A couple of months ago I entered the National Association of Writers’ Groups short story competition and I paid £3 extra for a critique by Linda Lewis. The story I sent had already been in 2 competitions (without success!) but I am fond of it and decided it deserved one more chance.
Again, it came nowhere but this time I found out why. Linda was very gentle but constructive in her comments. She explained that the story didn’t include enough information about the heroine to enable the reader to care what happened to her. Essentially I was writing about a lonely old lady in hospital but I didn’t explain why she had no visitors or what she’d done with her life (all rather obvious stuff when I look at it now). Linda also said that this kind of story had been written many times before (and I thought my idea was original!).
So now I know where I went wrong. I still like the story so I’m going to add some background information and try to think of a twist to make it a bit more unique. Then I’ll look for somewhere else to send it.
Linda writes a regular column in Writers’ Forum magazine and is offering a critique service through her website (don’t be scared – she knows how to phrase things kindly!).
#1 by Pam Fish on December 14, 2011 - 1:18 pm
Thank you Sally, this is why we chose Linda to be our judge and sent critiques – she is very good at her job. I’m sure that many writers will appreciate your comments. Pam Fish, NAWG Chairman.
#2 by susanjanejones on December 14, 2011 - 6:39 pm
That’s brave of you Sally to be honest about your story. I get attatched to my stories in all their mistaken glory. Sometimes, I even know what’s wrong and I stubbornly send out again wondering why they come back. It’s easy to know in our mind what’s the background of our characters without including it. Then there’s show don’t tell, when it would be easier to tell. Talk soon.
#3 by Sally Jenkins on December 14, 2011 - 6:43 pm
Pam – thanks for dropping by and, yes, Linda is definitely good at her job.
I agree, Susan. It’s so easy to become attached to a story we’ve slaved over and then we don’t see the wood for the trees – which is where a critique is useful.
#4 by Patsy Collins on December 14, 2011 - 8:12 pm
I too am guilty of knowing all about my character and forgetting the reader won’t have a clue unless I give it to them.
#5 by Sally Jenkins on December 16, 2011 - 8:41 am
Patsy – it’s all too easy to forget that the reader doesn’t know what’s going on in our heads!