PageToFame says my “writing needs work”—help!

I’ve written quite a bit on this blog about WEbook’s PageToFame contest. I got several of you, my readers, to help me pick and polish my best “first pages” (though I then discovered that I actually only got less than half a page), then entered quite a bit of poetry. I’ve re-entered revised versions, or different starting points, for a few of the pieces that were rejected.

I think WEbook’s first round criterion for books—less than five hundred words, and a significant number of people has to rate you “pretty good” (4) or “heavenly” (5)—is far too stringent. But even for the “shorts” section, where the length limit is far looser and I can present each work in its entirety, my poetry and prose is generally panned. Over both the novel “first pages,” the two blog posts/essays, and my poetry, the two most common “comments” (after selecting a rating, readers can select from a few predefined “comments,” click “other” and write their own, or move on without commenting at all) are “Writing needs work” and “Not original enough.”

True originality consists largely in borrowing from so many sources that the work seems original and in treating well-worn ideas in a new and fresh way, both of which I think I’ve done. But it’s very difficult to distinguish a cliche-ridden unoriginal work from a fresh take on the ideas in the first five hundred words. On the other hand, on the matter of “writing needs work,” “I am my own worst critic“; my judgment of my own work is unreliable, and not even reliably unreliable (like a movie critic with tastes diametrically opposed to yours). And the poetry and fiction I was proud of four years to a decade ago I now wince at, so it’s actually quite likely that my writing needs a great deal of work.

As I mentioned before, I’ve now posted more than enough poems to make a book, and I’d like to do so. Anyone with decided opinions about poetry, please help me by telling me which poems you like and don’t like, and if possible why or how they can be improved. On the other hand, while I don’t have much fiction completed yet, I consider it my life’s work and hope to make my living from it. If you have some time to spare, please get in touch with me and help me to improve my “first pages,” my planning for the series, and what I’ve already written.

If you’re a writer or poet yourself, I’d be willing and glad to try to give you the same sort of help I’m asking for here. (Whether you can help me or not.) Feel free to ask me what I think of a poem or passage, or for more detailed revision help.


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