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Fiction Critique Request

With some personal thoughts and feelings on critique!

By Paul StewartPublished 11 months ago 4 min read
Fiction Critique Request
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I woke to a lot of changes on Vocal again. I was not on Vocal a lot yesterday, Thursday, so I didn't see the new communities, Writers, Chapters, BookClub, and, Critique announced until today. I Only just found out the winners were announced for the Pitch Your Pilot Challenge. I didn't place - that's fine!

It's fantastic, it is, that the platform keeps growing, especially as Team Vocal seems determined to make it a place where creators, and writers particularly, can thrive.

I am not someone that always deals with changes well, though. It may be an autistic spectrum thing. It may be a Paul thing...who knows? It's not really that uncommon. They don't even have to be negative or bad changes. Change across the board unsettles me a little. I eventually get over it and myself, adjust and then get back on a more even keel.

The fact that all the new communities that were launched are for writers excites me. Vocal thought about what was missing and filled in some gaps.

I was inspired by Matthew Fromm's great Top Story this morning, Request for Critique.

Some Thoughts and Feelings on Constructive Criticism

Matthew's article hit a nerve. I know the exact nerve it hit too. You see, like most writers or artists, regardless of the medium they use, I truly believe I am a good writer, or why else would I publish a ridiculous amount of work onto a place like Vocal?

As hard as it might be to understand, whether it's a haiku, freeform poetry, a silly bit of surrealism, or satire, everything I've ever put up, I felt confident in.

That doesn't mean they were all technically perfect or the best bit of writing since sliced bread. I felt confident enough that those pieces were as good as they would be when writing and after finishing editing.

The things I am not proud of or confident in never see the light of day.

Now I have not been silent about my appreciation for the comments section and the support other Vocal creators give. It feels like a very upbuilding and positive space a lot of the time. And that is marvellous. If I were going to speak like a Glaswegian, I'd say it was "pure dead brilliant.".

Although I still get nervous when posting things, especially if it's something tackling a subject that is way too close to home for comfort or because it's something different from what I am used to doing, or simply because it's something I feel enormously proud of, I do not feel as nervous as I did for the whole year I had a Vocal+ account before publishing anything (I was awarded it during lockdown because I took part in some research).

That's because I know that most people will be positive and kind, which is excellent. Unsolicited critiques are not the best thing since sliced bread.

Matthew's piece hit a nerve because I believe constructive feedback and criticism are vital. When you are too close to something or invested in it, it can be hard to see the flaws and changes that could be made.

The idea of my work being critiqued scares me. As self-confident and sure of myself and my writing as I am, there are times when imposter syndrome and just a general feeling of being a failure kick my arse to the curb.

So the idea of inviting people actually to comment on the technical side of my writing petrifies me! I'm worried that my ego will be shattered and I'll get all bitter and twisted because someone dares say, "Paul, that could be better," then I shall hide in a cave, etching my work on walls only but never sharing it again!

Okay, so a bit dramatic! But, in my head, that's how it feels sometimes. I am not saying I need to hear "That's amazing, Paul, well done" all the time, but it's often easier than the opposite.

My Request for Critique

Time to change that, though. In the interest of community and learning to better my skills.

Historically, my fiction pieces are nearly as successful or well-received, and seeing as fiction was always what I wanted to improve at. Why I started writing on Vocal in the first place, I'm willing to accept constructive feedback.

Rather than posting all of my fiction pieces, I will pick out the ones I feel strongly about and ask anyone to give constructive feedback - what I could have done to improve them, what you liked, didn't like...all that sexy stuff. I will leave my poetry for now because while I am sure some things could be tweaked with them, it's fiction that I want to focus on improving. It also means that perhaps they will get some more reads. Win-win!

I am going to follow Matthew's example and include some points for what I wanted to achieve with these pieces:

Deep Breath, Paul...


This was written for the Reset Your Fiction Challenge. My main goal with this was to focus on writing a female character well while discussing a break-up and how technology and password changes are another part of the process. It was the first piece of fiction I put up on Vocal and the first piece of fiction I had written in years.

Letters About K

Written for Improbable Paradise, for the most part, I wrote this in a similar style to Dracula, in letter form. The challenge was to write a fictional story about an unlikely friendship that forms on an island paradise. Initially, it was supposed to be just a quirky, funny thing. But, as I wanted to push myself a little, I tried to make it a little more.

The Day The Wall Spoke

This story was supposed to be entered into the If Walls Could Talk challenge, but I couldn't get the words down for it. But I was still passionate about putting it up many months later. It covers some heavy subject matter, but rather than being supremely downbeat, I wanted humour and a sense of hope without making suicide, death, or mental health insensitively the butt of the jokes.

Any helpful suggestions or advice my fellow creators could give in editing these pieces would be appreciated and may mean I avoid the same errors or issues in other work.


Thank you for reading!

RevisionStructureSettingProofreadingPlot DevelopmentPacingFictionFeedback RequestedDialogueCharacter Development

About the Creator

Paul Stewart

Scottish-Italian poet/writer from Glasgow.

Overflowing in English language torture and word abuse.

"Every man has a sane spot somewhere" R.L Stevenson

The Accidental Poet - Poetry Collection is now available!

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Comments (4)

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran11 months ago

    Nope, it ain't a Paul thing. It's an autism thing. I too don't deal well with changes. Any kinda changes triggers me so much. I have never gave constructive criticism to anyone and I don't think I ever will even if they ask for it, lol. Maybe just some grammar advice but nothing other than that. I'm just not confident enough to be dishing out advice, lol. But there was a person on Vocal that kept harassing me with unsolicited feedback. And they were telling me that my plot and ending needed to change because they didn't like how the story went. And I'm like whatttttttt. I don't think that's construction criticism 😅

  • Naomi Gold11 months ago

    LOL @ “pure dead brilliant.” Never heard that before. Yes, so many changes at Vocal! I had posted about writing literally right before the Writers community was announced, so I had them move it there. Ended up getting the first Top Story for that community, which was exciting. I think coming back to all the changes and all the notifications would be overwhelming, so I feel for you. But I’m glad you’re diving in. I will certainly check out these stories… already read The Day the Wall Spoke, but I’ll read it again to see if I can offer anything constructive. Because my first read was purely for pleasure. My analytical mind doesn’t come on unless I say so. I’ve learned how to turn it off so it doesn’t hinder my creative process, or my enjoyment of other people’s creations. But it does come on and work well when I’m reading my own drafts.

  • Matthew Fromm11 months ago

    No need to thank me, Paul, but I'm proud of you for putting yourself out there! Let me dive in. One thing I wish I included in my post. Critique is to the Author as publishing is to the reader. When you put a piece into the world, you hope the audience accepts it, but they are never forced to read it. Just because you receive a critique, doesn't mean you, as the author, must act on it.

  • Dana Crandell11 months ago

    I'm even more cautious of critiquing someone else's work than I am about offering my own for critique. I did offer one comment on Alex's "Crossroads," just to see how the process went. I think I've confirmed my initial thoughts that I'm better off leaving it to someone else.

Paul StewartWritten by Paul Stewart

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