Quite a while ago, I submitted my 99th page here, the 99 Page Test Website, which asks you to submit your 99th page for feedback.
I'd just finished up the awesome 99th page blogfest, and so this seemed like a swell idea.
Although it was mostly dialogue, I felt relatively confident in LOU's 99th page. I read a few of the other pages on the website and wrote detailed critiques for them, the kind of thing I try to do for my critique buddies: what seemed to be working and not, if I'd read further and why. And then I sat back and waited.
I thought I'd learn a little about my page-- the sort of feedback you'd get from a mini writing group. But mostly what I got was one or two word comments, some random, some hurtful, some enthusiastic.
There were many conflicting opinions:
" it's really beautifully written."
"Is this a 'Bonny & Clyde' story? Then perhaps, but it didn't come across like that. Not too badly written, though."
"Very good, crisp writing"
"this style is difficult to follow"
"I enjoyed the style and the characters made sense quickly."
"I liked this, it had an interesting voice to it and seemed well written."
And some rather blunt ones:
"The simile, "airtight as a laundry basket" seems like a pathetic attempt at humor in a scene that doesn't even require it."
"Horrible people having a rotten time doesn't fulfil my needs for literature – I can get that in real life, thanks!"
About 1/3were thumbs up/down without comment.
At first I was sort of appalled. But then I realized my 99th page taught me something important... not about how to improve ol' #99 or whatever else, but how to take criticism.
At first, each offhand comment landed like a haymaker. I mulled over what to fix on my page, maybe I should take out that damn laundry basket simile. But then I'd get the opposite reaction from the next reader, and some random thing from a third and in this way I began to learn to let it just roll off, to know my own heart and make sure the critiques I accept are either
a. From those I trust and respect
b. Common criticisms from many different people.
Maybe I could have learned all this from Rick Nelson: "You can't please everyone so you got to please yourself"
(Not a One-Hit-Wonder, by the way)