… and they didn’t hate it!
It was a fairly nerve-wracking experience — after all, despite how much we writers talk about loving it when people read our work and tell us what they think, in truth we’re absolutely terrified at the idea. What if they hate it? What if they think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read, but are too polite to tell us to our face? Etc. But I persevered!
Going into the reading, I asked my group to look out for certain things (feel free to steal these if you’re working on your own first chapter):
- Do you get a good sense of who the characters are? Can you picture what they look like? Do they have a distinctive voice when they’re talking?
- Do you get a good sense of the setting? Is it interesting? More description or less?
- In terms of plot exposition, too much or too little? Do you know why the characters are here and what they want? Is it over-explained? Is it under-explained?
- (And now for the most important question …) Does the first chapter make you want to keep reading the book?
Overall, they enjoyed it. They suggested a bit more description in some parts, and less in others. They agreed that I over-explained the characters’ purpose (I think I mention it like 5 times over the course of the chapter), so that’s something I’ll need to cut down and work into the flow of dialogue a little bit more seamlessly. And, thank God, they said it was intriguing and that they’d like to read more.
I was actually so nervous about sharing the chapter that my stomach went completely nuts and started … well, we won’t go into that. Long story short, I had some tea, took a few deep breaths, shared the story, accepted all criticism with thanks and a smile, and got out alive. What more can a writer ask for?
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