I've completed the first pass on all the 16 stories, and about halfway through my final pass of them. Another attendee mentioned that it's a good idea to critique your own work, so I'll be reviewing another one. Actually, it'll be an interesting exercise as I haven't looked at my own story since I submitted it in late summer.
So what have I learned about the critiquing I've done so far? The importance of a hook, and not just a plot hook, but a character hook.
I'm currently reading Myke Cole's Shadow Ops: Control Point and it's a great example of a character hook that grabs you in the first couple of pages. Basically, it's a character who's thrust into a position where he might something against his character. Great hook. However, in the next couple of chapters, Cole takes that character hook and evolves a story hook out of it. And not that it's overly predictable, but the best part is that you know that the hook has sunk into as the reader before you even read the words that elaborate on the conflict brought about because of that hook.
And that ties into the next thing I learned is how important opening are. I know that kind of goes without saying, but it's really where you set the tone for the story and make that implicit promise to the reader that this is what they're getting themselves into.
So, when I turn my critical eye to my own piece, I'll have those two things in mind.
I'm also starting to get nervously excited about it. Next weekend will be my first writing weekend away. I think it'll be a big turning point as I'll be exposed to other writers trying to make a go at it. And of course, having the ears of some professional writers. There are a few writers who have attended the boot camp before, so I think that tells me of the measure of this weekend.