Forums Writing Writing Labs Writing Lab for the Week, May 15th // Open Until Friday, March 17th, 2:00PM EST

Writing Lab for the Week, May 15th // Open Until Friday, March 17th, 2:00PM EST

Welcome to the Writing Labs

Hello there. I’ll be offering feedback again this week. Looking forward to reading your work.

IMPORTANT: The lab is not meant for first drafts of assignments. Due to recent curriculum changes, we will be accepting original drafts of your coursework here in the writing labs while they remain in their current form. However, please pay special attention to the assignment parameters. If the assignment has a word limit, stay within that word limit. Disregarding assignment parameters may disqualify your work from critique.
What you submit here should be your best work. In other words, please do not dash something off quickly in order to meet the lab deadline. We do our best in here to give comprehensive feedback and hope you will respect this by meeting our best effort with your own.
Assignment One, Assignment Six, and Assignment Twelve are not eligible for critique here unless they have already been critiqued by faculty and revised.
+ Reply to this thread before the deadline. Posting your own thread might cause you to miss the deadline, so check and make sure you’ve posted a reply to this thread — not a new thread.
+ You must have already completed and gotten feedback on your first assignment before being eligible to post to the lab. You may post revisions of assignments or any other work you would like critiqued.
+ Please post questions about your work with the link to the work or the work itself.
+ Please proofread your work and keep typos to a minimum so we can focus on issues like narrative and character instead of it’s and its.
+ Please limit yourself to one piece of work for review. Your piece doesn’t need to be a course assignment. It can be anything travel writing related you’d like feedback on. However, if it is an assignment or assignment revision, please be sure to let us know for which chapter you wrote it.
+ Please note that revisions from this lab will have to wait for critique until next week’s lab. We can’t review your piece twice in the same lab, in other words.
You have until 2:00PM EST on Friday, May 17th to post your work.
If you don’t know what time that is, it’s this time here. 

View Profile 2013-05-15 13:19:50 PDT

Hi Noah, please review my article posted here:

I appreciate your advice, I’m trying to improve my narrative writing.



View Profile 2013-05-15 19:54:15 PDT

Hi Noah,

How are you doing?  I’m wondering if you could take a look at a piece I wrote for my blog:

I guess the questions I have for you are:

Does the use of the second person work here, or is it confusing?

How does the piece flow?

For someone that did not participate in this campaign, are the explanations I gave for each step logical and easy to understand?

Any other thoughts / tips on how to improve the piece?


This isn’t for an assignment, but I would just like your feedback on it so I can improve.  Thanks so much, Noah, and have a good weekend! 🙂

View Profile 2013-05-15 21:30:06 PDT

Hi Noah,

Kindly read my blog entitled “Ear. Sleep. Shop. And Have Fun!

Most of my travels were with groups and time constraints. I write my experiences and post in on my blog. Please provide constructive criticisms on how I will improve my style of writing that will sound more like a travel writing that a blog.  How could I possibly write more effectively if travel is time constraint. Is it alright to always write in the first person about my travel experiences? I need tips on this.

Thank you very much.





View Profile 2013-05-16 00:49:51 PDT

Hello again Noah! Below is a link to my Chapter 4 Assignment. I’d appreciate any feedback. Thanks 🙂


View Profile 2013-05-16 09:06:32 PDT

Hello Noah,

I would be greateful if you could offer any feedback on my recent journal entry titled ‘Welcome Back (continued)’ that you can find at

I’m particulary interested in what you think of the style and how it stacks up against what is taught here at Matador and what improvements would you suggest.

Thank you


View Profile 2013-05-16 14:20:29 PDT

This writing lab is now closed.

