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Hi Alison,

Thanks for posting this. It certainly seems to have the makings of a very good story so I’d be interested to see how you get along with it. 

It might be worthwhile paying attention to several things. Firstly the tenses are still inconsistent which is quite jarring to a reader. Next, you quite often add extra words which add distance between the story and the reader, slowing the story down, for example. My nostrils filled with a piney scent from the forest yonder. Why not just The scent of pine wafted… Or My gaze returned to the night sky; why not just I gazed at…? (We already know it’s night) Or Puckles that’s what it said. Why not just Puckles it said?

May also be worthwhile simplifying things thus not huge luminescence suspended in the endless inky gloom but the moon hung in the night sky. Also maybe think of avoiding words which give it an old-fashioned feel, such as yonder, unless that’s your deliberate intent.

Also you are head hopping, for example when Jack gazed knowingly at me we seem to be understanding what Jack is thinking. Happens a few times.

it’s also quite important that children are left to work a few things out and not have every detail pointed out to them so for example when you said that she looked at the manuscript you added My eyes scanned, taking in every detail. Which is unnecessary as we already know she’s looking at it. Might be better to use a more powerful verb if you wanted to emphasise the point like examined it or inspected it. Likewise could you remove the sentence I raised my eyebrows before. ‘What you looking at, Jack?’ I moved in closer to take a look. Even remove 'in', just use closer and remove 'take a'. I think it’s important to make the document as tight as possible, losing literally every word you can to make it feel much pacier. Also avoid close repetitions like ‘look’: ‘What you looking at, Jack?’ I moved in closer to take a look. 

 Might be easier to show you my thoughts than waffle on:

His head bobbed up and down, as his one beady eye scanned its contents. I raised my eyebrows. ‘What you looking at, Jack?’ I moved in closer to take a look. Puckles that’s what it said. Underneath was a sketch of a small, round hairy man with a face like a rat and ears like a bat. My eyes scanned, taking in every detail.

 Tightens to:

His head bobbed up and down, as his one beady eye scanned its contents. 

‘What‘s up, Jack?’ I moved closer to look. Puckles it said. Underneath was a sketch of a small, hairy man with a rat-like face and bat’s ears.

 It’s probably also worthwhile losing the details about Priss. Do we really need to know this information here? She doesn’t feature for the rest of the piece so by the time we do get to meet her we’ve probably forgotten all that’s been said, so it’s probably better to lose it. If we do need to know something about her character so early on, it could maybe be done with a couple of swift brushstrokes giving us a sketch rather than an oil painting; short-skirted, blog addict might tell us as much.

It’s nice to have pretty prose and expand ideas but as that age group has such a short attention span, I think that as a writer we have to pander to that.

Hope that’s helpful

Good luck with the story.


  • Thank you, Alison. You have been very helpful. I’ve taken on board all your points and will take another look. I definitely need to tighten my prose as my overall word count is too high. 

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    • I didn't have time to write a comment as the piece you sent was quite long, but I agree with Alison wholeheartedly.  Everything she says is 100% spot on. I know, from experience, that when we write we want to use poetic words to describe what we feel, but too much of a good thing is like too much chocolate sauce on the icecream.  It ends up by spoiling the taste. 

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      • Thanks for your input.

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      •  Agreed.

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        • Thank you.

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        • Hi Alison N,

          I enjoyed reading your first chapter. I'm interested to see what happens next! 

          I had trouble visualizing the scenes though. Your opening sentence puts us in the attic but I assumed it was the girl's bedroom. It wasn't until later that I realized she had gone to the attic to get a book. 

          She opens the window to let in Jack, then I took this to mean she closed the window: 

          After securing the latch, I glanced back at Jack... but later in the story, Jack flies out the still open window.

           I guessed he heard something outside as he shot like a fire cracker, towards the still opened window. I ran over and stuck my head out, trying to spot him. Up he flew into the night sky. Up into the far reaches of a nearby tree. Nothing strange appeared to be out there. I spotted The Secret Garden just after I locked it. With the book tucked under my arm, I closed the drawer and popped the key in my jeans pocket. I almost closed the door behind me until… 

          I don't understand this partWhat's the Secret Garden? I assume you mean to say she's locking the window but 'it' refers to the secret garden. Where did the book come from? She was running her finger along the spines looking for one when Jack distracts her with the key. Oh! As I'm writing this I figured it out, the book is The Secret Garden, duh. Sorry. I should probably delete this 'cause I'll look pretty stupid, but maybe you could reword this part and start a new paragraph; I visualized her head out the window looking outside, so the 'secret garden' confused me.

          I like the Spellbinder chair and the rest was a perfect read for Halloween night! It needs an edit but I think you have a good story. 

          Thank you for sharing.



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          • Thank you for taking the time to read the first chap. I agree, I should make it clearer that its an attic library. I write on scrivener and have just found a function that will make it easier to edit, so hopefully it will improve. ;)

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