Thank you for your valuable feedback on the 25-vs-50 words. I think we'll definitely do a 50-word critique next time, though the 25-word has garnered enough popularity to warrant a repeat at some point.
Also, having two separate submission windows was a great suggestion, too. 50 at a time. Yes!
The most encouraging thing I've read, over and over, is how so many of you have taken "meh" or "poo" critiques and used them to your benefit. In short, you LISTENED without offense and made your work stronger. Brilliant! Of course that's what this is all about. This is how we grow as writers. We may go into things like this knowing--well, sort of knowing--that we'll probably get some feedback that isn't all starbeams and sparkles. As in, "Nope. Not hooked." Or a variation thereof.
But oh! So many of you have prevailed. And that's awesome.
Sadly, I had to write the following email to a contestant who was so upset by negative feedback that he wanted me to remove his entry (I have not removed it, so don't waste your time trying to figure out which entry it was. *grin*):
I will certainly remove the content of [your post] after the contest is over if you would like. But please allow me to point out that nobody is "ridiculing" your work. I have read the comments, and nothing has been written in a mean spirit. If it were, I would have deleted it immediately.
When we put our work out there, we have to be willing to hear both positive and negative. If the negative seems to outweigh the positive, it's the perfect opportunity for us to examine our work thoroughly--which is, of course, the point of this entire exercise.
If we pull our work out of view and run away, how will we learn? How will we grow as writers? It takes courage to put our stuff out there for others to read (which you have done). It takes more courage to KEEP it out there, sorting through the critiques, applying those that resonate, ignoring those that don't.
Reader reactions to your opening lines are not a reflection of you as a writer, or as a person. If someone says he is not "hooked" by your opening, he is not "ridiculing" you. He is sharing his response. Isn't that what we want--honest responses? Because then we can dig in and find out what we need to do to make our work better.
Again, I want to stress to you that, while the reactions may have felt harsh, there was nothing inappropriate. It may simply be that you have chosen to start your story at the wrong place, which is actually a common problem. We might have a terrific story, but if we "drop" the reader into it at the wrong place, he won't want to keep going. The fix could be as simple as that.
You're going to have to grow a very tough skin in order to move forward. The critiques on this blog are a safe environment for that. Resist the urge to run away, to hide your work when it's not getting the response you desired. Instead, examine the response as objectively as you can, and see how you can apply whatever you've learned to your work.
I am sorry you've had such a negative experience. I would encourage you to turn that around by taking something away from this experience that will lend strength to your writing and propel you forward.
(And by the way, have you ever read the story on my blog about WHY I named the blog Miss Snark's First Victim? You'll find the link near the top of the left side bar. Basically, she ripped my writing apart on her blog. And it ultimately changed my life as a writer. Because...I didn't run away.)
I truly wish you the best!
Indeed, I don't think this writer's struggle is uncommon. That's why I've posted my response. Something tells me there are others of you sitting quietly, feeling like you've been "slammed" by negative feedback. This letter is for all of you.
Don't. Give. Up.