First I showed the story to Mary Ann. She liked the story a lot and had a recommendation or two for its improvement. She also pointed out a few editorial errors. Her remarks were encouraging, so I decided to show the story to some more people. Since he had said he would like to read it I sent it to S.D. Smith next. He reacted quite positively as well, with some recommendations for improvement. Some of his suggestions were the same as Mary Ann's so I changed those.
My next step was to send the story to two more tough critics: My mom and my friend Randy Maynard. My Mom does her best to look at my writing objectively. I get the impression it's difficult, but she strives for it. She was also impressed with the story. Downright effusive, even! She thinks I should win the contest. Thanks Mom!
This was the first time I'd sent a story to Randy. If you know Randy, you know the man is a connoisseur of the short story. If I remember correctly he owns a copy of every volume of Best American Short Stories. If he doesn't have them all he's close. Anyway, Randy knows stories. I was nervous once again, but I was thrilled when I got his e-mail response. He paid me one of the best writing compliments I've ever gotten: He's ready to read more of my stuff. That means a lot to me. Thanks, Randy!
I realized, though, that I couldn't just send my stories around to friends and family. I only have so many, you see, and I'll need more people to buy my books than that. I'm fully expecting to make a fortune writing, you see. That being the case, I needed an unbiased audience. This gave me the chance to actually use my account at the Zoetrope Virtual Studios. I've had my account for a long time, but I hadn't posted anything until last week. I put Keep Thinking, Keep Moving up and waited. No one has to review your story there, after all. It could come and go with no activity. Then your just outta luck.
I think about a day and a half passed after I posted the story before the first review came up. I was thrilled, but at Zoetrope, even though they let you post your first story immediately, you have to post reviews for five other stories before you can read what another reviewer says about your story. Consequently, I spent a chunk of time reviewing this weekend. It was flash fiction, though, so the stories weren't long.
I finished my five reviews and then read the review of my story. Now, there are two parts to a Zoetrope review: written and numerical. The reviewer rated "Keep Thinking, Keep Moving" as 'Very Good,' which means she gave it either a 7 or 8 out of 10. In her written review my reviewer said that the story was touching to her because of the issues about aging it dealt with. She had some sound recommendations, which I will consider for the second draft of the story.
Late last night I checked again, and another review had appeared! This reviewer had also rated me very good. In fact, the average of my two reviews gives me all 'very goods' except for one category, 'efficiency of language.' I think that's probably the most common knock on my stories so far. Too much detail. This reviewer, a physicist, suggested that I could reduce the size of my story by 'about 20%' and it would pack a better punch. Both reviewers thought I should get to the action sooner.
Still, the response was overwhelmingly positive! I feel a bit like a director celebrating the goodreviews of his play to come out the morning after opening night. Then again, I wonder if my happiness a bit out of proportion--like the director in The Goodbye Girl who exults because his mother half-heartedly said she liked his play.
Hopefully I can repeat these results on a larger scale with my next story. The truth is, though, I've got to forget about the events of this weekend. I'll revise the story, to be sure, but when I move on to the next one I can't worry about 'reviews.' I've just got to keep on telling stories the way I want. The results belong to God.