14 April 2011


Carol groaned and flung the manuscript down.

‘Great.’ She sighed. ‘Another idyllic farmyard tale.’

The first paragraph described the milking of a cow and all the sloshing and rattling and hearty wholesome smells that go with it. Why - with all this sensory imagery, it feels just like being on the farm! …which would be great if the reader had any interest in being next to or near any farm.

She braced herself and picked it up again. I bet there’ll be a nice metaphor about the seasons and the cycles of life and renewal. Ah here we go. By the third paragraph a feeble cow had died tragically but valiantly while calving. Death-count: 1.

Nobody had prepared Carol for what she would have to do in her writer’s group. For the depths to which she would have to sink. In the last three weeks she had read three detailed accounts of bereavement, two frilly romances set in olden times, and four – soon to be five – wistful accounts of hard times on the farm which nonetheless made the author nostalgic for a simpler era.

Reading these rural ruminations was bad enough but the biggest challenge was critiquing these works. She pored over page after page of idyllic imagery, occasionally sniggering at the descriptions of the swarthy farm-hand, his pitchfork clasped in his muscular arm, or the sweet crisp crunchy apple that represented the epitome of all that was good in this world.

Once it was read, she repeated ‘constructive criticism’ under her breath a few times and began to scribble notes in the margins.

The petticoats swaying around the girls’ feet is a very strong visual image.

I love the use of the word ‘tine’.

Dolphins are actually mammals.

You really captured the softness of that heifer's flank.

On some occasions she actually felt resentful towards the author for having inflicted their literature upon her. She would have to go away and leave it for a while before going back and writing her criticism.

I would give less detail here.

I don’t understand what you mean by this.

This character could be further developed.

It was annoying that she had to spend so much time and energy helping others with their work, leaving her with no time to write her own.

Make a new paragraph for each character’s dialogue.

Then she realised that she was indeed developing her fiction-writing skills. The greatest editing she ever did was sculpting her words down into constructive criticism.

Were you going for ironic comedy through the over-use of clichés?

Exclamation marks don’t make it exciting they are just annoying!

Don't forget to recycle. Every copy of this manuscript. Before anyone else has to look at it.

I can’t believe I just spent fifteen whole minutes of my life slogging through this drivel.

I’d like to make you eat that manuscript and then kick the pulpy vomit out of you.


  1. I like your use of the phrase "pulpy vomit". However, the plot could be developed further.

  2. Yeah, well it is made of fictitious fiction. None of it true. Any resemblance is a co-incidence. Pure fiction. All lies. Fictional fib-story.

  3. 'You really captured the softness of that heifer's flank'- LOL