Saturday 4 November 2017

Chapter Critique Corner

So a while ago I did a series of page 1 critiques on this blog, ignoring my gut instinct that it would end badly. I did end up being attacked in certain quarters for "being mean", and since there's no point putting in the considerable effort just to create ill feeling ... I stopped.

Edit: Hear what another author had to say about this exercise recently.

Whatever people say, having your writing honestly critiqued can hurt, and our instinct is to react poorly to being hurt. Writers often put their heart and soul onto the page, something of themselves. If they were immune to the sting of honesty in that context then they might well be too walled in to be a good writer in the first place.

Critique (and indeed critiquing others) is, however, hugely valuable to a writer who hopes to improve.

I still get frequent requests for feedback on writing and my cut & paste reply highlights in addition to my lack of time and possibly opening myself to charges of plagiarism, the following no-win dilemma - why would I invest that amount of effort in someone who is not a friend, and if they are a friend, why would I risk losing their friendship by applying the sharp edge of honesty to it?

My proposed solution is to host anonymous Chapter Ones on this blog and to invite feedback from readers and writers. Hopefully some of that will be in the form of detailed technical critique. Since the author is anonymous they will know there's nothing personal behind the responses (& we will know they are here for the writing help rather than the publicity). And since those giving the feedback can choose to be anonymous they will know that it can't lead to bad feeling.

So, if you've asked me to read your work and advise you on it in the past, here is a viable alternative. Send me your chapter 1 and (subject to demand & the how well this all works) I will post it here and invite feedback. Quite a few able writers have already expressed their willingness to read and offer advice as part of this exercise. To be clear - I won't be critiquing you.

Send requests to me at

The first chapter 1 for critique is here.
The 2nd is here.
The 3rd is here.

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  1. I very much appreciated your comments on my first page (and realized afterwards from your comments that I should have sent the first page from chapter one) but you gave me loads of quality ways to help sharpen my craft (

    And I did specify "relentless and brutal."

  2. I would love a first chapter critique from you, Mark, even if it was "mean".

  3. That's a pity. I really liked your page 1 citiques. Although I'm not a writer, they did improve my reading, as you made points that I had never thought of before. I'm pretty sure both amateur writers and average readers took lessons from your work.
    Thanks a lot!