critiquing / short stories

An Editor’s Comments on Some Short Stories

This is part 6 of my series on “An Editor’s Comments.” These are actual comments I’ve made to clients, and are directed to their particular needs, so they are sometimes quite different than what you’ll find in a style manual or other editing book. I hope you’ll find these thoughts helpful! If you want to learn more, check out the rest of the articles in the “Editor’s Comments” section and the “Various Editor’s Tips” section in my “Writing and Editing Articles” table of contents.

Stories I Really Liked:

Wow! Gripping ending–and really good descriptions earlier on about racism and dementia–some seemingly rabbit trails that are actually really good foreshadowing. Excellent!

An amazing story. You have taken care to study deeply about the time period and the place, to use the appropriate language, to show understanding of the deep beliefs and the deep connections of people–so much of which we have lost. A good, well-told story! Even though it harks back to beliefs that most people nowadays would find unbelievable or at least very inexplicable, it is written in such a way that the reader is drawn in–and believes it.

I really, really liked this story. So imaginative. And sad. At the end, I, too, could “feel.”

Stories With Good Potential:

Grammar is generally good, though there seems to be a bit of a lack of flow. I’d like to see your francophone “voice” come through more clearly. Description of the setting is very clear–but so much so that it seems to take a long time to get into the real action of the story. The long introduction to the main character’s love for the young woman leads one to expect more between them, but then she almost fades out of the story.

Strongly personal style and voice–I wonder, are you telling the story from your own experience? I like that the regional accent is included to a degree, although a bit more of it might feel even more authentic. I like that you quickly get to the story; there’s just enough setting, although maybe a tad more description about the boat and net might be helpful to readers who are landlubbers.

I do really like this story–it has a lot of fantastical elements in it. It has so much potential. If you spend some time self-editing grammatical issues, the story will be much stronger. For example, you use some long meandering sentences, which need either to be divided into shorter sentences or at least have mid-way commas or semi-colons, whichever would be appropriate. I sense you have used a spellchecker, but not a good quality grammar checker, which could be helpful for you in correcting errors of tenses, spelling (homonyms), and punctuation.

I liked the unexpected details and the unique characters.  I also like the humour; the story is entertaining and is an amusing turn on standard stories about seances. To bring the story to its potential, you’ll want to avoid the distracting over-use of parentheses, words in ALL CAPS, and the many exclamation marks. Instead, use strong words and sentence construction to build emotion and tension.

Despite a scattering throughout of typos and grammar errors–most of which could be caught with a decent grammar/spell check programs–your overall writing is quite well done, and the main characters are fairly well developed. There were a couple inconsistencies, such as saying there had been no rain or snow for 2 years and then saying there were flowers poking through the snow, so you need to watch for that. Your writing is already strong so you don’t need to use italics for emphasis.

This is an interesting story but sometimes there is too much “telling” although other times you do great showing. Maybe it could be shortened a bit if the extra telling is removed, and in some cases, the telling could be better intertwined with the showing. If the story is was trimmed back a bit, both through removing extra telling and some repetitive passages, the story would flow better, and there would be more tension.

This is a lovely, hopeful kind of story, but I wonder: is it fantastical or implausible or somewhere in between? I think if you edit the grammar and typos it will flow better and thus draw in the reader more. As it is right now, I am left feeling kind of disbelieving. It seems like a too-happy ending. Some things to think about as you self-edit.

Other than spacing problems between words, there are very few typos or grammar errors. You’ve used some effective foreshadowing. But somehow, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Sensing the ending so easily was kind of disappointing. Can you make it more mysterious?

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