Tough Love

It’s been over two months since my last confession piece was eviscerated by the critique group.  Almost forgot what it was like.  Luckily, I picked it up again pretty darn fast!

I’m writing and submitting, even got two publications in so far.  I’ve also trunked two longer writing projects this year that just weren’t working for me.  I hate doing that because it means violating Robert Heinlein’s #2 Rule for Writing: You must finish what you write.  But I was prompted to start a new story by–well, I can’t tell you why, not yet.  It’s a seekrit.  Suffice it to say that this is the first time in a long time I was so excited by an idea.  In one morning, I had a rough plot outline of all the major points I want to hit.  By lunchtime, I had a title.  I almost never have a title until the end.

I spit out Act I in time to submit it for vivisection by the critique group.  And, vivisect it they did!


  • I was worried about being heavy-handed with the story’s theme or of telegraphing anything.  Apparently, I did neither.
  • The prose was “engaging”
  • My setting was “rich” and “full of details”
  • Some readers liked the tone of the story, as well as some of the detail and emotions
  • There were some really good guesses as to where this story might be going.  For all the apparent confusion about plot details (see below), most of the readers picked out all the plot elements/questions I wanted to throw out there, even if they weren’t all understood. 


  • One two of the five pages I brought,was utterly confusing for a lot of readers.
  • I confused one reader (likely, more) about the mechanics of a particular piece of magic being debated between characters
  • My introduction of the viewpoint character was confusing.
  • Pacing was really slow 3/4 into Act I (which wasn’t helped by some really embarassing grammatical errors).
  • I didn’t give enough information about the particular Cause my characters are fighting for.
  • (edited to add) I repeated a few phrases waaaay too many times.

Quite possibly, I should’ve let this draft cool before bringing it.  But apart from obvious fixes, I got a couple of really good suggestions that I’ll implement right away.  And hopefully, I’ll have at least Act II ready for next session which, because of scheduling around some holidays, will be next week!  Gotta get moving…

      2 thoughts on “Tough Love”

      1. What, did Robert Heinlein never start a crappy story? How can he make that a writing rule? I suppose I should follow the link and find out, but I'm a busy man–I have snarky blog comments to leave, and don't have time to track down actual facts before I form opinions.

        Congrats on the story successes, good sir. I love when a story just kind of claws its way out of my head like that.

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