A children’s story about an owl on a mission for her princess. Owls are all the rage since Harry Potter, and who wouldn’t like an owl as a pet?
Title: The Owl’s Journey
Language: British English
Synopsis: Alverna, the owl and best friend to Princess Bronagh has a special quest to deliver a letter to her friend Kaiden, but when a winter storm breaks her wing Alverna must rely on her courage and on new found friends to deliver her letter and return to Princess Bronagh.
Text: My eyes were hit by the autumn, morning sun, blinding me from my slumber. Opening them I noticed the crispness of the day as I flapped my wings and flew down onto my Bronagh’s bed as she started to rub her eyes with tiredness, arching her back in a long stretch.
Bronagh smiled at me, sat up and shoved me up. I flew upwards to avoid her flailing legs as her black hair fell down her shoulders and she swung out of the bed.
“Alverna, back on your perch.” She orders.
I almost growled like her father’s dogs but I saw a harshness in her gaze that bemused me, something I didn’t see that often. I did as bid, and went back to my table beside the open double doors where the late autumn breeze blew in, making the white linen curtains blow furiously.
Bronagh closed the doors and the air was sucked outwards.
She turned to me, her hair growing still, matted from the night. “If only you were more than an owl.” She hissed.
I started fixing my white feathers as Bronagh dressed herself.
The ten year old’s appearance was changing, as her mother’s looks were growing in her. I have watched over Bronagh since she was one, the year after her dear mother died after a cold blizzard took her away to the world beyond the horizons.
Bronagh’s hair had darkened, from her father’s light blonde to very dark brown within a space of three years.
Her eyes had broadened and become her mother’s hazel, changing from the blue of her young years. Her skin had become as pale as winter, not the colour of milk like she had had as a baby.
She spent her waking hours in her mother’s library, reading amongst the dust bunnies and the occasional spider. She’d scream for me when they would crawl out of the dusty shelves at the back where little light reaches the shelves and Bronagh must read by candlelight. Eventually, I started following her wherever she went, too worried about her to leave her side.
Bronagh was dressed in a simple white dress, barefoot as always and wearing a coat.
“Alverna!” She called with purpose.
I rejoiced, and landed on her right shoulder as we left her chamber and down the brown staircase to see her father, the King of the North Kingdom, waiting at the entrance to the gardens.
“Good, you brought Alverna. You may need her later.” I blinked my eyes at him. I saw Bronagh looked concerned.
Her father was not an old man, yet he looked ill this day. His eyes were creased with tiredness, his skin blotched and his forehead red and I could hear a rasp in his voice that had not been there the day before.
“Father? What’s wrong?” Bronagh inquired, her eyes fixated on his poor state.
“Nothing. Alverna.” Her father turned to me and bowed his head, almost with guilt but with certain respect. Could you please leave us, Alverna? Wait inside until we return.” He spoke, his breath catching his throat.
I rose and flew back upstairs despondently, but the moment that they entered the gardens I resumed my plan and followed them out at a distance.
Editorial comment: I cut this off at this point because I’d read enough to form an opinion. The biggest worry I have with this submission is that you say that it’s been edited twice already. Not well enough, I’m afraid, even on a simple copy-editing basis.
Alverna is blinded (sentence 1) even though her eyes are shut (sentence 2).
I think “autumnal” is better as an adjective than “autumn” (although that’s a subjective opinion) and you shouldn’t have a comma between “autumn” and “morning”.
I’m not sure you need “started to” in sentence 2; “as she rubbed her eyes in tiredness” sounds better to me.
The repetition of “up” in sentence 3 is disconcerting.
You shouldn’t have a full stop after “perch” in sentence 4. “She orders” is a speech tag, and therefore only separated from the speech it identifies by a comma.
I could go on, but there are multiple problems with this submission that need editing out before it goes anywhere near an agent. That’s okay, this kind of problem is what this site is here to explain, but if this has been edited professionally I’d be concerned. If it’s been edited by a “family friend” or similar, then I’m afraid you can’t rely on them.
Submissions to agents or publishers really need to be flawless, these days, to have any chance of success. The simple copy-editing problems here obscure any lovely qualities that the story might have, and as an editor I didn’t even get to the point of querying why this story begins with the two main characters, I’m guessing, waking up. Is that really where the story begins? This needs some editing, and a little gentle guidance as to sentence structure and writing craft.
Thanks for posting!
Thank you very much for your feedback. I just want to clear a few things and ask a couple of questions.
It’s called ‘The Owl’s Journey’ not the Owl’s Story.
When I say ‘blinded’ I mean by sunlight hence why her eyes are open. If I wasn’t clear then it’s something I need to address. I also did edit it myself. I’m only 18 and can’t afford a professional such as yourself.
Is it mainly grammar or copy-editing issues? Also you asked why it begins when Alverna and Bronagh wake up – If you had read further on you would’ve found out. Bronagh learns that morning, alongside Alverna that she has been invited south. This sets up the plot and the beginning of Alverna’s quest.
I want to know if my plot is good. Is my phrasing poor or just needs to be tweaked? I’m afraid I have little help other than yourself.
Thanks again for this. I do feel a little hurt because I wasn’t expecting such a criticism- as its based on measly mistakes I never saw myself.
Please reply soon.
The title is my own, just for the blog/Facebook, nothing to do with your book title.
I got the feeling that you were young (well … 18 is young to me 🙂 ), so I was trying not to be too harsh. It’s really hard to take criticism, something I’m well aware of, being an author myself. You will learn, in your career as a writer (and since you’ve shown at such an early age that you have the ambition to be one, I don’t see why we shouldn’t assume that you will be one, at some stage), that the ability to distill, from criticism, what is useful and will help you, and what is not and that you can safely ignore, comes with practice. Doesn’t make it easier, I know.
What I’m trying to do with the Opening Lines is show authors how high the bar is set when it comes to the publishing industry. I offer the free critique because I think it should be open to everyone to get a feeling for how their writing compares to what other people are submitting. Without inside knowledge, it’s really hard to judge where you and your writing stands. It also serves to give back to the writing community who provide me with work.
The reason submissions should be close to flawless, in terms of grammar and punctuation and all the rest, is that it allows the agent or publisher to read your story and judge it on its merits as a story, not as a piece of writing. You might think I’m nitpicking, but I’m afraid I’m fairly generous in comparison to most agents and publishers.
With regard to where the story starts, why not start it when Bronagh learns of their invitation south? What do we gain from learning that she wakes up and stretches? Go to the website and click, under “Submissions by problem” on “Where does the story start?” You’ll see half a dozen other submissions with that same problem, not starting where their character’s journey really begins. See if you can understand the issue from those multiple examples.