As a bit of fun, I put up both page 99s of Burying Brian and Digging up Donald on "page99.com".
The site's remit is:
"For decades, readers have used the Page 99 Test to judge the writing of a book before buying it. That's the idea here... but with a twist.
Here, published and unpublished writers share their page 99s with readers like you. And you get to rate their writing (without knowing if it's published or who the author is). It's fast. Fun. Addictive."
In truth it is fun. But from a critique point of view it's all a little futile. People commenting seem to think landing on page 99 should make perfect sense, despite the fact that 98 pages have gone before and who-knows-how-many pages are still to go. It's a bit like walking in on the middle of a film and expecting to pick up at once all that's going on. Personally, I'd judge a book on its opening and not its page 99.
It does make for some interesting comments, though. I got my share of 'I love it' and such like, but the real fun comments are the snarky ones.
For instance, Of Burying Brian, "michael goins" writes:
"FORMAT IS INCORRECT. Why? Why write if you aren't going to at least learn a few very, very fundamental things? One of the #1 rules in writing is not to have similar names and you violated it what is supposed to be page 99 but is obviously the beginning. Three are lawyers, but one is a tax collector, one is a bank manager, and one a town councillor. HOw are any lawyers??? Terrible. Choppy sentences, terrible format, bad dialogue, telling and not showing. Lots of work to be done here and some of it involves learning how to write fiction."
He seems to have decided I've not posted a page 99 at all but the beginning. I'd hack my hands off rather than pass either page 99 as a beginning! He then goes on to add a further comment:
"Not PUBLISHED but self–published. Definitely not the same thing."
Which, as both books are published by Storm Constantine's Immanion Press, to which I have no association whatsoever except being one of their authors, the comment is not actually true. Possibly Mr Goins has simply decided it's self published because he believes it to be so bad.
Then, "AdamL" writes:
"All a bit Terry Pratchett for my tastes. Generally well–written and easy to read, but the stuff about the horseman needing a good house – "Can’t go raining death and destruction on humanity from any old hovel now can we?" – is fairly obvious, the kind of thing I used to write when I was 14 and obsessed with Douglas Adams. The biscuit factory line contains too much exposition to work as a punchline, and it's an obvious joke anyway, sorry. You obviously have an imagination, but try to find your own voice and your own take on things."
"Pinkiepup2" bemoans: "I does not make sense so far."
But don't worry, because Pinkiepup1 will have the answers. :-)
And things don't get better for Digging up Donald. Again, Mr Goins is in good voice telling me:
"Doubles not singles when doing dialogue. What the heck is a "brow?" Father wouldn't be capped. "taleteller’s breath and paused a yarn–spinner’s pause." – too cutesy. Why is the dialogue in the first paragraph split into two paragraphs? Opening and closing of quotation marks is poorly done. This is a laundry listing of information all told in a run rather that being revealed with action. Too little here to know if I'd red it, but most likely not, even when it is actually ready to be read. DIalogue is stilted."
The good thing with all this is that if I have confidence in just one thing about me it would be my ability to write. Oh, I know for sure I'll hit and miss with readers--what writer doesn't?--and I have no issues whatsoever handling criticism. But it concerns me a little that a more novice writer, who is less thick skinned perhaps, might be wise to stay away from page99. Or maybe not.
I've no idea who Michael Goins is, or if he's in the habit of Googling himself, but if he does and he lands on this Blog I'd love him to say hello.
Michael Goins, please stand up.
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