Certificate of Appreciation

GLAWS certificate of appreciationBack at the December GLAWS Special Speaker Event I was one of four members to receive a Certificate of Appreciation “For Your Outstanding Service, Important Contribution of Time and Energy, And Invaluable Support of the Society’s Mission and Vision”, from the GLAWS president, Tony N. Todaro. My contribution consists of volunteering at the monthly Special Speaker events and at the last five or six GLAWS writer’s conferences – I’m beginning to lose count.

Years ago, my wife and I attended Quattro University, an educational program for entrepreneurs. One of the things co-founder Cheri Tree would say is if you want to be a certain kind of person (i.e. business person), hang out with those kinds of people. Spend time with those who are successful in the field you’re interested in, that’s how you can learn from their success. For me, those people are successful writers and the people they need like agents and editors.

When you’re new to a field like I was, you have no contact to go to. Going to events like writer’s conferences is a good way to find those contacts. Another thing Cheri Tree would say was go early to events, volunteer to help set up and stay late and help tear down. That’s how I started. But it’s become much than that to me. I’ve made friends, colleges, and yes, contacts.

I’m grateful for all I’ve learned through GLAWS, not only improving my skills, but also what it takes to get my work out into the market. I want to give back, I’m glad to give back and volunteering is a way I can do that. I want to help Tony give others the same opportunities he has given me. In the end, we all benefit from it. The conferences run a little smother and over time I make some contacts. Some agents and editors already know me by name and many others recognize by sight.

I’m not exactly Thurston Howell III, so I can’t always throw money at things that I’m grateful for – but I can donate my time. I’m grateful to the American Red Cross for being there when my father needed emergency ulcer surgery. There is nothing scarier than having an ER doctor examine someone you love and say, “We’re operating NOW”. I donate blood regularly and host a yearly blood drive at Loscon, the Los Angeles Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. I’m also on kitchen staff at my church. I love to cook, so it’s the perfect place for me to serve.

Be grateful for what you have and the opportunities you are given. When you step off the road of gratefulness you step onto the path of arrogance.


The first GLAWS special speaker event of the year was held last weekend on Saturday, January 17, 2015.  The topic was “What Not to Say to an Editor or Agent” with speaker Steven Hutson.  Mr. Hutson is a literary agent and editor who receives thirty to forty letters a week from aspiring writers looking to publish their book.  Most are professional, well written letters.  But some have a line or two that tells the agent that you are not at a professional level yet, that you don’t understand the publishing industry.  That’s the quickest way to get your letter rejected.

With thirty or forty submissions a week, you can see how an agent wouldn’t have time to read even a sampling of that many novels.  So making a professional first impression is very important.  Here is a sampling of a few of the wrong thinks to say that Mr. Hutson has received:

“Dear Agent:” Unless you are writing to Joe Agent that is not his name.  Be courteous enough to at least address him or her by their name.

“I’m a bestselling author.”  Really?  Where?  If it’s not on the New York times best seller list, this is a meaningless claim.  First, if you are, why are you looking for an agent?  Second, if you are self-published, the way the Amazon rating system works is tricky.  On a given day, you could out sell Harry Potter between the hours of 3:00 am and 4:00 am.   BAM!  You’re a bestselling author.

“Sign this non-disclosure form” By asking them to do this, you are implying that you think they are going to steal your work.   Agents don’t do that.  If they did, it would come back at them and end their career.

“My book is 275 pages long.”  Again, this is meaningless.  What size page?  What size type?  What an agent or publisher looks for is word count.  Mr. Hutson suggested that 110k words was about the limit for a new author.

At this point, literary agent and attorney, Paul Levine, spoke up from the audience.  He said that 60k to 80k words for a new author was the limit.  Any more than that and it becomes too expensive for a publisher to edit, print and ship.  Again, this is for a new author.  Once you are an established writer with a following, this no longer applies.

“My book won’t need editing.”  EVERY book needs editing.  Now, if you’ve have had your book gone over by a professional copy editor, content editor, or book doctor, that worth noting.

“I will seek an endorsement from…”  Just because you are going to seek an endorsement from an established writer, celebrity or expert in the field doesn’t mean you’ll get it.  If you don’t already have an endorsement, don’t talk about it.

