Today marks the completion of The University of Iowa’s 8 week “How Writers Write Fiction” class . The moderators of the class chooses a participant’s story to discuss and dissect in their workshops at the end of each assignment. I was astonished to get an email from one of the class Moderators, telling me that my story “Inside Bailey’s Department Store” was chosen for critique, along with that of another writer, from our last class assignment called “Revision and Rediscovery.”
Let’s just say, this is not my first rodeo and prior experiences weren’t very comforting! I didn’t know how to take this news and I didn’t want to read what an oasis of established writers and authors had to say about my work. What if I never recovered from the sharp scrutiny?
The revised version of a story I wrote, called “Inside Bailey’s Department Store” was compared to the original story. The story’s protagonist is a ten-year old girl facing down her bullies in a dept store. All Sam wanted to do was buy a couple of mystery books by Ellery Queen.
Here are some of the critiques to my story:
In my opinion, Clara is particularly good at tying precise details to character. Some examples from her original:
He was turning the page to a Popular Science magazine and muttering to himself.
She had waited a long time to buy ‘City of Gold and Shadows’, the new mystery by Ellis Peters whose books were her favorites, next to the Ellery Queens mysteries.
Sam wasn’t afraid to fight, but, she was taught to avoid it if she could, so even though she just felt like the wind had been knocked out of her, Sam retreated from the school grounds and a quickly gathering crowd of animated kids. (This might have worked better expressed with more action or dialog, but had it been in the revision, it would have made her telling on the kids at the end more believable.)
Your suggestion to focus on writing what we’re good at and not our failures is so helpful to me as I prepare to review exercises from this course for revision. What a great parting gift Christa. Thank you!
I agree with frostyfreya that the measurement details are distracting and unnecessary.
Also, most of the world outside of the U.S. uses the metric system, not our antiquated English system of measurement. To those folks, heights like 4’9″ don’t mean anything.
I suppose from these and other professional writers opinions/critiques, I might have a “writing” chance! I enjoyed participating in this online class. It was a massive gathering of writers worldwide, who came to write and share with their colleagues. I highly recommend The IWP MOOC for newbies and seasoned writers.
How do you feel about having your work critiqued?