Everyone’s a Critic

On my last trip to Mum and Dad’s I retrieved a few boxes that had been taking up space there for Some Years. And in one of those boxes, my English homework books from secondary school.

It may not surprise you to learn that I liked to write stories. And those stories were marked. With suggestions for improvements.

I’d like, therefore, to present for your edification and entertainment, some of the very first literary criticism devoted to my work:

“An excellent piece of atmospheric writing, Piers. Well done!”


“The final lines are the best feature of this illegible over-written melodrama. You can do so much better – now tighten up.”

“Some very intricate plots here Piers, and not one of them including a naked lady!”

“A very persuasive piece of writing in which I was pleased to note that you avoided false protestations of modesty” [this for a piece of work which was basically an ad for ‘Piers Beckley’s Best Ever Novels!’]

“Amusing, if rather precocious.”

“I don’t think this really examines the theme of guilt very well. Also, it would be refreshing if you could explore other settings and not stick to the science fantasy genre all the time.”

“If you refuse to take this work seriously, I will be asking you to do it again.”

“Need ghost stories involve violence?” [I have annotated the answer ‘yes’ after this.]

“As always your story is well-written and full of descriptive detail.”

“Avoid funny stories.” [A D+ for this one]

“I don’t think you have taken this seriously, Piers. I don’t quite see where vampires come into this tall/short question.”

So. Not much has changed, really.

Don’t Tell Beckley

Over at his blog, the delightful Jason Arnopp has introduced a new feature for the procrastinating writers of this world.

It’s called Tell Arnopp, and it works like this:

Whenever you’ve completed your writing for the day, you email him saying the type of project you’ve worked on – “World War II Drama” – and the number of pages you’ve written – “Ten”.

(Nothing more than that, mind, just in case he writes something similar one day, and you happen to be a crazy person.)

Arnopp then guarantees that he will read these messages, and will thus become aware of the fact that you’ve done your work for the day. And you will be aware that he’s aware that you’ve done your work for the day.

You therefore know that someone cares about whether or not you’ve been writing rather than procrastinating, without you having to write it down on your blog, twitter, facebook, or significant other. Which can be a bit exposing for some people.

He hopes that this will encourage you to write, as if you don’t do your pages, somewhere in the depths of his brain he will know. And you will thus be encouraged to write today, and every day from now on.

I’d like, though, to offer an easier alternative. It’s called Don’t Tell Beckley, and it works like this:

You don’t send me a damn thing.
I know that you haven’t done enough work today.

My pleasure.