“I have self-published 100 books.”  Not impressive.  Anyone can self-publish, and most self-published book aren’t any good.  Unless you’ve sold 10,000 self published copies of a book, like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, a publisher won’t be interested.

“My book is for everyone.”  No.  Every book has a target audience.

“My book is ground breaking / life changing /the next “Harry Potter”.”  Don’t boast.  It’s very bad.  The agent will decide for himself how you book stands.

You can see more of “What not to say” on Mr. Hutson’s blog at www.wordwisemedia.com  You can even look at his submission guidelines and download the query form if your work is ready.

GLAWS, The Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society has Special Speaker Events ten times a year.  They are free to the public.  You may check for the next one at www.glaws.org.


New Year is a great time to restart and reboot.  So first off, sorry for being away for so long.  It started with me missing a week, then another, then another.  So I finally decided that instead of trying to catch up, I’d just wait to January and start again.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions.  Tried it a couple of times, never really was inspired to stick to them.  Once, a friend of mine suggested making a list of 100 things you want to do in the next year.  Some of these goals can be big, but a lot of them have to be small, like “make dentist appointment”.  This is because with 100 things, you’d have to complete one every three-and-a-half days on average.  But this does give you a lot of opportunities for small victories ,which can be encouraging.

I prefer a list of goals.  My tag line is “Follow me on my journey from wanna be writer to has-been hack in a single life time”, but it occurred to me that I haven’t been giving you a lot to follow.  So here is a list of things to follow in 2015:

1)       Submit entire Steampunk script for review.  In my GLAWS critique group, we generally read fifteen pages of two peoples’ scripts in a meeting and critique them.  This has been very helpful to me.  Just from fifteen pages I have gotten a lot of helpful advice on my writing and how to trim it.  But there are action scenes the group has never seen.  And now I would like to get some comments on the script as a whole.  I was recently reminded that one can also submit a script as a whole for review.  It won’t be read out loud, instead, the time will be spent critiquing the whole project.

2)      Attend GLAWS’ Big Story Writer’s Conference.  This is a chance to hear from working writers, agents and editors.  I went last year and it was very helpful.  Many of my posts were derived from those lectures.

3)      Rewrites based on the above critiques.  Once I get feedback, it’s time for another rewrite.  And then…

4)      Submit Steampunk script to agents.  As GLAWS writer Art Holcome says, all your writing doesn’t mean anything unless you get it out there.  And my end goal is to be able to make a living doing this.  I want someone to pay me to play make believe with my imaginary friends all day.  I have three lists of agents to submit to.  I’ll just go down the line until someone wants to represent me.

5)      Finish rewrites on Christmas script.  With the holiday season, I pulled out my Christmas script again.  I made some changes I really like, but I’m still not completely happy with it.  I feel like I’m ALMOST there!  This will be the next script I start submitting to my GLAWS critique group in fifteen page segments.

6)      Novelize Steampunk script.  Since a script is essentially a 143 page outline, I think I should be able to complete a first draft in six or seven months.  It would be sooner, but a novel is much more detailed than a script.  So I expect to spend a good amount of time doing research on the Victorian era.

7)      Join a GLAWS Science Fiction Critique group.  Once the novel is written, it will be time to get feedback on it.  Fortunately, GLAWS has separate critique groups for every genre from poetry and young adult to horror and screen writing.

8)      Volunteer at GLAWS events.  To be a writer today you need to do more than write.  You need to get feedback, promote your work, get an agent and network.  Networking is my weak spot.  So to work on this, I am going to volunteer at events such as the monthly GLAWS Speaker Events.

9)      Novelize Christmas script.  Don’t know if I’ll actually have time for this.  But it’s contemporary, a lot less research.

I’ll post updates as I work on these goals.  And I could use some encouragement from all you out there.  For more information on GLAWS, the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society, go to http://www.glaws.org/

What are your writing plans for the year?

Buy the Saddle

An old friend of mine once told me something.  I don’t know where he heard it, but it’s very true.  “If one man says I’m a horse, I’ll ignore him.  If a second man says I’m a horse, I’ll slug him.  If a third man says I’m a horse, I’ll buy a saddle.”  Critique groups like the GLAWS critique group I go to, are a great way to get feedback.   But they only work if you are willing to listen.

