There is a reason I don't allow Anonymous commentors on this blog. The week my book, THE ORCHARD, was accepted, I took a deep, happy breath, and posted the first 364 words of chapter 1, a mere page and two lines, here on this blog. I loved the scene and had received a lot of praise over the rhythm, the imagery. M. Gray commented. It was lovely and made me smile.
Then, somehow, as I believe my followers were at 4 at that point, Anonymous found me. Ripped it apart. Where was the love interest? Why was the character lamenting? Present the eviction notice! Then they listed a large number of questions and possible outcomes of where in the world this story could be headed and pointed out that I hadn't addressed a single one yet. My writing was drivel. Pretty drivel.
I was dumbfounded.
Had they not read that the book was complete? That the series was actually complete? Was I supposed to have my love interest come traipsing up in this quiet, compelling moment and introduce himself? Was I to have the lawyer blast through the trees at 8:00 p.m. and thrust the foreclusure papers up through the branches? All on the first page? Really? Really. I was asking myself these questions and considering changes because this was all so new and I knew I had much to learn and this Anonymous sounded like they knew what they were talking about. I was near tears.
I humbly replied, assuring them that the plot takes off just after this scene, that I only posted it for its imagery, and since the book was accepted, and completed, the publisher must see something. As I wrote, I realized something. This short, quiet opening scene had made this Anonymous reader ask questions. It made them wonder what would happen next (albeit, impatiently). They had 10 possible scenarios written right in their comment, wondering, demanding. I pointed this out in my reply, that perhaps this was a good thing.
Anonymous commented back. With a vengeance. How dare I? They had been published many times over! There were "Ha ha ha's" and lots of !!! And then came a list of numerous ways to NEVER begin a novel. It ended with a congratulations I could give no weight to.
My hands shook as I leaned into my husbands shoulder and he offered to write the next reply. As we talked about why someone would launch such an attack on a beginning author without at least earning my respect for who they were or their accomplishments, another comment popped up.
Good job. The way to keep me reading is NOT to outline the entire plot in the first few lines! In fact I'd rather you keep me up in the wee hours trying to find out!
I could breathe again. Bonnie was my new friend.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew it would be best to delete the offending comments and block anonymous commentors from the blog. I also took another deep breath and posted the entire first chapter in place of the small opening. Some of you may think my actions a bit cowardly, but I felt empowered. And I learned this: Comments like that from someone unnamed, no matter what their claim of expertise, are weightless. Even if there was truth in their critique, I would go elsewhere to learn more. People with names and manners and known expertise. Strangely, I also felt it might be better for Anonymous not to have those comments posted. I'm crazy-protective like that.
Since then, I've been critiqued up and down, and if you've been reading my posts here, you know how I take it. I need it. Give me feedback, and I'll do my best with it. I've written several opening scenes since I've begun writing, each different and fitting of the storyline and genre, some quiet, some jumping out of the starting gates. The thing is, I'm still writing. I'm still sticking my neck out.
Thanks, Bonnie. Your simple comment meant more than you think it did. I'll never forget it. Or your name.