The following is an example of an Editorial Letter. The story was under 2500 words and though a very strong piece, it still needed some revision. The name of the author and story title have been removed, as well as our personal introduction. Still, it offers a nice example of the kind of feedback you can expect when submitting to this category.
EDITORIAL LETTER EXAMPLE:
I’m a big fan of flash fiction and you do an excellent job with this piece. There is a real sense of scene and you filter a lot of information into a short space so the tension building between this couple feels natural, and becomes almost palpable. Well done! There are also some extraordinary lines: “Most people didn’t talk about marriage as a growing transparency.” And “A foxhole prayer, but a prayer nonetheless.” I knew immediately I was in good hands. “THE STORY” has a solid sensibility and I really enjoyed the premise of this couple living together on a boat, coming to terms with their fading looks and the shifting landscape of their marriage. It was clever to recast a traditional argument to include the boat, and that creepy twist at the end that this boat, which has been part of their lives for so long, is just as alive as they are.
For all its loveliness, I did have some challenges with this piece. It seems a lot of the text is dedicated to setting up the appearances of these two characters, which makes sense to build logic around the idea that Matilda’s looks have faded and thus, Eli might leave. It did help in leading readers astray for “the twist,” (of course we all assume the “she” is a woman), but I wonder if it would be more effective to trim some of this and rely on readers’ knowledge of this traditional dynamic and spend some time on the boat itself. The end result being the boat will feel as much as a character as Matilda and Eli and there will be an even bigger payoff toward the end. You write about the boat rocking softly, and the nearby ferries: “Above the fresh and fishy smell of the port he could detect just the slightest odor of diesel, wafting from the ferry across the spring breeze.” And this is wonderful detail, but I think it might be useful to perhaps incorporate visuals of the Lollygagger — how it has also aged, how that parallels the tired feeling in this relationship, and how the climate around them (the storm generated by Matilda and Eli’s arguing) affects the boat — all details that seem natural for the story, but when revealed later indicate the boat was alive and listening the whole time.
I did wonder about the emotional honesty of Matilda being so upset at the start. I believed she would almost cry, and was about to shift into an argument with Eli on the premise he said another woman’s name in his sleep, but I didn’t feel sure of the fact she would then admit she had been thinking of Olivia the whole time too. Those two elements: her anger about it and then her acquiescence seem contradictory as they play out in this draft, and my feeling is recasting some of the material for exasperation or helplessness or concern about moving on to newer and better things — that guilt that is present in this story — might result in a more effective ending.
You’re doing some really great work and it is a very exciting and readable piece of flash. In revision, being more honest about the emotional integrity of these characters (and the boat!) so the reveal services the work you’re doing early on more effectively, will elevate the impact of your wonderful writing and the premise of this piece.
Again, thank you so much for your submission. I hope these comments help you understand your writing for the better and that this was a valuable process for you. In revision I would consider sending this story to: The Collagist, Hobart, Flash Fiction Online, and Tin House’s Open Bar. I could see this story finding a home in any of these wonderful publications.
It was a pleasure reading your story.
Masters Review Editor
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