This is how our critiques group works.  We meet every other week.  At each meeting, two people present fifteen pages of their screenplay.  They assign parts to the other members of the group and we do a read through.  Afterwards, each person gives a two minute critique, uninterrupted by the author.  Then, it’s an open discussion.

The first time I had my first fifteen pages read, I was in for quite a surprise.  My steampunk story starts sixteen years before the body of the story – sort of a prequel.  It starts when a meteor hits London the same night my protagonist is born.   The head of my family of adventurers sees the meteor hit as an indication of how unprepared England is for disasters, manmade or natural, so he establishes his scientific institute.   So the point of the meteor is that history started becoming steampunk on the same night my heroine was born.  That’s it.  Nothing more.

But the group saw the meteor as meaning a whole lot more.  Three quarters of them attributed some kind of supernatural element to the meteor.  Many thought it affected my heroine is some supernatural way, giving her unearthly powers.  This was a surprise to me.  While there is a large section of steampunk that includes the supernatural, most of the group wasn’t even familiar with the genera.  A few others thought it was the cause of a plague that occurs in the body of the story.   Considering that the body of the story happens sixteen years after the opening, it never occurred to me that anyone would connect the meteor to the plague.

In retrospect, I can’t blame them.  I started off the screenplay literally with a bang.  So, of course, they expected it to be meaningful.  It overshadowed what I intended to be meaningful – my heroine’s mother’s reaction to the events the meteor caused, her husband, a physician, being dragged away while she’s giving birth.  This is also why it’s important to have an impartial critique group.  The friends and relatives I told my story to knew what to expect.  So when they read the screenplay, they weren’t thrown off.

With this feedback, I had a lot of rewrites to do.  I liked my birth scene.  It was humorous and introduced most of my main characters.  The meteor crash was dramatic, but it was taking readers off in the wrong direction.  I cut the meteor crash, birth scene and other parts of the first fifteen pages.  With the second read through only two people thought my story would have supernatural elements.  Two out of about twenty was not bad.  Only two people called me a horse.  The rest were where pretty much where I wanted them to be.  There are still a few questions about the direction of my story, but the next fifteen pages, which will be read the next time my turn comes up, should answer those.

But I have seen some people, in this GLAWS group and at USC Cinema/Television, that argue the feedback they get.  Instead of hearing a problem everyone is repeating, they argue why they wrote it that way.  In their minds, they know what they are trying to accomplish.  They argue their point.  But they don’t get what they intended is not coming off the page.  When they submit their script to be read, they won’t be there to explain what they are trying to accomplish.  What’s in the page has to stand on its own.    Writing is a learning process.  You join critique groups like this to learn what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.  You have to be willing to listen in order to improve you story and improve your chances of selling your work.

It’s not easy to listen to criticism.  People can spend hundreds of hours on their screenplay.  It’s their baby, it’s precious to them, it speaks of something from their heart.  The natural reaction to criticism is that the reader didn’t get it.  It’s their fault, not your work’s.  Sometimes that’s true.  But if a lot of people tell you the same thing, you better listen.  Especially if those people are at the same writing level you are or higher.

I wrote earlier that to be a writer, you have to be an egotist.  You have to be excited about your story to get others interested in your story.  But that’s at the selling phase.  There is no room for ego at the writing phase.  You have to be willing to admit that you don’t know everything.  That what’s clear in your head may not be coming off the page.  And that you may be blind to some problems that are clear to everyone else.

What Comes First, Character or Story?

Yes. On to the next blog post.

Okay, I’ll expand. This is a question that keeps being asked of writers over and over again. There is no easy answer. I think it depends on the writer and the inspiration. Art Holcome, in a GLAWS Special Speaker Event, approached the question this way: For every story, there is a best character to tell it. That character is the one that bests answers the central question to the story. Sometimes it may not be the obvious choice.

Say you are writing a detective story. The obvious choice would be the detective in charge. But maybe he isn’t the best choice, maybe it’s his quirky sidekick. Let’s say the theme of the story is horrors humans can inflict on other humans. The detective is a seasoned professional. He’s seen it all. He’s learned to keep his personal feelings and job separated. He’s not moved so much by what he sees on the job. The sidekick, however, is not so seasoned. Things he sees on the job upset him on a personal level. He has nightmares. He can’t sleep. He can’t believe people can be so cruel to each other. He is the character that is going to grow from this experience. Maybe he will learn to separate his feeling from his job. He might finally get that promotion he’s been wanting. Maybe he’ll just stop having nightmares. Or maybe he’ll find he’s really in the wrong line of work and find some other way to help others. One way or another, he will change. To the detective, it’s just another case.

