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Who's in WM/WN July 2013?



  • Commiserations, Gabrielle. It seems strange nobody let you know your work would be included in the magazine, but I guess when you submit the piece that counts as granting permission for WM to use it whenever they want to? I haven't looked at the small print on the "Under the Microscope" feature. Had you not seen the feature before you submitted the work?

    It always feels like a terrible personal attack when somebody criticises our writing, but it isn't. I haven't got this month's magazine yet, so I don't know how much of a savaging James McCreet gave it. In the past, I've always found his arguments to be put forward logically, and aside from the odd stylistic quirk, I've tended to agree with (or at least see the sense in) the things he says. He has a tendency to be blunt, though.

    Remember that there wouldn't be much of a column if he picked pieces he thought were excellent - it would be pretty dull reading if his comments were nothing but, "That's good," "Very clear description," "Powerful metaphor there," and so on. So all the work they use will have areas for improvement or, at least, will throw up some elements of craft for discussion.

    From the sounds of things, it's been a shock to find your work in the magazine, and very upsetting to see it pulled to bits. I can understand that. But, unpleasant as it must be, you've got a very detailed critique on a piece of your writing, and that's hugely valuable.

    The hard bit is disassociating yourself from the work and trying to examine the comments without feeling the sting of criticism. But it's vital, and if you're going to continue sending your writing out into the world, you have to get used to the fact that not everybody's going to like it. If you can't cope with that, then don't send stuff out, because you'll save yourself a lot of pain. However, if you believe in yourself, keep going, because every time you get a positive response from a reader it's worth a hundred of those knocks.

    The best advice I can give is that you should give yourself a day or two to get over the surprise of seeing your work and James's comments in the magazine. When you've had a bit of a breather, go back and work slowly through the comments. Just do a few at a time, otherwise it's going to feel like another barrage of punches. Read each sentence, then read what James has to say about it. Be (unflinchingly) honest with yourself, but decide whether you agree with what he says, disagree completely, or find yourself somewhere in the middle, feeling perhaps that the phrasing could be improved, but you'd do it in a different way to what he suggests. You could even mark the page accordingly. Tick the things that make sense, and cross out the comments you don't feel would improve things!

    I expect you'll end up with a few ticks, a few crosses, and a few you're not sure about. This is how criticism makes your writing better, not by telling you what to do, but by making sure you think carefully about what you're doing. Never be tricked into believing anybody has all the answers, no matter how many books they've published, but use any well-reasoned comment as fuel for your ongoing improvement as a writer. There's no right and wrong in writing, but there are better ways of doing things, and any critique can help you improve, even if you end up doing something entirely different to what the critic suggests!
  • Sorry, I didn't realise how long that comment had got.

    Don't give up, Gabrielle, and good luck!
  • ((((((Gabrielle)))))
  • Congratulations Sally and commiserations Gabrielle. Under The Microscope is one of my favourite features, but I think I'll be reading this one with a little trepidation. It might be me one day!
  • Hi Gabrielle,
    I'm sorry you were shocked to see your piece in Under the Microscope – definitely should have been notified. As danfango says so eloquently above, the point of the articles is to give the authors featured an honest, no-punches-pulled, assessment of the bits they need to pay attention to. I agree, it can sometimes seem rather blunt, but think of it as a glimpse into what would happen if you were to submit your story to a publisher (when you would never find out what went wrong).
    I think some of the finer points – many of which are small grammatical corrections - have also made you overlook the positive comments, and he does say this is a promising opening to a story, so try not to feel that you've been hauled over the coals.
    Danfango's advice is excellent. Come back to it in a few days and work through your piece slowly to see which points you agree with and which you want to reject, and I hope you'll ultimately find the critique valuable in improving your writing.
  • [quote=Mutley] mine hasn't arrived yet :([/quote] Must be that North South divide getting in the way. Or the Pennines. Or maybe even Royal Mail.

    [quote=sallyj] was shortlisted in the Pride & Prejudice short story competition! [/quote]
    YAY! So chuffed for you :D :D :D

    [quote=Gabrielle]Was not expecting that![/quote] I haven't read it. I hope that after many cups of tea, sugary cake and a long nights sleep you can see the praise that Webbo has mentioned, over the small things that you can overcome with a re-edit. Never take any feedback personally, use it as armour.
  • I'm extremely surprised that you weren't told about this. But would have thought, given previous 'under the microscopes' that you could count on this amount of detail.

