Fuck it, I’m sticking to my guns. The experiment of sending my opening chapters to a few friends turned out to be a very interesting exercise indeed. It led to many opinions, agreements, disagreements and fascinating feedback. What it proved beyond doubt, though – as if such a thing needed to be proven – is that there’s nothing even remotely like universality when it comes to talking about something as subjective as a piece of writing.
Despite this, the feedback did give me a lot to think about. Typos were flagged up, and suggestions were made about how to fix things that turned out to be in need of minor work (and usually just required one or two lines to be changed), but orbiting those minor matters was the big question of whether the opening is actually the right one for this novel. There were other options – I’ve sketched out a couple of them, including one idea that seemed very promising beforehand but just didn’t work at all – but what I’ve now concluded is that yes, I know my story, yes, I know my characters, and yes, what’s now there is what’s going to be sent out. It’s strong, at times it’s polarising, and it’s now polished to within an inch of its life. Let the hunt begin.
So, mission accomplished. And if rejections start coming in from literary agents, as they almost inevitably will, I’ll be able to think back and remember how the opinions of friends showed me just how subjective this writing game is. Maybe that’ll help to make any no’s feel less personal.