Another way Art Holcome puts it is, who is the character you can torture the most? Who is the character who will suffer the most from the events in the story and will therefore have to change the most? The satisfaction in a story is in watching a character grow and learn.

But sometimes, you come up with a character first. Writer Christine Conradt spoke about that approach. She said if you start with the plot, there is only one way it can go. But if you start with a character, you can think of dozens of different situations to put that character in. If you start with a unique, original character, then it’s your job to find the best story to show off their uniqueness.

Sound familiar? It’s the way TV shows are created. You start out with a cast of characters that are going to be there throughout the season, but the plot is going to be different every week. You need the audience to fall in love with the characters. If they don’t, they won’t care what next week’s plot is.

Finally, there is the view that plot and character are two sides of the same coin. What you character experiences and what decisions they make drive the direction of the plot. And the plot drives your character to different experiences and decisions they have to make. In the end, no matter which you start with, the two will become intertwined. And the journey of your character will determine the destination of the plot.

Writing Scenes That don’t Exist


So after I wrote my last blog on Christine Conradt’s GLAWS presentation, I thought I’d check out her two articles in the two “Now Write” books.  In, “Now Write!  Screenwriting” she has an exercise called “The Scene That Doesn’t Exist”.  It is an exercise to help overcome writer’s block.  Basically, you take your two main characters and just put them in a scene you know won’t be in your screenplay.  She uses the example of a pizza parlor.  Then just see what happens, what they talk about, etc.  The idea is to get to know your characters better.  Sometimes they surprise you.

The thing is I often do this inadvertently.  I’m a nonlinear writer.  I jump around from scene to scene.  If I get stuck on one scene, I’ll jump to another scene further down the road.  When I started on my current steampunk script, I started at the beginning.  But there was a chase scene on a moving train that I really wanted to write.  So I wrote it, then I went back and built up to it.   I have a friend and fellow writer, Kristen Roach Harris ( Fireplace Girl on Krypton Radio’s “The Corsair’s Closet”) who cannot wrap her head around this style of writing.  She is a romance writer and she has to write from start to finish.  I have only ever written one script like that.

Actually, I had a professor at USC Cinema/Television who had us write the first twenty pages of our scripts first, then the last twenty pages.  Those are usually the easiest to write.  Most people know how their story is going to start and they know what the climactic scene is going to be.  It’s the stuff in the middle that gets hard.  At USC they would have us outline our stories, use index cards and other devices like that.  That never worked for me.  Now I think about a story I want to write – maybe for a couple of months.  I imagine scenes I want and develop characters and conflicts.  Then, when I have about 80% plotted out, I start writing.

But sometimes you do end up with a scene that will never be in the final script.  I wrote a scene where one of my protagonist’s brothers fancies my protagonist’s best friend.  He thinks no one has noticed, but everyone knows.  And when it comes out, he is embarrassed and tries to deny it.  I liked the scene because I wrote it with a very Monty Pythonish flavor.  But as I developed the story, I changed their relationship.  They fancy each other and everyone knows it.  No big deal.  So that scene can never be in the script.

So was that a waste of time?  No, I don’t think so.  It helped me develop his character and gave me practice in a particular style of comedy writing, a style which I intend to use with my protagonist’s love interest in the second part of the steampunk trilogy.  He is the straight-laced business type who’s brain flies out the window when he sees her.  This style of comedy is better suited for his character.  In the end, it’s all practicing your art.

How do you practice your art?

On a side note, in “Now Write!  Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror”, Christine Conradt has a chapter on The Eleven Tenets of Fear.  But what caught my attention was the very first chapter of the book, “Where Does He Got Those Wonderful Ideas?  Making Speculative Fiction Speculative”.  Finally, about thirty five years later, my offence to that horribly titled film strip, “Where the Weird Ideas Cone From” is vindicated.

GLAWS Special Speaker Event:  Christine Conradt

Less than twenty-four hours ago as I write this, I was attending Christine Conradt’s presentation on Creating Strong Female Characters.  Going into this, my thought was, “how is creating a strong female character different than creating a strong male character?”  The answer is that it is not.  This lecture was more about gender biases and how to overcome them.

