04 February, 2011


Yesterday I received the critique for Doreen and the National Trust Terrorist, which was my prize for being the runner-up in Short Story Radio competition. Having someone criticise your work doesn't feel like much of a reward, but I know it's good for me! It was also a rare chance to have work critiqued by someone who was once the fiction editor at a large magazine.

I was really pleased that she was complimentary about the fluidity of my writing and especially about the dialogue. If your dialogue is poor there's little point in you bothering to write the rest at all and as I am currently writing a children's novel (which, because of the age of the audience, has a greater proportion of dialogue than adult books), this was very encouraging. I wrote this story in only a couple of days and because I didn't think it stood a chance in the competition I let a few things slide that I normally wouldn't have done, thinking that nobody would notice. And of course, these were the things she picked me up on! They were mostly factual inaccuracies like Doreen taking buses to the National Trust properties where they are unlikely to be on a bus route - little bits of information that I didn't bother checking out. I thought I could get away with a little bit of lazy writing, but sloppiness always shows!

Considering the name of the story, it was interesting that the editor didn't think I should either use the word 'terrorist' or set the story in the National Trust properties. She doesn't think the National Trust would be amused! I agree with her on the use of "terrorism" - although it is a very light-hearted story and there is no terrorism involved, it is a very loaded word in the media - but I'm not sure I agree on the setting. I also found it odd that she didn't think it was appropriate for one of my characters to poke fun at English Heritage. But it wasn't my opinion! If I was writing a character that was racist then they would have opinions that neither I nor my readers shared and I would write them saying things that I would never say. One of my characters having an opinion that is contentious is surely not a problem in a work of fiction? But then, I am sure that the editor knows a lot more about what is acceptable or not. What do you think?

Now I just need to decide whether I want to make the changes she has suggested and try to sell the story to a magazine, or leave the story as it is and just put it up on this blog and forget about it. Completely changing the setting would be quite a big deal and I'm wondering whether it would be worth it to get a magazine credit on my writing CV...


  1. Opinion is opinion ~ leave it alone. Re National Trust/English Heritage, publishers have to be uber-careful that they can't be sued for anything, so a change of name is probably better. Everyone will know the organisations you mean, anyway! Ceve

  2. I was going to suggest the same; change the name! Otherwise I agree with you Chloe; fictitious characters can be as outrageous as you like, it doesn't mean you agree with them!

  3. Hi Chloe.
    Like you, I'm keen to make what I write as real as possible and if it means naming an organisation then it should be okay to do so. Having said that, these particular institutions are not surprisingly protective of their name and reputation.
    I can tell from the tone of your entry that you feel strongly about the efforts you've made with your story... and if it was me, I would make it Lord 'whoever's' estate and twist the tale to suit the renamed location. There's no reason why you can't keep the location and the imagery you've created, simply rename it.
    I would much rather do that and still be able to send it to a magazine. Magazine editors are also protective of national institutions and their association with them. Give your story a chance with a new name and it might end up in your CV...


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