Monday, March 20, 2017

Critiquing Opportunity! - Abigayle Claire

A number of the authors have volunteered to critique YOUR writing. This post is Abigayle Claire's.

How this works -

You comment below with up to 500 words of your writing.
Sometime today, Monday, Abigayle will come by and give you feedback.

Sound awesome? Awesome!

Abigayle Claire


  1. Raven didn’t want to go outside for the next two days – but that would cause almost as much suspicion as going out in the first place. Only in the hopes that fresh air could clear her pounding mind, she opened the door and crept outside.
    And the minute she had, she wished she hadn’t.
    Five assassins had assembled in the Square.
    They were all dressed in the color of night from head to foot, and guns were strapped to shoulders, thighs, arms, legs –
    Raven’s blood froze in her veins.
    No no no no no.
    They couldn’t know it was her. They couldn’t know it was Elyse. They couldn’t.
    But the longer she stared at the lithe forms dressed in guns that glittered with death, she started to wonder if maybe they did.
    One of the assassins slid a silver gun from its holster, and an icy blue gaze blazed through the only gap in his black attire – a strip across his eyes.
    “Who set off the alarm last night?”
    He barely raised his voice, and yet it reached everyone’s ears. Everyone in the Square had on gone silent as the dead.
    Raven couldn’t move. The whole town seemed frozen with shock and fear under the heavy gaze of Snow’s assassins.
    The icy eyed one raised his gun in one fluid movement. “I’ll ask again.” His voice was low. “Who set off the alarm last night?
    No one spoke. The only sound was the rustle of black fabric as the assassin turned in a slow circle, pointing his weapon from one person to the next.
    Suddenly he swung the gun upward, and a bullet blasted into the air. Someone screamed.
    Two shots.
    Three shots.
    Raven’s heart sped up tenfold as five bullets flew up into the air.
    Where was Elyse?
    The gunshots brought people running – and they joined the throng of frozen spectators when they spotted the assassins. But, Raven thought, who else should they have expected?
    The assassin snapped his cold gaze from one person to the next. “Don’t underestimate us,” he snapped. “We will find out who has done this. And woe betide you all if we have to do it by force.”
    And then they were gone, like shadows disappearing into the mist. Quicker than a blink and silent as death.

    1. Well, there's my contribution ;). Can't wait to have it critiqued!

      ~ Savannah

    2. Oh, I love this, Savannah!

      Overall: It's really riveting, easy to picture, and beautifully told. Also *cough* Snow?? Is this Killing Snow ?!!

      Content: You don't introduce too much information, but just enough! I think your first paragraph could use a little bit of work to flow better and be more clear. I'm wondering why only two days? My changes would result in something along the lines of:

      "Raven didn’t want to go outside ever again--but that would cause more suspicion than going out in the first place. Only because she hoped the fresh air would clear her pounding mind, she opened the door and crept outside."

      Not perfect, but do you see the changes?

      Grammar: There are a couple of words I would change, not because they're wrong, but just out of preference. "Glittered" to "glistened" for instance. The only typo I found was "Everyone in the square had ON gone as silent as death."

      Punctuation: Terrific! The only thing I might change is em-dash after "shoulders, thighs, arms, legs" to an ellipsis (...)

      This is really well done! I want the rest *nudge* ;)

    3. Thank you, Abigayle! Your notes were awesome, I'm excited to get to work applying your suggestions ;). (*whispers* and yes, this is Killing Snow - and you'll probably get the rest in October! :D)

      Thanks again for critiquing this! I had fun reading your thoughts on it ;).

