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Henshaw Short Story Competition
    Henshaw Short Story Competition

 

                                         

 

                                                                  Critiques

 

 

 

     It is very difficult to obtain an independent opinion of one's own stories by asking friends and relatives their views. Generally they do not like to be critical and rarely are they themselves experienced writers who can make pertinent comments on how to improve a story.

 

     All our critiques are written by experienced, prize winning authors who give their own personal review of the story. As a way of improving writing technique there are few better methods than such an independant critique.

 

      The feedback we get from those who have a critique of their story shows they are  highly appreciated.  So do consider purchasing a critique when you enter our competitions.

 

 

 

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                 Below is some of the feedback we have received-

 

 

 

 

Please pass on my heartfelt thanks to whoever wrote the critique for So Long, Sweetheart (longlisted in your December competition). I found the comments detailed and very helpful, rewrote the second half bearing them in mind and submitted the story to Writers Forum.

I have just heard that the story has been placed third and will be published in the June edition - along with the glory comes a nice cheque for £100. I am delighted with my success and, again, many thanks for a really effective critique, I learned a lot from it.               

Barbara Young

 

 

Thanks for the critique, your comments are always constructive and very helpful. This particular story was actually quite difficult to write as there as still a few vets around would I am sure will find fault with the details. But as it's the 100th year of the RAF, just felt it apt to tell the  tale.          

Richard Johnson

 

 

Thank you for your helpful critique.  In fact this tale started life as a short story, then the creative writing group I was in, wanted to know what happened next and the story became the first of four chapters of a novel.  Life took over at that time and it remains on the back burner.  I then resurrected the first chapter and entered it in the competition.  From the judges' comments, I can see that it no longer works as a short story.  Yes, Terry is a criminal, having syphoned off funds from the company for whom he was working and Miranda is the mistress he plans to join in the Cayman Islands.   Thank you also for the tip about POV.  Hilary Monk

 

 

Thank you for the critique of my short story Faithless. Having someone outside family and friends taking a look has been extremely useful to me and given a fresh perspective. It's been really useful and I learned a lot from it.                  Thomas Smith 

 

Please extend my many thanks to the Judge(s) who underwent my critique. It was really detailed, informative and quite positive, cushioning the blow of the things I hadn’t got right!  

Clare Cooper

 

Thank you very much for valuable feedback, happy to get so many positive comments!

 Anne-Trine Benjaminsen

 

 

Thank you for the positive critique. I found your comments extremely helpful and so pleased you enjoyed my story.

Although disappointed not to have won, I was delighted to discover I had been long listed to one of eleven, especially as the news arrived on my birthday. One of the best gifts ever. 

As a new writer I often doubt myself and your critique has given my confidence a huge boost.

Thank you so much for your feedback, I really appreciated it. It's given me lots to think about and will help me learn and grow into a better writer.    

Aly Kerrison 

                                    

It offered a concise and insightful response to my story, with pertinent headings, highlighting specific examples of sections that could be improved upon, and offering a variety of helpful suggestions. More importantly, it gives the positive elements of the story, which is encouraging.  Also, the critique demonstrated that my story had been properly read and analysed rather than offering general feedback after a cursory reading.  Overall, it reflects a pleasing balance between constructive criticism and positivity, not to mention the level of detail included which, for me, represents very good value for money.            Anon

 

 

 

 

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                          Below is an example of our critiques

 

 

The critique is of a story told by a scribe to whom Richard 111 is dictating his memoirs as his army marches to Bosworth for the final battle with Henry Tudor. After the battle the scribe is left with the memoirs. He knows Henry will seek him out, kill him, destroy the memoirs and write his own version of Richard’s life. Write a different truth for it is the winners who write the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

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Henshaw Writing Critique

 

‘Truth'

 

 

Thank you for sending your story to us. The Judges views are as follows:

 

Story Idea:  Interesting - letting us hear ' Richard, the child murderer's' story from his own lips.

 

Structure, pace & plotting:  You open with the narrator, (un-named), and for the first page this appears to be his story.  You then introduce King Richard III and rather out of nowhere the narrator is appointed as his scribe, at which point the focus shifts to Richard.  Richard then lays out his rather unconvincing 'truth' and goes off to a battle we know he will lose.

The key issue is that change of focus.  We invest in the narrator's struggles, only to find that he all but disappears halfway through the story.  My suggestion is that you need to decide whose story this is. 

If it is Richard's story, (told by the narrator), Richard needs to come in earlier.  Keep the focus on Richard and his internalisations as he dictates.

There is also a weakness in that the central revelations of the story are related, rather than actively shown.  One way round this could be flashbacks - though you would then need to switch to Richard's POV.

If this is the narrator's story, then okay, fill in his essential back story, but more importantly, have him actively involved with plenty of internalised thoughts about what Richard is telling him as he writes.  Have him running from the battle, struggling to safeguard these scrolls, and thereby heighten the tension and the sense of hopeless futility in the ending.

In either case, perhaps open right in the action, with Richard and the scribe already in the tent?

 

POV / Voice:  The narrator's first person voice gives us the potential for intimacy which isn't really exploited.  There is little sense of strong emotion from him.  The voice is clear, but distant.  I want him to feel more.

 

Characters / Character development:  Even if this is not the narrator's story, he's certainly significant.  We know all about his childhood, but don't know his name.  This makes it much harder to relate to him.  Please, give him a name. 

We follow his journey from failing blacksmith to King's scribe.  To that extent there is a character arc, but it is rather unsatisfying, primarily because everything happens to him.  Generally, we relate more easily to 'active' characters.  It would perhaps be better if he sought out Father Swale's and Richard's attention, if he played some part in his own destiny.  It would also add pathos to the ultimate futility of his finest work?

Richard comes across as what we already know he is, a brave soldier and child murderer.  There is no real arc.  Nothing that surprises me.  Perhaps he could tell an utterly convincing heartfelt tale of how, despite his best efforts, the Princes died of fever.  Use the narrator's internalisations to help me believe him.  Make his death a tragedy, (and by extension, the rejection of his truth). 

 

Writing Technique / Dialogue / Language:  You lay out the story clearly, which is harder than people think.  Your language is appropriate to the setting and you don't waste words with unnecessary purple prose.  Also, I can see your scenes, although as mentioned, I don't really relate to your narrator.

Your dialogue is mixed.

'Sit buffoon...' is rather good, and brings Richard to life.  Often though your dialogue feels as though it's simply there to serve the plot, (of course it is, but it shouldn't feel like that).

'We will feed you clothe you...' the narrator's response, and that whole section of opening dialogue is very flat.  Dialogue is an opportunity to develop character, (as well as move the story).  In order to write good dialogue you need to know your character.  This particularly applies to the narrator.  Would he ask for the job? Would he shock them by speaking out of turn? Would he reject the initial offer, and for example demand to learn his letters now? 

Surprise me.

 

 Summary: This is a well laid out story, with a strong closing line, and I feel that if you can decide whose story this is, everything else will flow from there.

 

 

 

 

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                      Bespoke Critiques

 

 

As well as providing short story critiques for competition entrants we also provide a respoke service for all writing, longer stories, books, articles.....  If you wish to discuss a bespoke critique please contact us directly at :-

 

                     henshawpress@outlook.com

 

      

Feedback on our bespoke critiques

 

Thank you very much for your highly detailed critique. Not only did it give me confidence that certain aspects of my story worked (and those that didn't) but it also provided me with suggests and ideas to push it into different directions. I'm sure I will be using your service again in the future. 

Thomas Smith

 

   

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