The first paragraph and page and chapter are so critical. It's very easy to get stuck on those initial sentences and wonder if you've got what it takes to continue. It's very easy to just plain give the hell up.
Getting flogged is about putting yourself out there. I slaved over the first chapter of my work. So much so, I was unable to write anything other than that first chapter for well over a month. Why lose the sleep and why waste the time and energy on an entire manuscript, if I couldn't even hook the agent in the first place?
I took a chance and received a positive flogging. I also got a ton of excellent feedback interlaced with a few critiques which felt like a boot to the kidneys. Sure, there are no guarantees in life. I know this. But realizing I was on the right track meant everything and my writing is progressing by leaps and bounds.
Don't trust in friends and family to give you an honest critique; this isn't fair to yourself or them. Go to someone who doesn't stand to benefit. Overcome your fears by facing them. In other words, get your butt flogged!
It's one thing to read a book or listen to a lecture about the writing craft. It's another thing entirely to see that wisdom put into action to critique actual writing. Seeing how other writers react to that all-important first page--my own or someone else's--makes that wisdom seem tangible.
And ultimately, unless you never intend to show your writing to anyone, the readers' response to your work is vital. The voting system gives some indication of whether a particular piece of writing could be successful in the real world of publishing.
I think I've had seven flogs with you. The first was a "Nope" and contained all the usual suspects. Craft issues, remoteness, not getting to the story, etc.
I kept working on it, read your blog every day and saw improvement.
The sixth, was a "Yes" with a little edit at the end. Doug wrote, "This may be the strongest opening I've ever seen flogged here, particularly after Ray's edit. Excellent work."
Tony said, "Excellent work, Holly."
I feel as if I'm getting close, I've had two of my stories named as a runner up in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine contests.
When things finally work for me, it will not be because I did it on my own, that's for sure. It was your critiques and the suggestions of your readers.