      ~ Savannah

  2. What an opportunity! Can't wait to get an opinion. z

    August 5, 1868

    Someone watched me. I struggled, fighting the strong urge to run. Closing the cash register, I looked up from the counter. My gaze accidentally glanced off the stare of a swarthy stranger and my stomach lurched. Husky and broad-shouldered, the man lingered on the boardwalk. The big front window of the diner where I worked framed him in a border of red and white gingham. He had to be one of Marcus Guilby’s hired guns. But if that were true, he wouldn’t have given me time to escape.
    Caught staring, I fought the impulse to move, even to look away. The bright blue of his eyes cut through the glass pane and into the core of my being. I stayed in Atoka to avoid trouble. But trouble had surely come and in the form of menacing blue eyes. Apprehension settled in my gut. This trouble was marked for me and I feared I wouldn’t be able to avoid it. The scrutiny of the man outside the window encouraged my decision. A ticket on the early morning stage would see me say goodbye to this little town.
    As if invited, the cowboy entered the café and walked straight toward me. Silver spurs jingling on the backs of his hand-tooled cowman’s boots disturbed me. Chills rippled up and down my spine, my feet froze. The sound jarred a memory, the eerie similarity of spurs crossing another room in a different time.
    I watched him approach—the sight of his face startling. Burn scars rippled like miniature sand dunes from beneath his sleek black hair. They sifted down his nose and back across his cheek. The intense color of his eyes drew my focus away from the scars. I believe he started the world as a handsome man.
    Oblivious of the crowd, he said, “Excuse me, ma’am. The name is Noble Adams.” His voice as sleek and glossy as a raven’s feathers when he spoke. “I represent the Anchor Ranch down Texas way. I have a lucrative business opportunity I’d like to discuss with you. Two o’clock in the sun room of the Carlson Hotel.”
    Offering no chance for a response, he turned on his heel and left. The crowd opened allowing him to pass unhindered. For a large man, Noble Adams moved with the ease and freedom of a big cat. Confused by his offer, I wondered how to react, but in that moment of hesitation, I’d done nothing and he was gone.
    Noble Adams. I recognized the name; others would too. In addition to being one of the largest cattle barons in Texas, he was one of the most notorious shootists of the times. That he still lived proved him quick on the draw and true to his aim. Often compared to Wild Bill Hickok or Luke Short, Adams came with quite a reputation. The Colt 45 tied to his leg reminded everyone that he looked to his gun as an easy answer.

    1. OVERALL: This is very intriguing! I like the heading, because it saves you from having to explain the setting as much. Your description is also very good and adds to the story instead of drawing the reader out of it!

      CONTENT: The entire piece is naturally informative, but perhaps see if you can do more “showing.” Show vs tell is a hot writing topic right now. To avoid sounding like you’re intentionally giving the reader a lot of information, weave it in more gradually instead of devoting a paragraph to it :)

      I assumed Noble Adams was Indian from the beginning given his initial description. Giving him blue eyes and calling him a cowboy made me second-guess myself until I reached his black hair and name, so perhaps make that a bit clearer :)

      Your first and last sentences are perfection, so don’t change those! :D

      GRAMMAR: You do a nice job alternating your sentence openers, which helps with flow. I tend to overuse the subject-verb opener, so this could totally just be me, but I think you could use the adverbial phrase opener less. Because it’s more unique but used so much in some of your paragraphs it almost takes away from its power, if that makes sense? I like your paragraphs on the spurs and Noble’s scars best, which testify to that. Varying your sentence length a little more might benefit you as well. But someone who isn’t such a technical reader probably won’t mind at all ;)

      The only typo I noticed with two read throughs was: “His voice AS sleek and glossy as a raven’s feathers when he spoke.” Since it’s an incomplete sentence, I think that first as is supposed to be “was.”

      PUNCTUATION: You do very well with this. My only suggestion is to watch out for potential comma splices (where a comma is not sufficient punctuation and gives almost a run-on feel). The ones I found were here: “Chills rippled up and down my spine, my feet froze. The sound jarred a memory, the eerie similarity of spurs crossing another room in a different time.” While you could replace both commas with virtually any other punctuation, I would suggest making the first sentences into two. For the second sentence, I would probably use an em-dash ( — ).

