I tried something new today. I opened myself to semi-public criticism at a site called The Page99 Test.
I know a lot of writers who regularly post work at Internet writers' spaces for critique. They seem to be pleased with actual reader feedback, so it must work for them. Me, I have a small group of chosen readers, a Pennwriters' group that's been together five years or more, with work of a fairly high caliber, some novelists, some short story writers, and I trust the feedback I get there.
But when I saw this site, I just had to upload my page 99 of my current work to see what would happen.
No popularity contest here; readers are given random pages to peruse and comment about, whether they'd turn to page 100, whether the reader would consider buying this book, in any of a dozen genres. I found it interesting to read some other writers' work, noting the differences in our styles, seeing mistakes I've learned not to make any more, and some really good writing, too.
Why page 99? According to the FAQs page, "page 99 is a perfectly random page and likely not as overworked as the opening and ending. So it can reveal a lot about the story, the tension – basically, the writing – in about 25 seconds."
The Test is free for authors, who can run as many as three pages at a time, and get feedback from writers and readers, complete strangers who ought to have nothing to gain or lose by giving an honest opinion. Lance Jones, Joanna Wiebe and Steven Luke have created yet another fascinating site that will likely steal away some of my writing time (damn you, evil Internetz!!) but would seem to be a tool I can use to improve my writing, both through reading what others think of my work, and what I see in theirs.
Will I see your page there? I hope so!
Causes Barbara Mountjoy Supports
Human Rights Campaign