Tough Love

It’s been way too long since I’ve had an example of my critique group’s biweekly vivisection of my writing (Holy shit–August? Really, Don?). If you’ll recall, the latter portion of 2009 was spent rewriting. But, one of my 2010 goals is to write a story a month, so I had to have something to bring this time around.

I brought Act I of the story that I hope will make people dance for me.

Here’s what the group had to say…

For the Win

  • One reader was drawn to the main character. She “loved her voice.”
  • Another liked the description of the internet communications between the main character and the supporting character–an alien.
  • A few readers liked the opening hook, which let them know what kind of story this was, and more importantly, what kind of story it wasn’t.
  • One commented on the “pop culture/sci-fi mix” I worked into the story. cf. the film Contact, except for the immediacy of the meeting between human and alien in my story.
  • Everyone thought one aspect of the story–which I’ll keep secret for now–was a really good device.
  • Overall, the story was called “fun” and most of my descriptions “good.”


  • The main character had a bit of skepticism in her, which she should’ve shown during her first alien encounter…
  • In particular, one piece of evidence I invented for the alien to convince the MC that he was an alien wasn’t all that convincing (this is why I hate writing sci-fi ;)).
  • One reader had a different opinion of the way I wrote the initial internet communication between the MC and the alien (emails and chats). He saw what I was trying to do stylistically, but wondered why I just didn’t write the emails like emails, and the chats like straight up chats.
  • My description of the alien, while generally clear–except for the alien’s clothes–raised questions as to certain mechanics (especially regarding the aspect of it I need to keep secret right now :)).
  • There were some beats missing in the last scene of Act I–readers questioned the way things escalated between the MC and the alien.

I don’t mind telling you that the whole thing went a lot better than I thought it was going to go. I was able to come up with (what I believe to be) quick fixes for most of the problems the group pointed out to me. In the end, though, I’m glad the problems seemed to be in the details, rather than in any fundamental story flaw.

There’s a first time for everything, huh? πŸ™‚

11 thoughts on “Tough Love”

  1. It'll be a grievous thing when all their well-thought out critique is all for nought. I shall be victorious. πŸ™‚ Glad it went well, Don.

  2. Your title is head-on with "tough love." It's always jarring to get a critique, but it's for the good of the story. Sometimes I receive advice that I can't or don't know how to use, but for the most part I welcome the pros and cons.

  3. @Medeia – Bruce Lee said it best: Absorb what is useful, disregard what is useless. That's assuming, of course, you're honestly evaluating every piece of criticism because even if you don't buy it, it's always given for a reason.

    @Harley & Mercedes – Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman said it best: I'm just getting warmed up!!

  4. Tough love, indeed. And you took it like a man (as if only a man, could handle it well…what a dumb, saying…forget I said that. Pretend I said, "Bravo, Don!! You took it so well!)

    Three cheers for thoughtful, helpful criticism! And, geez, I commend you for your bravery in sharing it with us.

  5. I'll settle for "You took it like an adult." which some writes have trouble doing. I've run into quite a few folks who have difficulty handling criticism from writers who are out to help them. It just makes me wonder how they're going to take criticism from a fan or reviewer to mercilessly rips his or her words to shreds.

  6. COULDA BEEN WORSE, WHICH IS AWESOME. I used to really love crits, but I think I like hearing everything about me is wrong. Or something. I dunno. I wonder how I'd handle them now as opposed to when I was in University.

    I'm sure similiarly, but still, you worry about yourself sometimes though.

    Alien stories though, hrmm. Interesting…

  7. "My description of the alien, while generally clear–except for the alien's clothes–raised questions as to certain mechanics (especially regarding the aspect of it I need to keep secret right now :))."

    I'm guessing genitals. But I'm always guessing genitals.

  8. @Melissa – A good critique is essential. The key is Bruce Lee's advice that I wrote up in one of my earlier comments. Yes, I can be caught off guard sometimes, but I like to think I've developed a thick skin.

    @Andrew – I suspect whatever I write could be interpreted as at least a metaphor for genitals…

  9. Don,

    Your "Positives" list is right up there with the "Need a Little Tweaking" list. There is a great thing.

    And, for what it is worth, I love the idea of an alien exchanging emails with the MC(must be using scifiwifi, huh? hahha). I'm so wanting to read it.

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