Every culture has its gender biases, and as writer’s we have them too.  A bias is a generalization we have about gender roles.  What is a male role and what is a female role.  If we create characters that fit into these generalizations, we aren’t creating anything  new or different.  As writer’s, it is our job to create characters (male and female) that go beyond these roles.  That’s how you create interesting characters.

There has been criticism lately that there is a lack of strong women characters is film.  Ms. Conradt mentioned that there is actually a test to determine if a film has strong female characters:  The Bechdel Test.  The test goes as follows:  1)  Are there two named female characters? 2) Do they talk to each other?  3) Do they talk about something other than men?  Wikipeda has a comprehensive article about this test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test .  But for now, think about it.  If two women in a film don’t talk about anything other than men, how deep can their characters be?  You may think that is obvious.  If two character only talk about one subject throughout a whole story, how believable can those characters be?  How three dimensional?  Yet most films, according to Conradt and the Wikipeda article fail this test.  And in failing, these films make less money than those that pass the test.

So why do these films keep being made?  Partly because of the bias producers have.  Some feel that the female character can’t save the male character.  It makes the male look weak.  But that’s the wrong attitude.   If you have to make the male character weak to make the female character look strong, then you’re doing it wrong.

Conradt covered a myriad of other topics.  Some of them were obstacles writers have to overcome, history of gender roles, helpful and harmful generalizations, and overcoming the feminism trap.  Conradt’s powerpoint  presentation is available at www.writersstore.com .  I would also suggest you look up her website www.christineconradt.com .  She has published articles she has written, movie reviews from a story structure standpoint and offers small group seminars and script consulting.  You can also check out her Facebook page.

As for the lack of strong women characters in films, I’m not so sure.  America Ferrera, Astrid of “How to Train Your Dragon”, has expressed similar concerns.  But there is her character in “How to Train Your Dragon 2”.  And while her character is not as central as it was in the first movie, Hiccup’s mother, Valka, is.  Then there is Anna and Elsa from “Frozen”, and Katniss from “The Hunger Games” movies.

Maybe it’s just the movies I see.  What do you think?

Perfecting Your Premise

Back in September of last year, GLAWS’ monthly speaker event featured writer Art Holcomb.  Mr. Holcomb has been a writer for fourty five years working in film, television, theater and comic books. The topic of this event:  Perfecting Your Premise in Ten Solid Steps.  Here is an outline from my notes of that meeting

  1. Find something only you can write.  This means something from your unique perspective, knowledge or insight.  Most stories fail right at this level.  Hollywood wants something unique.  They don’t want another Harry Potter unless it’s written by J. K. Rowling.
  2. Mine all the possibilities that you can out of your idea.  Figure out what it is that you have.  Is it a movie, novel or television series?  Each medium has its limitations and strengths.  And writing in each medium requires different skill sets.  Whatever it is you have, you must have the matching skill set for it.  If you don’t, set it aside for now.  Just because you don’t have a certain skill set now, doesn’t mean you won’t have it in the future.
  3. What is the design principle of the model?  Each genre has its rules.  For example, a mystery is search for the truth.  Horror is about defeating a monster, and often defining what is human and what is not.  Science fiction is about creating a better world – and often how that can go wrong.  But all stories must answer the following questions:  Who am I?  Why am I here? And what happens next?
  4. What do you get first, story or character?  For every story there is a best character to tell it.  Which character is best suited to answer the central question?  Or as Art Holcomb put it, what character can you torture the most?  The satisfaction in a story is in watching your character grow and learn.  You want your character to get to the “I can’t, but I must” moment.
  5. Stories are about conflict.  What is the central conflict of the story?  Conflict is the clenching and releasing of tension.  Conflict is the vehicle of the story.
  6. Single cause and effect pathway.  You have to be able to see what the character goes through and where it will end.  Plot is the skeleton of the story.  Story is everything else on it.
  7. The single most important part of the story is the change in your character.   A writer pulls away all the layers until the true character is revealed.  Only when your character is the most vulnerable is he the most powerful.  Your character has to be a martyr at the end.  “I don’t care what happens, I have to do what is right.”
  8. The character must make a moral choice.  That is you as the writer talking through your character.
  9. Is your character appealing?  A relatable character is not 100% perfect.  Not 100% good or 100% evil.  Make them quirky.  Make them strange.  Everyone has an irrational fear.  Give your character one.
  10. Send your work out.  This is probably the most important one and the one that takes the most courage.  Your work doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t send it out to an agent, editor, publisher or studio.  Your success as a writer depends on your body of work, not a single story.  What one agent doesn’t like, another one might.  And if an agent does like one of your works, he may ask the golden question, “What else do you have?”  You should always have at least three stories:  One completed, one in the works and the idea for your next story.