      I hope that was helpful! You’ve got some great things going for you here. Let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to clarify :)

      Also, do I get any hint about why the POV girl is so jumpy? I want to know her past ;D

  3. I have no choice in anything.
    The royal guards dragged me from my home, back in Aucum, clamped iron chains around my wrists. Two nights imprisoned in a carriage, always moving. Without any explanation, the two young men threw me into massive chambers.
    A somewhat rough maid bathed me, shaved me, and decked me up into the latest fashion of the palace. This is insane, this high, shaved forehead, this hiding my hair inside a dark snood.
    Even the dress—though the color black is familiar—is odd, with wide, loose sleeves drawn together at the wrist.
    “Go, milady. The lords await.” Giselle, the ladies’ maid, nudges me toward the door. “One must not keep them waiting.”
    I slip through the wide wood door, pausing as she slams it closed behind me.
    How odd this all feels. I pause on the other side of the bedroom door. Six guards in royal blue uniforms, embroidered with a serpent, Delmar’s crest, stand around me. Their grim eyes stare at their feet.
    Orson, the one who abducted me, who demanded his friend chain me, stands at attention. His eyes are glued to the ground. “Shall I lead to the council chambers, Your Highness?”
    “Please,” I sigh. I am utterly lost in the palace, to no surprise. Lifting my silky new skirt, I follow Orson down the steep stairs into the courtyard. We stride rapidly through dark hallways, down another flight of stairs, and into the courtyard. Great masses of men practice, bare-chested, swords in their hands. Their curious glances trail after me, boring into my head even after I turn my back.
    We cross into the second courtyard just as another group of people enters from the other side. Papa, also surrounded by a great number of guards, is dressed in the royal blue, an unusual color for him.
    "Papa!" I cry, forgetting those surrounding us, and dart directly to his arms.
    He spins to face me and holds out his arms, a smile on his face. The guards form a firm line between us, cutting us off. Papa reaches through the line of human bodies and cups his hand to my face. "You are so lovely, Marie. I am proud of you."
    "What is happening to us?" The staccato beat of fear in my heart leaps up into my face as I stare beyond his shaven chin into his eyes. He, too, is garbed in palace fashion. Even his blue doublet is embroidered in golden serpents, slithering across his shoulders and down the arms of his shirt. Serpents. Royal serpents.
    This must be a good omen, our being dressed in the royal crest. The lords would not dress us in the royal crest to hang us, would they? "Papa, are we in trouble?"
    His smile reassures me. "Do not worry, Marie. The truth will set us free."

    1. OVERALL: Ah, this has me super curious! I can sense their anxiety o.o The lack of contractions is interesting and it still flows pretty well :)

      CONTENT: I think you could make a few things a little clearer (and maybe you do later on in the story). First, I don’t really understand how they shaved the princess’s hair if she still has hair :P I would also like to know what the shirtless guys were practicing. It makes sense if the princess doesn’t know, but give your readers a hint, maybe?

      You also mention that her father is in royal blue the first time he appears, but then make a bigger deal of his royal attire as if it’s new information once Marie gets close to him. It’s fine like that, but I didn’t expect Marie to emphasize it so much since I had already processed it as a trivial detail.

      One other thing that struck me odd: “as I stare beyond his shaven chin into his eyes.” I understand what you’re trying to say, and I like the detail. Maybe say that she had to move her eyes from one to the other? Otherwise it makes me think the two are much closer to each other than they really are hehe :P They aren’t as closely linked in my mind as that bit of the sentence makes it sound to me.

      I like that the ending sentence is almost eerie. I wouldn’t feel reassured about avoiding execution with that sentence o.o

      GRAMMAR: I don’t think there are errors here. I might suggest varying your sentence length a little more? It felt like sometimes you were trying too hard to make sure I got the idea. Give your readers some credit every once in a while ;) For example, the sentence “This must be a good omen, our being dressed in the royal crest.” doesn’t need anything after that comma, I don’t think.

      The only error I found was two spaces between “wood” and “door” ;)

      PUNCTUATION: No issues here that I noticed! I would suggest setting off the phrase “Delmar’s crest” with em-dashes. That way it has more emphasis than commas provide :) You might consider doing this where you introduce Orson as well.

      Great job!

