28/01/2019
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Under the Microscope extra: I'm fine

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Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the March issue of Writing Magazine.

I'm fine - original version

So, this is it. The first day of my exams. Weeks of ten-hour study days, cramming in every last word, equation and fact comes down to the next six weeks.  I like facts – questions need to be right or wrong, there’s order and reason and logic to them; none of this ‘how does Shakespeare show Lord Capulet as a good father.’ I’m rubbish at that.
The mass of Year 11 students file into the school auditorium.  There’s silence. A moment ago, we were a rowdy bunch; groups of friends exchanging questions and answers, others with their nose stuck in a book. But now…..the tension is worse than an evening at home with Mum. I follow the line - the girls in rolled up tartan skirts and the boys with their ties askew - and walk through the heavy double doors into the vast room. Rows and rows of single desks fill the hall, the pulpit and crucifix up on the stage behind them.  I have no interest in God or the Virgin Mary or whoever we are meant to pray to, but as I scurry to my designated spot, I plead to them both, ‘Please, please, help me get through this. I need to do well. I have to do well.’
I sit down and look around, I’m the first to find their seat. There’s some confusion in the front corner between Nathan and Hannah, both with the surname Matthews. Hannah’s on the verge of tears, her freckled cheeks burning red; Nathan looks, well…..cool as always. I line-up my pens, pencils, ruler, rubber and sharpener in ascending height order, together with Nan’s small gold pixie. It’s pretty ugly with its oversized head and pot belly, but I’m desperate to believe my suppositious Nan; it’ll bring me luck. I’m planning to have it by me in every exam.  

 

I'm fine - McCredited version

So, this is it. The first day of my exams. Weeks of ten-hour study days, cramming in every last word, equation and fact come down to this. I like facts – questions need to be right or wrong. There’s order and reason and logic to them – none of this, ‘How does Shakespeare show Lord Capulet as a good father.’ I’m rubbish at that.
The Year 11 students file into the school auditorium. Feet shuffle. People cough. A moment ago, we were a rowdy bunch: groups of friends exchanging questions and answers, others desperately flicking pages. But now . . . the atmosphere is worse than an evening at home with Mum. I follow the line – the girls in rolled up tartan skirts and the boys with their ties askew – and walk through the heavy double doors into the vast room. Rows and rows of single desks fill the hall, the pulpit and crucifix up on the stage behind them. I have no interest in God or the Virgin Mary or whoever we are meant to pray to, but as I scurry to my designated spot, I plead to them both, ‘Please, please, help me get through this. I need to do well. I have to do well.’
I sit down and look around. There’s some confusion on the front row between Nathan and Hannah, both with the surname Matthews. Hannah’s on the verge of tears, her freckled cheeks burning red; Nathan looks, well. . . cool as always. I line-up my pens, pencils, ruler, rubber and sharpener in ascending height order, together with Nan’s small gold pixie. It’s pretty ugly with its oversized head and pot belly, but I’m desperate to believe my superstitious Nan; it’ll bring me luck. I’m planning to have it by me in every exam.

 

For the full critique, see the March issue of Writing Magazine.

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