Sunday, February 02, 2014


Dear -------,

I’m really torn over your story. You make so many basic errors, yet your prose is quite wonderful. You’ve taken some risks, you’re reaching towards a sophistication as a writer. Like most of us, I think you just need a bit of guidance. Here are the issues I had with your piece.

What you’ve sent me is an ‘in-depth, evolving over time’ character sketch. It’s a great character sketch. The problem is, it’s presented through your protagonist who talks about a more fascinating secondary character. A few things happen to your main character, but not enough. Still, the elegance with which you tell the story - so strong on character but not so much on plot - is enough to sway me into passing it along to the other editors.

As for technicalities, your story is a copy-editor’s nightmare. Here are the things I’d have you correct:

- Change the title. It has nothing to do with the story. It doesn’t work as a metaphor either, which is where I think you were going with it.
- Do NOT use different sizes of fonts to indicate yelling, fading voices, etc.
- I realize you’ve used italics and plain text to indicate changes in time and scene. Within those sections, please be consistent in terms of present and past tenses. Indent every paragraph. Within italicized areas, if you choose to indicate emphasis (which you might normally, with italics) return the word or text to plain font.
- Avoid clichés. You’ve given me some wonderfully fresh metaphors, a pleasure to read. Please don’t ruin my appreciation of your ability by slipping into tired phrases. You've shown me you're capable of so much more.
- Please be consistent in using either American or Canadian/British spellings. One or the other, but not both. On Spec prefers Canadian spelling.

Now back to the story. You need a stronger end in terms of what happens to your protagonist (so in terms of plot). At the moment, the piece feels lopped off. I read your story twice. My initial impression was you've used what should be your end as your opening hook. On second read, I’m not so sure I agree with this now, meaning, I can live with it, but you still need a stronger end.

As I said, I’ll pass your story on to the other editors for their comment. After discussing it, it may be that we’ll ask you for a revision. If we don’t, you might want to think about the piece overall. Whatever happens, I hope you take this letter in the support that it’s meant. I think you have a great future ahead of you as a writer.

All the best - Susan.


  1. Different sizes of fonts??????

    (Quietly weeps...)

  2. Barb Galler-Smith2:25 PM

    Excellent comments, Susan. I like how you offer both detailed positive and constructive comments. B

  3. Thanks, guys. I appreciate the support, too.