    2. My pleasure! I hope it was helpful :)

  4. Here is a piece of the middle of my book. It's a little over 500 words but I went that far to give it a fairly reasonable ending place.

    Lorena broke the conversation between Guiscard and Luke by bringing in wooden cups of hot tea. The maiden silently laid one of the cups in front of Gavin and then her brother, before stealing over to the door to hand Guiscard his.
    Gavin took a small sip, allowing the herbal taste to swish around in his mouth. Slowly an image began to fill his vision. He blinked, swallowed the tea, blinking again. Guiscard and Luke’s voices slowly started to drift away before disappearing altogether.
    A scene or a moving picture flashed through the fog in his mind. Then it began to take shape, rising through the haze until he felt himself being transported into it.
    Gavin closed his eyes and opened them but nothing changed. Lorena and Luke’s house was gone.
    He tried to focus, tried to see the foggy image better and quickly realized that the picture wasn’t really a picture at all but reality. He could feel a powerful evil circling around him—drawing near.
    He took a step and found that he walked in a grassy field. The air around him remained neutral—neither hot nor cold. Stars glittered overhead and a mist rose over the land.
    Sounds of metal against metal echoed in the stale air. Gavin looked around and gasped. Nick and Noll were in a fight with some men and the brothers were losing. Two cloaked figures lay on the ground but two more spear wielding men continued to battle. Gavin tried to take another step forwards but his feet refused to move as if weighted down in a sticky bog. His hands remained useless at his side.
    Nick and one of the men edged closer until Gavin could reach out and touch Nick’s brown shirt. Sweat glistened on the guardian’s forehead. Nick moved away from the spear of his opponent and it came crashing towards Gavin. Gavin tried to doge the weapon but it sliced through his arm, the steel biting bone.
    Gavin screamed, grabbing his arm. Blood dripped down in a fast river, soaking his sleeve. He bent down, rocking back and forth, his breath stuck in his throat.
    The two brothers were fighting a losing battle, struggling with a terrible enemy. He shut his eyes, trying to block out the terrible images—trying to wake up from this hideous dream and the hammering pain. But they remained, haunting him. The pain throbbed like a beating drum. His stomach threatened to spew all its contents.
    The agony fought for his mind, tormenting. He couldn’t do a thing and found himself captive to the hallucination of the dream. He closed his eyes, biting his lip until it bled.
    Warmth suddenly stole through him, the throbbing ceased, and he gasped. He opened his eyes and found that he once again sat in the house of Luke and Lorena. No one noticed that Gavin had been in some sort of trance. His gaze shot to his arm. Healed.
    The field, Nick and Noll—everything was gone.
    “It’s time for you to tell us what you know,” Guiscard was saying to Lorena and her brother. Gavin opened his mouth to say something, glancing around. No time had gone by and no dream had ever felt so real.

    1. OVERALL: It’s totally fine that it was over 500 words. This was really riveting, especially since I’m not given any explanation! I felt surprisingly attached to the characters and I love all their names! I was able to remember how they were all connected to one another throughout the sequence which is unusual for me. Nice job keeping them straight for your reader.

      CONTENT: I think that perhaps Gavin’s emotions about the alarming vision could be shown a little more. He seems to take it all in without much reaction (which can be a reaction in and of itself, but it will still be good to say so). At least until he’s stabbed—that paragraph finally conveys some feeling. But instead of just calling the dream horrible and frightening, show that through his character. :)

      GRAMMAR: I would cut the second use of “slowly” in the second paragraph.

      “Nick and Noll were in a fight with some men and the brothers were losing.” This sentence has a lot of passive voice in it and is pretty vague. I think you could use stronger words and active voice without much effort.

      This is totally a preference thing, but I would remove the ‘s’ from “forwards.” I find that any words ending in “ward” are easier to read without an ‘s’ on the end.

      PUNCTUATION: If it were me, I would put a comma after “Slowly” when the vision begins, but only if you want to be read that way. I tend to use a comma everywhere possible ;) I would also suggest hyphenating “spear wielding” so that it’s impossible for readers to mistake the words’ unity.

