My Mash Stories Experience

Well, I didn’t win.  Nor did I really expect to since there were some fantastic stories shortlisted alongside mine.  A particular favourite was Waves by Angela Petch.  But there were some peculiarities about my experience that I wanted to share.

Mash Stories runs a quarterly writing competition, challenging writers to compose a 500-word story based on three given prompts.  They also offer feedback on all submissions.  Always looking to improve, I duly checked the box to request feedback and a couple of weeks later I received a response.

The feedback I received was from several different judges.  Some positive, some suggesting ways to improve the story.  Some I agreed with and some I didn’t.  All very normal.  Since a couple of comments were repeated by different readers, I took their advice, since it seemed a place where I just wasn’t making the story clear enough.

And that, I thought, was that.  There was no indication that I had passed into a round of further reading.  I thought my story had been rejected.  So I took the notes, rewrote, expanded, and (I think) improved my story, thinking I could even submit it elsewhere eventually.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email informing me that my story had been shortlisted and would be published on their website.  News that would have had me euphoric a couple of weeks earlier but now that I had completely fallen out of love with the old version and had what I felt was a much stronger version on my hands, my feelings were decidedly mixed.  I wrote and asked if they would consider the newer version instead, since the changes made had been based on their own suggestions, but they made the decision to publish the original one.

I’m not blaming Mash for doing that.  They had accepted one story and couldn’t accept an altered version sight unseen.  But I feel there were two problems here.  If their first communication with me, the one that contained their feedback, had given me some indication that it was not simply a long and detailed rejection, I would not have started rewriting right away.  And if they are offering feedback, perhaps they should also be prepared for their writers to want to act on it and resubmit their story.  Currently there doesn’t seem to be an avenue for that.

Now I have a better version of the story than the one archived on their site that I’m just not sure what to do with.  I like it too much to leave it in a drawer.  Maybe a future flash fiction entry on this blog?

I love Mash Stories. They’re a great little competition and even if you have no plans to submit to them, just their writing prompts can be a sweet boost for your writing.  I would definitely consider submitting to them again in the future.  Though I might think twice about checking that free feedback button.

6 thoughts on “My Mash Stories Experience

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Our policy is indeed that feedback should only be sent post-decision. In cases where stories have been accepted for the shortlist, we proof the stories and then upload them to the site, after any necessary author correspondence (checking typos, resolving word count etc) – and only then is the feedback sent. We took this decision a while back because we felt it would be unfair to offer accepted authors an opportunity to revise and improve their work, when some rejected authors, given the same opportunity, may well have turned into accepted authors. A blanket ‘no-revision’ rule was seen to be fairest.

    So why, you are no doubt wondering, did you receive feedback when you did? Unfortunately, you were a rare victim of human error. It’s that simple. With over 300 submissions, and three quarters of them requesting feedback, and only rudimentary filters, it was apparently unavoidable. It’s a real shame that you fell out of love with your original submission, and for that, and the way the process failed you, we apologise.

    We are currently working on improving the way our feedback is collated and sent, with a view to streamlining it both for our benefit as a team of volunteers and for the good of our Mash community. You are a welcome part of that community, and we once again are sorry that your shortlisting experience was not up to scratch this time around. But stick with us, keep Mashing, and watch us grow.

    All the best,
    the Mash Team

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  2. Interesting. I used to edit/rewrite immediately following feedback but now I don’t. I wait and see how the feedback sits with me and, on one occasion, it resulted in my getting two stories out of that single piece. So that would be my advice. Let it simmer on a back burner for a while.

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    1. Good advice, Sue. Usually my first (internal) response on receiving feedback is to reject it immediately because my story is precious and perfect and how dare they criticize it etc etc. Then when I re-read the story in light of the comments, I can see the justice of the feedback better, even if I don’t use it, and new ideas immediately start to percolate. Sometimes the most important thing (and the hardest!) is, as you say, simply to let it simmer for a little longer.

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