    I think your story has a lot of atmosphere - but I would read what he has to say and take note. If I'd had this sort of detail in my earliest efforts i think i too would have wondered whether to go on, but on the other hand, I have had detailed crits of my later stuff and it is very helpful.

    And you know you can write well, you've won one of WM's short story comps!
  • Sorry, loads of comments since yours, I left answering for a while and didn't update!
  • First of all, huge congrats to sallyj.

    Second, poor Gabrielle. Although you might feel you've had a public whipping, ditto what dan says.
    I can't recall the article, but my advice is, whether or not you agree with the comments made, hopefully something positive will come out of this critique. Where you have been congratulated, drink it in. Where your writing (not you) has been criticized, question why. Does he have a point or is it just subjective opinion. Either way, you can use this, be it in a practical sense or just to placate you in that it is just one person's viewpoint.

    And finally, don't give up. We are all learning. That's what should make each piece of writing better than the last.
  • Gabrielle - I've had harsh critiques in the past. My first reaction was anger and then I would feel upset. But I found that if I put the story away for a (longish) time and then came back to it, the critique didn't seem quite so bad and I was able to learn from it.
    So, work on something else for a while & then come back to this when the emotion has died down.
  • Congratulations, by the way, SallyJ - I missed your news earlier in the thread. Well done!
  • Congratulations to you, Dan, for your appearance in Writers Forum issue #140.
  • oh well...had an apology for not being notified...so maybe i won't cancel my sub just yet!
    Too late to get a thick skin....will just have to buy ointment to alleviate the flailing.
    thanks for all the comments ...
  • Well done sallyj - great stuff.

    Gabrielle - I have read far worse 'under the microscope' critiques on other people - and one of them was even a creative writing tutor themselves and they got tonnes of criticism - so please don't feel bad. In comparison you have got off lightly! I find that section extremely useful and feel it helps my writing whenever I read it. So thank you for being brave and submitting and thereby helping others like myself who are too scared to put their own work up!

    And lastly... I was thrilled to see a letter which mentioned my article 'Back Me up on This'. The reader has cut the bit out about file sizes and is keeping it in her handbag to refer to!
  • Well done, Sally!

    Lou - I knew you'd be delighted when you spotted the letter about your article. :)

    Gabrielle, I have yet to read this month's 'Under the Microscope' as I was leaving that to savour tonight. Well done you for submitting. Although that is my favourite part of the magazine, I would be far too nervous to put myself in that position. :o

    Well, that and the fact that I have yet to start a novel! :)

  • edited June 2013
    Well done, sallyj! And lovely to have feedback, and to know that someone's treasuring your advice, Lou!
    Gabrielle, a critique isn't a personal attack. The thing is that as writers, when we offer our words to the outside world, we are giving a huge part of what makes us unique, so to have it dissected at all is intensely painful. It is Mr McCreet's job to find the flaws - and the good points! - in a piece for this article; though his 'In Summary' does sound as though he finds the experience rather wearing, because no-one's listened to what he had to say in the past.
    I've done editing for friends' work, and it requires that the red pen be wielded with some diplomacy, which perhaps you find lacking here. If you can get over the tone of voice, and look at the issues raised, you will find you can learn some important lessons.
    Ten years ago I submitted an historical romance novel to a publisher, and it was rejected. I stuck it in a cupboard, hurt and in a huff, and have just recently unearthed it. Some of it is great (blushes modestly), and some of it had editorial flaws; but the really big problem was that all the other characters have fun except the heroine. It takes perspective and a clear eye to see the truth in our own writing.
    Writing is 10% getting it down on paper/screen, and 90% editing! Don't give up: just be prepared to redraft and redraft and redraft any piece of work until it's as near perfect as it can be.
    Now, where was I? Oh yes, giving my heroine something fun to do...
  • C2C2
    edited June 2013
    Hello Webbo

    On page six of the June and July issue of WM, bottom left side, Figure of Speech.

    Why have we had a repeat.
  • Maybe the Figure of Speech is 'deja vu'. :)
  • Possibly the cartoonist has been eating too many baked beans?
  • I'd just take it on the chin, Gabrielle, and move on. It takes a lot of courage to subject your writing to scrutiny like this, so well done for putting it forward.
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