Be careful what you ask for…

In earlier posts, I listed “lack of feedback” as a blocker for progressing as a writer. Spitting out words every day? No problem. Writing better every day… is hard without real, actionable feedback. I submitted a short story for a contest with modest expectations… it didn’t win, but the editors offered, for a small fee, a two-page critique. Feedback.

The story (which I’ve re-submitted to other pubs based on the below feedback) called Wasted Crisis, features Megs who works in IT for a medium-sized constructions and engineering firm. They get hacked and blackmailed; she needs to marshal her limited resources to find a way out of the situation. And, maybe, improve her standing with the firm. I submitted it the day before the deadline.

The critique had three key areas of feedback, with varying degrees of relevance. I didn’t follow the submission rules correctly (included my name and information on the first page of the manuscript -of course this is required for many submissions, but shame on me for not verifying)… so, they never read it for the contest. If I submitted it earlier, they’d have sent it back and asked me to remove that identifying information. Two lessons learned. And a waste of one of the three critiques.

The second referred to my technical description of the problem. As background, I’ve worked in technology as a programmer for over twenty years, and the last ten in corporate IT. I’m not a security expert, but am well-versed in hacking, vectors, and know first-hand how companies react to hacks. The reviewer just got a certification in IT security. Basically, he had a problem with the description of the hack and what it meant. I had this story critiqued on scribophile as well, and had a wide range of reactions from reviewers there… in its original form, I included more technology that the non-technical readers had trouble understanding; they glossed over the technical “stuff”. I couldn’t let that happen…. the story is not an in-the-weeds breakdown of how to handle a hack, the hack is the backdrop to show how the character solves a problem and the moral and ethical issues she encounters. One reviewer on Scribophile, though, was also an IT security expert, and gave similar feedback. It’s very interesting… both of the tech reviewers jumped to the same conclusion… that this fictional firm ran and acted like the corporations they worked for/with. They clearly brought their biases with them. And, to be fair, their comments were correct… just not applicable to my story. The key difference between my story and their real-life experiences is the scale. Megs (my protagonist) is almost a one-woman shop. Cheap family business (if you’ve ever worked for a family business, you’ve seen this).

Part 2 coming next week…

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