View Profile 2013-05-17 12:45:49 PDT

Hey Heather,
I’m glad you’ve set you’ve set a specific goal to improving your narrative. This is a craft that takes a lot of critical reading and writing. I might suggest Philip Lopate’s: “to Show and to Tell.” I’ve also notice that this piece tops out at over 1000 words. I’d recommend trying to craft more manageable stories, say, 700-750 words. There are certain things that a 1000 word story should do. Having said that there are things a 700 word story can’t do.
Here: “After I made my decision, it was time for Latifa to work her cooking class magic. She handed me a black apron and lead me back to the kitchen; …” What does “cooking class magic” mean, exactly? It’s ambiguous, and doesn’t add to the story. Let’s look at it without.
“After I made my decision, she handed me a black apron and lead me back to the kitchen; “ These are still your words, but there is a sense that the story is moving along now.
Good narrative is showing and telling, but knowing when to tell is important. Here: “Inexperienced when it came to gas stoves, I was impressed when Latifa lit it easily.” The first part is fine. You don’t use gas. But how did she light it? With a match? Behind the back?
I like your economy of words here, and the forward flow of the story “Next, she placed a cutting board on the counter and took out a vegetable peeler, chopping knife, squash, and zucchini.” but do be sure your words make sense, like here: “…smiling silently.” However, this was very good: “…a big vegetable cigar.”
You do a good job of keeping the story on track and showing the reader how the action is happening, and what’s going on inside the narrator’s head. As you write more and more, you’ll know when to cut passages, like the opening, that don’t add anything to the real story.  Here’s the first line: “I knocked twice firmly on the heavy wooden door of the Earth Café, a vegetarian restaurant in a narrow, dull red alley in Marrakech.” Start in the scene, right away, and keep writing in scenes. Good work.

View Profile 2013-05-22 03:19:58 PDT

Hey Chris,
Does the use of the second person work here, or is it confusing?
It’s confusing, because you start out in first person. “Last summer, I participated in a campaign competition run by…” And then it switches to second person. In a tutorial piece, you generally don’t want to bog it down with the narrator’s poorly veiled experience: “However, before you can give yourselves a congratulatory pat on the back, you will discover that two other teams have similar names and that you are not as original or as awesome as you had thought.” This needs to be a narrative piece, or a “How to…” piece, where you’re giving people advice, straight up, based on your experience. I did this specific thing …and here’s how you can do the same…or avoid my mistake… or whatever. As it stands now, people will be coming to this article for advice on how to start a human rights campaign, not to read a narrative. Your experiences are valuable, but only to the extent that the reader can gleam knowledge and insight from them. This isn’t pleasure reading for them.
How does the piece flow?
The piece actually flows rather nicely. The order is logical, and flows in a step by step manner.
For someone that did not participate in this campaign, are the explanations I gave for each step logical and easy to understand?
I’d like to see you write to the reader, rather than yourself, if you are going the “How to” article route. Here: “You should make a huge effort to sufficiently stroke their egos, even if …” We know that each time  it says “you” you really mean “I” and the reader is not going to find this helpful. You might like the website Thought Catalog. Your writing style reminds me of the type of stories they publish.
Hope this helps,

View Profile 2013-05-22 03:20:30 PDT

Hey Avih,

I’m here to help. First, you wanted to know how to improve your style of writing so that it will sound more like travel writing and less like a blog.

A blog can include any type of writing. For example, when I started blogging, I thought I had to sound more like travel writing, too. I put a lot of time in trying to ‘sound good’ and put out few blog posts because I thought they weren’t ‘good enough’. The thing you’ll find though, is that the more you write, the better you get. But you have to read and write a lot to be a good travel writer, or blogger for that matter. Read authors and travel writers that you like. Who do you want to write like? Be specific. Now, go get your favorite book. Do this now. I’ll wait…
Okay, now sit down to your computer and open the book. Start typing the book word for word, as if the words were your own. Get a feel for the words, the sentence structure of this author. Get to know the text, inside and out. Try to get inside the authors head. This is an exercise I’ve done.  When you write your own stories, a funny thing…you’ll start to think “what would (insert writer’s name here) write about this? The answer will come.

How could I possibly write more effectively if travel is time constraint.

Always keep a notebook on you. Always. Record your voice if you can’t write fast. Take pictures, videos. Write the story in your head as it’s happening. Live inside your own personal travel story, even if you are at home.

Is it alright to always write in the first person about my travel experiences?

Yes, for sure.


