After critiquing a story for another writer and having had the same done for me, it dawned on me that we all use different utensils to mark our opinions.

Going back to my high school days, I used to wait for the RED PEN OF DOOM to show its ugly blazing nib. I wasn’t so much interested in what mark I got at the end, you know, the big circle that took up the bottom right corner of your work – whatever out of 20 or a big fat C when you were sure it was an A- at least, I found myself more interested in the grammar and spelling errors (who me?) as my Higher English teacher would mock my written word with reckless abandon.

Once we had handed in our essays she would give them back out to the highest score first and so on. I remember I was first once. It was a story I had written about a monkey in a cage at a zoo. It was from the monkey’s POV rather than the visitors. Proud, so I was. She even smiled. Imagine that.

If you held the flimsy A4 page up to the light, thick lines would show throw from the other side, highlighting your errors. The less of them I had, the more I thought I had succeeded, even if my score wasn’t as great as I had hoped. I believe all of those pen marks have shaped me into thinking more about the structure of my story, even today. I often think of that story and want to beef it out a little, maybe create the further adventures of said monkey…but that was then.

So, whether you use a red pen, pencil, asterisks, lines, question marks or even chocolate stains, never forget that everyone reads a story differently and a critique of your work should be welcomed regardless of the outcome. It means that they took the time to read it carefully and appreciate your love of the written word. It means they were interested in what you had to say.

Even if they thought the story was as dull as a big jar of dull things. Trust me, you can only get better.



  1. I don’t recall having a Red Pen of Doom when I was at school, mind you I’m not sure school had been invented then and if it had we probably wrote on slates. I do remember though the prodigious use of the ruler or plimsole if we got things wrong and believe me they weren’t for measuring and running.
    I wonder if we were taught very differently in those days. We still bred scientists etc so it can’t have been bad but these days they seem to teach as though every pupil is expected to become a genius. No I’m not suggesting we go back to clouting pupils with a ruler but maybe look at the way things are taught and that perhaps Grammar Schools come back for those with an aptitude for learning.
    I can’t imagine any of your stories ever being as dull as a big jar of dull things Sarah.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    1. Author

      Thank you David. I like to see red pen on my work – it means I have something work fixing, which is always a good thing to me. You can never learn enough when it comes to writing, every page should bring something new to your masterpiece.