As part of the entry fee for NYC Midnight, you get to receive feedback from the three judges who read your piece and marked it for round one. I got the email with my comments in yesterday; they’re not as in depth as I might have hoped, but still useful. Each marker gave a comment on what they liked about the story, and what they felt needed improving. Here’s the feedback:

Marker 1
Liked – The narrator’s walk through the forest and slide that almost took him into the river contributes to a sense of foreboding that dissipates when he is mesmerized by the woman at the river and then accelerates when violent shrieking of a crow breaks the spell he was under watching the woman. The hostel and the warden are deliciously creepy.

Improve – The narrator’s guilt about drawing the woman seems a bit out of place because he was an artist. He didn’t have a purulent(sp) interest; he was compelled to draw her, and he didn’t appear to have any intention to exploit her.

So Marker 1 didn’t empathise with someone who felt bad about their voyeurism; on the other hand they enjoyed the pacing and sense of foreboding, the setting and the character of the warden.

Marker 2
Liked – I enjoyed the dreamlike voice and tone of this story. It’s a nice contrast against the dark turn it takes.

Improve – The narrator can be difficult to connect to at times. I wonder if there is a way to deepen his characterization so the reader can empathize with him more.

Marker 2 found it hard to connect with the story, and makes a good suggestion for an improvement. It’s feedback I’ve had before, I need to make sure the reader gets the same emotional connection with the characters as I do.

Marker 3
Liked – Wow! What a lovely story. There’s an old-fashioned feel to it, and the language is so stately. The narrator’s desire was palpable and his decision at the end was a perfect culmination of the story.

Improve – The story is perfect. There were a few instances where “there was” was overused. But that is a small nit.

Marker 3 is clearly an astute individual with great taste in literature 😉 Besides the very complimentary nature of this feedback, the marker connected with some of the main elements of the story from my POV as a writer; the ‘old-fashioned’ feel and stately language were a concious choice to give it a gothic flavour. The ending changed a few times over the week I wrote this story, so I’m glad that the final choice went down so well.

So, when I look at that feedback I can see that I’m not making any major mistakes. One judge marked it down because they didn’t understand the characters motivations, and that feels outside of my control. I can’t predict what attitudes a reader might have, only those of the characters. Marker 2 didn’t connect with the character, and that I can improve on. I need to detach myself from it and make sure there is a compelling reason for readers to feel the same way that I do about my characters. And Marker 3? Well, thank you. Your feedback was a real confidence boost.

So what’s next for Tylluan Valley? Well, I shall do some edits in the light of this feedback and then find another competition to submit it too.