27 July 2022
A reader's novel opening goes under the editorial microscope
Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the September issue of Writing Magazine.
Best Served Cold by Viv Seaman - original version
“There you go, Stacey. And see you don’t come back. We don’t wanna see your face round ’ere no more!”
The sound of metal gates clanging shut echoes in my ears as I step over the iron grid and out into the strong sunshine of freedom. I open my mouth and scream until my lungs hurt.
Passers-by don’t bother staring at me. The people who live near the prison seem used to such things. One old lady, trailing a shopping trolley, gives me a thumbs up. I manage a half-hearted smile in her direction. I should feel great, relieved, something other than how I do feel. Tired, no exhausted and deeply dejected.
I sling the polythene bag holding my belongings over my shoulder and begin trudging along until I come to a bus-stop. Annoyingly, despite having plenty of funds in the bank, I can’t access them until I get home. I just have a small amount of cash the prison warder has given me. Enough for a bus to the nearest train station and a one-way ticket home to Essex. I can’t wait. I can almost detect the smell of seaweed and chips in my nostrils. The smell of home. Southend-on-Sea.
“I’ll get her for this.” I am aware I’m talking to myself. I used to do that all the time inside. “I’ll get my own back if it’s the last thing I do.” I am still muttering under my breath.
It’s a busy place, East London, and it’s not long before a bus arrives. I check the front indicator. Fenchurch Street station. I haul my bag of stuff up to the top deck and plonk down on a seat near the stairs. I have to keep an eye out for the stop. I might have to get off quickly.
Best Served Cold - McCredited version
“There’s your belongings, Stacey. And see you don’t come back. We don’t wanna see your face round ’ere no more.”
The metal gates clang shut and vibrate shiveringly. I sling the polythene bag over my shoulder and step into the strong sunshine of freedom, where I scream until my throat hurts.
Passers-by stare. But not for too long. This is East London after all. An old lady pushing a shopping trolley full of junk gives me a thumbs up and I smile at her. I should feel great, relieved – something other than how I do feel, which is tired. No – exhausted. And deeply dejected.
I trudge to the bus stop they told me about. In my sweaty hand, in my pocket, is the money the warder has given me – just enough to get me to the station and a one-way train ticket home to Essex. Until then, I have no access to the plentiful funds in the bank.
I can’t wait. I can almost smell seaweed and chips. The smell of home. Southend-on-Sea.
I’ll get her for this, I think. I’ll get my own back if it’s the last thing I do.
A bus pulls up: number 11 like they told me. The one to Fenchurch Street Station. Normally, I’d go and sit upstairs to enjoy the view, but I’m not sure where the station is so I sit close to the driver. I might have to get off quickly.
For the full critique, see the September issue of Writing Magazine