How does your story stand up to these guidelines?


Over the course of this blog I have mentioned GLAWS, the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society, of which I am a member.  GLAWS is a great organization of peers helping peers and professionals mentoring aspiring writers.  I am in one of their screenwriting critique groups which meets at Los Angeles Valley College.  They have critique groups for virtually every kind of writing.  They also have monthly Special Events which are free to the public, usually held Saturdays at the Palms-Rancho Park Library in Los Angeles.  And they have three yearly Writer’s Conferences.  You can check that all out at www.glaws.org

At last year’s Loscon, I caught up with the president of GLAWS, Tony N. Tadaro, after one of the various writing panels held at the convention.  I interviewed him for our radio show, The Corsair’s Closet, on Krypton Radio, and asked him what GLAWS is and how it can help aspiring writers.  Below is the link to that episode of The Corsair’s Closet.  The interview starts about a quarter of the way in.  The rest of the show was a review of Loscon.


Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Last Monday was our biweekly meeting of GLAWS Screenwriting Critique Group that meets at Los Angeles Valley College.  Every other meeting we take fifteen pages of two submitted scripts, read through them and critique them.  This is the second time since I have joined the group that my work has been up.

The first time showed me some big problems I had.  My steampunk screenplay starts with the birth of my protagonist on the night a meteor hits just outside of town.  The point of the meteor is that it causes my protagonist’s father to leave his wife while giving birth.  He is a doctor and his skills are needed.  There is a midwife, so he really isn’t needed there.  And later on, you discover that the meteor marks the point where history changed from being as we know it to being an alternative, steampunk reality.

That’s it!  That was the importance of the meteor.  But that’s not how the group saw it.  I opened up with a bang (literally) and people expected the meteor to be more significant.  Bear in mind that this group is not particularly versed in steampunk.  They do not know that there is a whole subgenre of the supernatural in the alternate Victorian world.  Yet quite a large percentage of them thought that the meteor was endowing my protagonist with some kind of supernatural ability.  That is a completely different direction than where I am going.

What this showed me was that I way overplayed the meteor.  Sometimes you are so close to your subject that you miss obvious problems.  In the second version they read (actually, the eighth draft) I cut back the whole meteor thing to less than half a page.  Only two people speculated on supernatural abilities, which isn’t bad.  That was one step forward.

Of course it can go the other way.  You can know your character in your head so well that you forget to tell the reader some really important detail about them.  Or, in rewrites, you can delete a character’s introduction.  Then they just pop up in the middle of your story with no explanation.

These are some examples of major story problems.  But a key reason for having a group read your work is to listen for repeated comments.  In this second reading, a lot of people said they liked my dialogue.  That’s encouraging, it’s something I’m doing right, and it’s my second step forward.

A lot also said I had too much exposition.  I explain things too much.  As one person put it, my characters are telling each other what they already know.  That’s my one step back.  But this is also a good thing.  I tend to write long.  My screenplay is 149 pages long.  It should be about 120.  Now I have a better idea of where to cut.

There is a natural progression of getting feedback.  First, you show your work to your family.  But they’re most likely to love anything you write because they love you.  “That’s great, honey.  Keep it up.”  Then, you show it to your friends.  Really good friends will tell you when something stinks.  But they might not have the professional eye to tell you why.  They might just say something like, “It just didn’t catch me.”  But if you are serious about your writing, you need to take it to others who are equally serious.  And hopefully led by a teacher or industry professionals.  As I tell anyone who will read my work, “I rather you tell me it stinks than an agent or producer.”

If you live in or near the Los Angeles area, I strongly recommend you look up   http://www.glaws.org/html/mainmenu.html .  Their critique groups are one of the best opportunities they offer.

Where are you getting your feedback?