Sample Short Story with Feedback #1


This 1000-word short story was generously donated by a brave young writer from Ontario who is willing to receive feedback from me at the cost of sharing that feedback with you. My comments are in orange text. I will not be correcting grammar and spelling, just looking at the overall structure of the story and pointing out anything that breaks the spell and makes me work too hard as a reader. – Laura

A Hopeless Mistake 

I cringed at the sharp menacing clash of thunder. My fingertips grazed my face as they placed the coffin at the front of the room, prodding for tears but finding none. Shame washed over me. strong opening, vivid

It was a typical funeral: quiet tears followed by strangled cries, as well as the murmuring of consoling words.  A heavy and deafening silence hung in the air, broken every second by the ticks of the clock. I wanted to cover my ears – anything to muffle the sound of death. good use of multiple sense imagery

I stumbled over to the seating area, eyes casted downward. After sitting down I rubbed my hands against the rough fabric of the chair, counting the pieces of shredded skin that fell off my fingers. counting skin is hard to imagine, this breaks the spell Beige curtains extended across the cracked walls, draping over the windows and casting shadows along the room. It was an old church – the musty smell of dust crawled up my nostrils as an odd melody sputtered out of the untuned piano sitting on the stage. One by one, relatives and friends of Stephanie stepped up to the podium. I chewed on the ends of my hair. okay let’s get to the story, too much detail that has no meaning for me

“Her optimistic nature touched us all.” who is speaking?

“Stephanie’s perseverance was special.” who?

As foreign qualities ambushed my ears, a painful thought came to mind– who would be standing behind the podium at my funeral?

The walls tilted as my stomach lurched, and a vile taste exploded in my mouth. I was being sucked in by an invisible force, needles shooting through my chest… again too much description here, get me to the story problem more quickly

everything said up to now could have been said with half the words The blurry haze in my eyes slowly disappeared, and I found myself standing in the hallway of the eighth school that I had attended years ago. tell me more about this I was running a comb through my wet hair after leaving swim practice, when I pondered my dad’s earlier words– “Yoshimi, I promise we won’t have to move anymore. My job has settled down.” His beckoning eyes had reached for me to understand, but it was futile. this last sentence sounds like you are trying to sound like a writer, say it plainly, it’s more believable, or just cut the sentence

I plugged headphones into my ears, the melody flushing away the unwanted thoughts. While I was pulling books out of my locker, Stephanie crept up on me, “Hey Yoshi!” She squealed as she wrenched the iPod from my hands. I scowled and playfully punched her arm, pretending to hate the nickname she had invented for me.

“Practice was brutal today, huh?” She remarked as she rubbed her shoulder.

“Yeah, nothing new,” I replied. The pain and sweat was worth it however. Feeling as light and nimble as air while gliding through the peaceful water – alone with my thoughts… It was a delicious feeling. what does swimming have to do with the plot?

Stephanie linked her arm with mine, “Let’s go get some drinks. I forgot to bring juice.” She sauntered toward the exit, me scrambling behind. The usual. is getting drinks important to the plot?

The smell of freshly cut grass lingered in the air. I gazed at the crystal blue sky, feeling the cool air caress my face. Stephanie flung her arms out, as if she was trying to fly.

Some kids from school were at the cafe, watching us as we walked in. Stephanie chatted with them while I ordered our sodas, fumbling for change. I felt their stares pierce into my back as a blush swept across my cheeks. Stephanie and I are a weird combination. again, I’m still waiting to see what this story is all about

We slid into the booth and gulped the cool drinks down our parched throats. Only then did I notice the faint smile playing on Stephanie’s lips.

“Guess whaaaaaat?” She sang, wiggling her eyebrows.

I rolled my eyes. “What is it now?” I asked, fending off a laugh.

Stephanie suddenly looked nervous. She bit her lip and took a deep breath, “So um… I’m going to the cottage for spring break… and my parents said I could bring a frie – can you come?” She finished quickly, gripping my arm. could get to this part more quickly, I feel a connection with the intro now

At that moment, I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. A grin stretched across my face and I giggled. My heart was racing as I leaned in close. cut this paragraph, use dialogue, showing is better than telling

“Definitely,” I answered after a pause. Stephanie shrieked and threw her arms around me. this conversation could be much bigger and be used to reveal a great deal about the main character’s self-imposed isolation

I was giddy with excitement on the day of the trip, rechecking my bags and glancing at the clock every few minutes. Just as I was about to step out of where? setting is muddy here, a shiver ran down my spine. My body felt like glass being broken into a million pieces, the jagged shards protruding my flesh. Snippets of memories with forgotten friends flashed before my eyes, blinding me. The sobs rising in my chest as I had gasped for air so vivid, like it was just yesterday that I was torn away from everyone I knew. this scene needs more attention and could be twice as long as it is now

With shaking hands, I dialed Stephanie’s number. When her voice came through, I whispered, “I can’t go.”

“What’s wrong Yoshimi? Are you ok?!” Stephanie cried.

“I-I’m sorry…” My voice faltered while I choked on the words that stayed lodged in my throat. Tears stained my shirt as they rolled down my cheeks, leaving a trail of dried salt and pain. I slammed the phone down.

Using my nails I slowly picked and scratched at the scabs in my fingertips, tearing off strips of skin. I savored the pain as I watched the blood oozing out. Old habits are hard to let go I guess.

My attention was suddenly snapped away by the shrill of the phone, but I closed my eyes and laid my head against the pillow… sleep cradling me in its arms… this series of actions is vague, too vague, don’t make me work so had to get into the character’s head

I blinked and the church reappeared as I unclenched my fists, my shirt drenched with sweat. The past lonesome years blazed in my memory–a phone covered in dust why dust? not clear and the angry red welts trailing down my hands this is good.  I had built a wall around myself, afraid to let others in.

