This month, one of my short stories ‘The Lakes Lost’, has been very publicly critiqued in Writing Magazine’s Under the Microscope section.
In my last blog post, I discussed how you may feel when you first receive a critique on a piece of your writing. It isn’t unusual to initially feel an emotional response. If you’re anything like me, you may zoom in on any negative comments, and only skim over the positives.
That’s why it’s important to receive and process feedback in distinct stages. The first is that emotional stage, and the second is taking time away from your writing. Only once you have completed these stages will you be able to move onto the analysis and the rewrite.
As in my previous post, I’m using the critique of my short story in Writing Magazine to illustrate the different stages of receiving feedback.
Under the Microscope is a section in Writing Magazine where readers can send the opening 300 words of a story for a professional critique. Selected stories are published alongside detailed point-by-point feedback. I’ve copied the first paragraph of my short story below.
Rachel’s boyfriend, Daniel, crouched beside her.1 Hidden behind the spikey pines, 2 they’d finally found the perfect place to view the moose 3 as it waded through the lake.4 She breathed in the moment of stillness,5 broken only by the animal’s heavy snorts, and the creak of the trees, grumbling in the faint breeze.6
The critique made 6 points on the above paragraph, which I will briefly discuss below. This is the analysis stage of receiving your feedback – looking through each feedback point and deciding whether you agree or disagree with the critique.
- Narrative starts with Rachel but then immediately switches to Daniel – this could be confusing for the reader.
I agree. In fact, I’ve never liked the opening line of the story, and now I understand why. This is something I will rewrite to make it clearer Rachel is the focus.
- Positive point commenting on assonance of ‘spikey pines’ 😊. Less positive point explaining this sentence feels fuzzy as it opens with a subordinate clause.
Opening with a subordinate clause isn’t something that would usually grab me as a massive issue, but I will play around with the sentence structure during my rewrite and see if I can make the sentence flow better.
- “A moose is an inherently amusing animal so it’s best to avoid unnecessary humour.”
I disagree, and the moose is staying. The scenery in this story is inspired by watching moose at a place called Moose Lake, so…
- ‘Wade’ and ‘Lake’ is more assonance. If you’re going to use such effects, they must be towards some purpose…
This wasn’t intentionally done. However, my writing style has changed slightly since I wrote this short story, and it isn’t as poetic as it used to be. Therefore, removing some of the ‘poeticness’ from my writing will be something I’ll consider when doing my rewrite.
- Unclear perspective. Who is she? Rachel or the moose?
Point taken. This line needs a rewrite so it’s clear we’re talking about Rachel here.
- Grumbled and creak are different sounds.
I personally like the use of them both together here, as for me it’s reflective of the sound of the wildness. This is one to think about.
This stage follows on from the analysis. Once you’ve decided which points you agree and disagree with, it’s time to implement them in your writing. You may find you disagree with some or most points, yet the feedback has sparked other creative ideas that can help you to take your writing in a whole new direction.
The complete analysis of this story is available in February 2020s edition of Writing Magazine.