View Profile 2013-05-22 03:21:14 PDT

Hey Teran,

This looks like a first draft of an assignment, so I won’t critique it here, in the forum. Please look for my feedback in CH 4 where you posted the assignment.

View Profile 2013-05-22 03:22:15 PDT


Thanks for submitting this entry. I’ll answer your questions in just a moment, but first I want to clear up my questions going into this.

Is this a journal? As in, “I’m keeping a journal to record my experiences, as they happened, as a document that I can one day look back on…etc.” or is this something you want to one day publish? I’m not sure of what you want to do with this? This might be something you want to clarify in future labs so I can better serve you.

“I’m particularly interested in what you think of the style…”

The style is male-centered, utilitarian writing in that you tell us where you are going, describe the struggles/conflicts insofar as they affect you/your travel plans.

You show us how things work (in a particular place, with particular people) and how work within these systems to overcome these struggles and reach your destination. There is minimal self-reflection, so the reader doesn’t know how, or if, overcoming the struggles changed you as a person/traveler.

You do a good job of switching up sentence structures, short choppy sentences followed by longer ones that explain: “Everyone knew the drill. This situation isn’t foreign to Bolivians. They all knew to get off the bus whilst the driver performed the tricky manoeuvre.”

In many sentences, the reader get the feeling that you probably speak very much like you talk: “But it was still fuckin’ ages before we got going.” This is a good thing, but do remember that in stories where time is an important element, we shouldn’t be taken out of the story by thinking How long, exactly, is ‘fuckin’ ages’?

“…and how it stacks up against what is taught here at Matador…”

To be honest, I don’t stack up one thing against the other–you got good things going in your writing, and you got places that need work. In that regard, welcome to the club. You seem like a rugged, smart, self-motivated guy, Space. I’d recommend reading books on the craft of writing, to name one, Philip Lopate’s To Show and to Tell.

“… and what improvements would you suggest.”

The premature ejaculation joke in your opening paragraph fell flat for me. This was not a matter of style, or me being a prude: The opening paragraph itself is confusing. What if you started here: “So after a nice casual day in Sucre, come the evening, it was time to get my things and go to the bus terminal.”

I’d suggest thinking about self-reflection. What is this story about? Perserverence? What personal connections did you make with place? For example: Did you recognize the struggle of the striking miner’s as a metaphor for your own struggle to make it to Cochabamba? I’m not saying you have to pull out your heart, but the reader should come away identifying with you, even if they’ve they’ve never been there. In other words, what’s the universal thread in your personal experience?

View Profile 2013-05-22 03:23:08 PDT

Hey Noah,

I hope you get to read this. I don’t know where else to reply.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read my story and to give some feedback.

In answer to your question, I wrote this piece just to document the experience and to have as a record to one day look back on. But I have written a book based on ten years of my life written in much the same style as this piece which I one day may look at publishing. So I was curious to get some feedback regarding my writing.

I would agree that my writing is male-centred. I usually write about action with very little to no emotion or colour. I’ll take on board what you suggested regarding self’reflection.

I’m guessing you meant to say, ‘you probably write very much like you talk:’.

Thanks again for the pointers and suggestions and, too, for the book recommendation – To Show and to Tell.



View Profile 2013-05-23 11:36:22 PDT

Hi Noah,

Thank you very much for  your review, you obviously put a lot of time and thought into it! I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the labs to improve. 🙂


View Profile 2013-05-23 11:47:47 PDT

Hi Noah,

Thanks for your help with my piece. Yeah, I kind of knew that the switch to second-person was confusing, but I still really preferred it to the first-person, so I just left it as it was. But it’s good to hear from someone else whether it works or not. I guess I was trying to make it a mock tutorial, where obviously upon reading it, someone would realize that it was actually a list of my own experience of failure rather than a real tutorial. But I see what you mean about it not really accomplishing what either a narrative or a tutorial should accomplish.

Anyways, thanks again for your thoughtful review. I will come back again with something else soon. Oh, and I do read articles on the Thought Catalog from time to time, although I find their stuff a little too random sometimes. Maybe that’s influenced my writing style a bit, though?


View Profile 2013-05-28 08:36:08 PDT