I've been working on an older story of mine this week. Just pottering around with it, trying to make it work. And because I'm not sure it is working, I started posting the chapters I've finished tinkering with up for my critique group to tear apart.
I got my first piece of feedback on my first chapter yesterday, and it was 100% spot on.
My CP pointed out that I was opening my story too soon. That by starting my book with someone sitting in front of a computer, bored by his homework, I was going to start the book by boring the reader. Even though the inciting incident happens in this chapter, that first scene wasn't going to compel anyone to read on.
She then said that while the inciting incident is good, it happens too soon for the reader to care. That she needed to know the character a little better before he had his world rocked.
I'm usually accused of having opening chapters in which nothing much happens because I always like to let the reader meet the characters and get a feeling for their world before throwing the crap at them. With this story I'd decided forego that and jump right into the action. I should have trusted my usual storytelling instincts.
So I went back and wrote a new chapter one last night. Not an enormous amount happens in it, but I think by the end of it you know Tony a lot better, and have some idea of the struggles he's going to face as the book goes on.
Having good critique partners is essential. I can't stress that more. You need readers you trust, readers who aren't going to be afraid of hurting your feelings if they think your work stinks. You also need to be ready for critique, ready to accept that your work isn't as flawless as you'd like to think.
But more on that next time...
Do you have critique partners you trust?