Fresh tears streamed down my face, tasting of regret.  Now I realise it’s too late to even try–what good would it really do? I have been wandering aimlessly through life, hovering outside the bubble in which everyone else lived. Now I realise I made a mistake…
A mistake beyond repair. this ending needs a rewrite and needs to bring me to a deeper connection with the title, I don’t feel that this character made a hopeless mistake unless her decision not to go on the trip led directly to the death of her friend on that trip


Overall, this is a good lump of clay, but it is not yet ready for publication. There is a lot of superfluous description that could be cut and more dialogue and action that could be added. I would trim it down and then do another pass through to further develop the plot and characters by adding to the key scenes.

Tip: Don’t describe things in detail unless they are important to the story problem. If they are not important, like the fact that the character swims, then just mention them and move on.

Thank you so much for the feed back! I’m certainly glad I decided to submit this for editing… it was my first story and I had a feeling it could use a LOT of work. The issue was that I wasn’t aware of what to look for when editing. Thank you once again. – The Author of “A Hopeless Mistake”


Laura Michelle Thomas

About Laura Michelle Thomas

Laura Michelle Thomas is a novelist, freelance writer, writing mentor, and the owner of Laura Thomas Communications. She is the creator and administrator of the Junior Authors Contests and Junior Authors Conferences. Laura is publisher and senior editor of jaBlog! and is dedicated to fostering the development of young writers worldwide.

24 comments on “Sample Short Story with Feedback #1

  1. I am a short story fiction writer in Urdu Language. Can I submit my short story for your review and perusal after translating it into English language ?

    • Hi Syed. I am not currently accepting short stories for this blog feature. This was a few years ago and is no longer being offered.

  2. Hi! If I don’t win in the junior authors contest, can I submit my story to get feedback from you instead?

    • Hi Fay. You can submit it to the blog for consideration after the 2013 contest is completely finished on October 19.

      • Pavan

        Does that mean after the winners are announced or after the deadline for entries?

        • Hi Pavan. Sorry. I can see that my response was not clear. If you would like to submit your contest story for the Wordsmith Blog, you will have to wait until after the winners are announced in October. I should also say that I do not accept every story that is submitted for the blog. I get too many to publish, so I choose the ones that are the right length and that I feel will be good examples for other writers.

          • Pavan

            Okay, thank you :)

  3. Claire

    Hi Laura,
    I think that the feedback that you wrote on this story is wonderful. I would like to know if the $10 that we are allowed to pay (to receive feedback on our story) would offer similar feedback to the comments displayed in orange. Are the comments on this story (A Hopeless Mistake) similar to the ones where we pay you to comment? Or are they more elaborate/less elaborate?

    • Hi Claire. The $10 feedback option focuses on the score the judges give the story, broken down into it’s component marks as well as some notes from me on how to improve. So, it’s a bit different but should be equally helpful.

  4. Brigid Mueller

    So, I’m confused, are you a judge for the contest? Because if you are, I want my story to be a surprise and you to see the finished copy, not the rough copy. Also, about how many stories do you get to. I just wanna know if I submit mine, what are the chances I can actually get your feedback?

    • Hi Brigid. If you send in a story for feedback on my blog like this one, you will not be allowed to enter that story in the Junior Authors Contest this year.

  5. Barbara


    If I wanted to send you a copy of my short story to get some feedback from you, how would I do so?

    • Hi Barbara. Please email it to me as an attachment with a note saying that you would like to submit it as a sample short story for my blog.

  6. Lindsay

    Hi Laura,

    I’m not entirely sure I understand this right, so I just wanted to clarify…

    So I could send in a piece of writing no longer than 2000 words (and it can’t be the piece I’m planning to enter in your contest) and you would edit it as you have above for free providing that I give permission for my story and the annotations to be published on your blog/website. Is this correct? Or do you have to pay for this service?


    • Hi Lindsay. You seem to understand it perfectly. There is no charge. You own your story so you can work on it and submit it somewhere. If you do submit for feedback and posting on my blog it may be a month before yours is done because I have several people ahead of you.

      • Lindsay

        Hi Laura,

        Oh, good. I just thought I’d check to see if I had it right. :)

        It will probably be a while before I sumbit anything for feedback anyway, if I even get around to it. I have a few ideas for short stories floating around, but I promised myself I wouldn’t start them until I finished the first draft of Hunted (the novel I’m working on). The only exception I allow for this is if I’m writing it for a competition. I get scared that if I start too many new things, I’ll get so caught up with them that I’ll forget about Hunted, and then the people following the story on Wattpad will be disappointed. Plus, I’d be disappointed in myself since I really want to finish it, mainly because I’m excited to write the sequel that I had in mind.

        Just another quick question. Would you give feedback on first chapters, or maybe extracts of chapters if they’re too long?


        • Hi Lindsay.

          I never give feedback on unfinished first drafts. It is not possible to accurately evaluate any part of a story until the last scene is written. Any evaluations of an unfinished draft will slow you down and harm your creativity.

          Keep writing,

  7. Kaity Lampman

    Are you only reading stories for feedback if they are under 1,000 words? If so do you know of anyone else willing to read a longer one?

    • Hi Kaity. I can do longer stories too, but no more than 2,000 words.

  8. Do we have to pay for this?

  9. Emily

    Can I send one that I am not submitting into the contest, one that I just wrote for fun and want feedback on?

    • Hi Emily. Yes, you can. Absolutely.

      • Abbey

        Can you give us feedback, we change it, then submit it? Is it you don’t submit it then you are not submitting it, or is it you can tell us where to make changes, then we submit it? I bet this sounds confusing but my stories aren’t at all confusing

        • Hi Abbey. If I give you feedback on your story, you cannot submit it for the contest this year.

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