Not just any old word

The late Margaret McKinlay was my mentor and friend. As the anniversary of her untimely death comes round I find myself considering some of the things she taught me about writing.

A small selection of the novels by EWC members past and present.

A small selection of the novels by EWC members past and present.

The most important was her remark about editor’s or judge’s comments. At this distance in time I can’t remember the exact words, but the gist was this: NEVER dismiss the comment out of hand. A busy person has taken time to read your work and say a little about it. That’s what they believe. Read it. Consider it well. Come back to it when you’ve left it for a couple of days.

Margaret was the writer we’d all like to be. She sold countless humorous articles, short stories and general articles. She tutored for Writers’ News. She mentored people privately. She was an outstanding crime novelist. She also motivated people in ordinary life and was hugely influential in setting up a young people’s centre near where she lived.

I can’t tell you how much I miss her insight when the going is tough.

However, I recently had one of those toughies when a judge’s crit used ‘good’ six times in eleven short lines: but did not rate the story. Instead of sticking pins in anything, I consulted a wiser friend and have read her advice carefully. I think, no more than that, I see where the problem might be. Story amended as suggested has gone off to an experienced ed for consideration.

Every writer needs insightful friends. I have a few and I appreciate them greatly. Thank you all. Mariah’s Marriage amazon US

“Oh, Mariah, let us not quarrel. We will be married within the month. At least your papa’s house contains plenty of books. You may practise throwing them.” anne stenhouse Mariah’s Marriage UK Bella’s Betrothal US

 …a solitary figure ahead among some gorse and shrubs. Charles thought she made a beautiful picture in her riding habit with the exquisite hat Jenny Menzies wished to inherit. He thought the girl might get it sooner rather than later if he followed his instincts. At that precise moment, he wanted to shake Bella hard. Then he would lock her in the castle in Strath Menzies and hold her forever. anne stenhouse Bella’s Betrothal UK





6 thoughts on “Not just any old word

  1. I always greatly appreciated the SAW competitions and adjudications over the years whenever I received thoughtful and helpful comments or advice. It’s the ‘woolly’ vague comments that are more difficult to understand!


  2. Oh, I remember Margaret well, and was very fond of her. Her advice and insight was always well worth listening to when I was in EWC novel folio many years ago.
    Loved entering the EWC competitions too. Miss EWC 😔


      • That is a difficulty. Do you know about Writer’s Umbrella? It’s an online newsletter for writers that invites contributions and runs comps with small cash prizes. £5 per year for membership and it’s affiliated to SAW so you’d be eligible for their open comps etc. I can send you the organisers details if you’d find that useful. Anne


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