      Well done! I want to know more :D

    2. Thanks so much! I really, really appreciate you doing this!!!!

    3. Of course! I'm glad you found it helpful :D

  5. Thanks for all the submissions, everyone! I've loved reading all of your pieces. If any of you are interested in more in-depth work from me, you can find out more about my freelance editing services here:

    Keep up the great work!

  6. This is the prologue of a book I'm working on now. :)

    We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air. President Roosevelt has just announced that the attack was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu.

    The words shattered the after-church calm in the small town of Topeka, KS, and across the world.
    Beyond the oceans, the rest of the world waited with bated breath to hear what America's reaction would be in response to the treachery that had taken place that Sunday morning on the sunny island in the pacific, where over two-thousand men had been eternally silence by the attack of the Imperial Japanese Army.

    But that afternoon, as he entered the kitchen and heard the strains of the broadcast that stunned the world into silence, one man already knew what he had to do. The others in the room faded away, and he didn't even notice the icy breeze thrusting itself through the door he left open behind him.
    What had started out as a normal Sunday had determined the destiny of the rest of his life. His country needed him, and he would serve.

    The small cry of an infant startled him from his reverie, and he looked up to catch sight of the woman he loved quieting the son that lay in her arms.
    That attack on Pearl Harbor threatened to bring war home to those he cared about. And he would do everything in his power to make sure that never happened.

    But no one knew just what they were up against when America declared war on Japan. And it would be a bloody conflict, more ghastly than anyone could have ever foretold.

    1. Um this is AMAZING!! Sorry I'm so late getting to it.

      OVERALL: I love it! The way you begin it is perfect and I like that it's italicized. The entire piece feels riveting like I feel the baited-breath feeling they had. Really well done!

      CONTENT: Perfect! I honestly really like this the way it is. You did a good job with the omnipresent voice, I think. While it didn't stand out to me with a first read through, I might keep the last three sentences from all beginning with a conjunction.

      GRAMMAR: You used a good blend of strong words and (what I assume to be) correct terms. I might spell out Kansas instead of doing the postal code? But I don't know the grammatical rules on that :)

      PUNCTUATION: The only thing I noticed that I would change is hyphenating "two thousand." I don't think that's necessary to tell the two words go together as a modifier.

      Really great job, Jesseca. I'm really curious to learn more about this story ;) :D

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'm getting to it a little later than I wanted, but of course I'll critique it for you! :D

      OVERALL: I like the tone of this whole piece. I can see everything and like the details that you give. It peaks my imagination and curiosity without dumping information.

      CONTENT: Good description! Watch your punctuation surrounding dialogue and your use of passive voice. There were several places in the first paragraph where I think you could have cut the use of "was/were" without any structural changes to the sentence :)

      GRAMMAR: Your grammar is really good! Nothing struck me as choppy or too long. You seemed to have a nice variety of sentence structure, length, and openers. There were several sentences in a row that began with "her" at the beginning, so I might reverse the last one about her fingers strumming to something along the lines of "Metal coverings (<-- more detail about those maybe??) graced her fingers, and she strummed ..." You get the idea ;)

      A grammatical "error" I found was a comma splice in the last sentence of the next-to-last paragraph about the guards. I think the comma should be replaced with a semicolon since it is not strong enough to join two independent clauses :)

      The only other error I recall is a bit of a glitch in your final sentence.

      PUNCTUATION: Like I mentioned before, watch this around your dialogue. If you intend what adds detail to the dialogue to be part of the same sentence, a period should wait: "dialogue," he said. Sometimes it's a matter of opinion as to what should be a separate sentence. "The man blanched" for example, I would follow with a period instead of a comma. Reassess all of your dialogue and see if you can catch some comma vs period and capitalization errors there :) Your last paragraph is an excellent demonstration that you know what you're doing when you focus on it! :D

      I would also hyphenate "middle aged" just for clarity ;)

      You did a really great job introducing what appears to be an imaginative story. Definitely an intriguing beginning that has me eager to read the rest of the book. Great job! :)


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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