the process. The great thing about having people read your stuff is that they can give you insight into your story, they can help you discover things that you may not see because you are too attached to your work as it already is on the page.

I prefer face to face contact, and conversation about writing over doing it on the internet. Too much gets lost in translation between e-mails and online groups. For instance I had written a review for this one woman, never once saying I hated her work, but I pointed out where I would like to have seen more or where I found it to be confusing. I make a conscience effort to highlight what I like and the reason I add any criticism is because I think a story deserves to be the best it can be. This particular woman wrote me back, and she was angry that I criticised her work at all and then she accused me of saying her work was crap, a word I never used. I was really surprised to be chastised for applying criticism on a site where I thought that was what people wanted. I didn’t realize that people wanted gold stars and to be told it was wonderful even if it wasn’t finished. I mean I expect to get criticism. That’s why I post it. I put it out when I need help, when I can’t see where the story needs to go, and I hope that someone can help me drive the story in the right direction. Again, this is why I prefer face to face discussion about the work, maybe the woman would have understood that I wasn’t saying her work was crap, in fact there was a lot I really liked, I just thought that it needed a different structure to better tell the story. You take it or you throw it away but don’t get mad. She later apologized, but for me it put a distaste in my mouth as too whether or not the site was going to give me what I need.

Back to talking with my roommate as we discussed my story we both came to the understanding that The Rules of the Game is a story about power. This was something I didn’t know while writing it, but now I can see it, and now that I understand the theme I can better tell the story.

I think that I will keep “The Rules” up for another day on Zoetrope, but if no one reads it than I think I will take it down and look for a new way of finding feedback and a writing community.

I’m beginning to think of starting my own writing group here in Portland. I know there are already several, but what’s one more? In this group I would like the intention to be to publish. I think there are plenty of groups and workshops created for expression and idea or just to write, which are so important but I want something that is more emphasized in getting your work out into the world. The end game isn’t to actually be published, if that happens great, but it’s more about the process, in fact it is all about the process.

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