My First 250 Words

As most of you know, I have been polishing my Young Adult fantasy novel, ON A WING AND A DARE. It is now complete at 63,000 words and I have entered the first 250 words in a contest. Here they are…tell me if they grab you and make you want to read more. Then visit Shelley Watters’s blog and check out the other entries.

NOTE: Rewrite posted 6/26   Better?

Chapter 1: Fanfare

“Rhys is listless, not eating…” Mum’s voice trailed off as the winged colt collapsed like an empty burlap sack.

Emma dropped to the floor, heedless of her skirts, and cradled Rhys’s head. A flickering lantern lit the dim stall.

“Mum?” she asked. “What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s fevered. Try giving him some water,” her mother said.

Iawn, del,” Emma murmured in Welsh as she dribbled a handful of liquid into Rhys’s mouth.

“Water balances fever, but he’ll need more than that to survive the day. Maybe the mare’s milk…” Mum broke off. “Emma, don’t risk angering your father today of all days. I’ll care for Rhys. Go.”

“Da won’t notice I’m not there.”

Cariad, you’re sixteen. Time to take over your responsibilities to the barn and the family.”

Emma reluctantly laid the colt’s head on the straw and rose. “Send a groom if you need me.”

Her mother nodded, turning back to the colt and reaching to fold his stubby wings.

Outside the sanctuary of the colt’s stall, the rest of the barn came alive as the sun rose. Riders and grooms scurried forth clad in blue and silver barn colors. For her father it was all about the glory of the barn, and to Rhiannon’s Fire with everything else. Da focused more on winning the Aerial Games than on sick colts, or daughters. Emma couldn’t deal with him right now. She slipped away from the barn and headed for the place she felt most welcome—the barn of Da’s biggest rival.

That’s 250. Does it grab you?

On my Kindle: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

17 thoughts on “My First 250 Words”

  1. You are a talented writer and I especially love the Welsh part, but I would like to see more tension and I’m not sure what this story will be about. I would like to see a bit more of a hint of where it is going to go.
    Again, really smooth prose and great details, but want a little more hint of the plot. Good luck.

  2. Hi there!

    You’ve got a quiet opening here, which is always a nice break from the jam-packed action-y stuff. 🙂 I have a couple of nits for your consideration:

    “lit more by the early morning sunlight coming in the small window”
    You don’t necessarily need “coming in the small window,” and I’d cut it for more concise reading.

    Last paragraph:

    “The rest of the barn was a riot of movement, noise, and the blue and silver tunics of her father’s riders. Hoel the Barn Leader was focused on making a grand showing in the Aerial Games. Hoel the father wouldn’t miss her or the sick colt anyway. Before her brain could think, Emma’s feet took her where they always did, to Morgan’s barn.”

    Whoa. Where’s this movement and noise in the beginning? Are we in the same room? If we’re not, how did she magically apparate there? Or is she conjecturing what it’ll be like over there (if so, “the rest of the barn ‘would be'” is a better grammatical structure)?

    I don’t understand “Hoel the father”. Is this her father? What does this mean?

    Last sentence – so she hadn’t moved before. Is Morgan’s barn where her mother wanted her to go? I’m quite unclear on the last paragraph, but I love the rest!

    Best of luck!

  3. I’m a sucker for winged ponies, so that caught my attention right off the bat.

    In the first sentence you say “Her mum” without telling us who “her” is. I assume Emma is your MC; it’s probably important to use her name here to establish that fact.

    The dialogue tags are a bit complex. I know that can be considered a detriment to some.

    Agree that the last paragraph is confusing and seems to come out of nowhere.

    I like the Welsh part, too.

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks everyone for the comments. I tried chopping that last paragraph to get it in under the 250, and I think maybe I trimmed it too much. I’ll go back and look at it again. It’s really clear in MY head, but then I’ve been looking at it for two years! lol

  5. It’s well written and I do like it. I can’t tell you much else, because this isn’t really my genre of expertise, but I can say you definitely have a good shot. 🙂 Good luck.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  6. Hi Linda,
    It lets the reader know right away that we’re in the land of fantasy and it’s intriguing enough to make me want to know more about the winged horse. I want to know where these people are and who they are, so i would say, ‘yes’ it is a grabby beginning. Is this horse special? It makes me wonder that as well. Does he have an important purpose? Very well done.


  7. The premise is intriguing and I love winged horses too, which lets me know it’s a fantasy. The setting piques my interest. With that said, starting the novel off with dialogue is very tough to do. A lot of agents frown on it, but if it is done well, then it’s all good. So looking at your first line, I know we’re in a fantasy novel, a mother is speaking to her mother, and they’re trying to save a winged horse’s life. That delivers a punch of information in just a few words, which is excellent. Good luck! 😀

  8. Emma is a sixteen year old girl. hmmm that’s clearly not clear. 🙂 Thanks for the comments! I think I’ll rework it a bit in the morning. This is fun!

  9. What grabbed my attention were the wings – ahh pegasus is what I thought, so I was hooked and wanted to keep reading. I did though stumble on the opening sentence because I had no idea what was going on yet.

    Best of luck.

  10. I can see you’ve reworked this so I’m reading the fresh version. I think it flowed really well and the writing is excellent. The info you’ve sprinkled in this opening is enough to keep me reading to find out what’s wrong with the colt. You’ve established great characters that fill their roles well in this scene.

    I’ve started my MG novel with dialogue and I haven’t read that agents frown on this. In fact, published authors recommend this trick as a clever hook, especially if you don’t identify who’s talking. Because then the reader is curious to find out who is talking. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    When you say’ It was all about the glory of his barn,’ you haven’t identified in the previous two lines who you refer to. The next sentence tells us it’s the father, but you should clarify beforehand.

    I disagree about the tension mentioned by Kristi. Mind you she read the former version, so perhaps it has changed. I foresee tension building between the mother and daughter when she says don’t upset your father. It gives me the impression he may have a volatile temper, and the mother appeases him to avoid arguments. And when Emma goes to her father’s rival’s barn, well there’s bound to be trouble brewing from that later on in the story! I also suspect there may be tension between the father and daughter relationship, because he doesn’t care for his daughter or sick horses, only on winning. While the MC seems to have compassion for the colt and this may be a source of friction. I think you show this very subtly and weave it in well.

    Great effort and good luck.

  11. I like the quiet entry into the book as well. Anything with a winged colt that seems ill will certainly pull the reader in! Very unique, interesting concept.
    Good luck!

  12. Hi Linda,

    I also like the “quiet entry” (well said). What draws me in most as a reader is character and narrative voice, not so much plot, and you have those.

    I’m wondering if “Emma couldn’t deal with him right now” is too modern a phrase? ???

    My favorite phrase is actually “heedless of her skirts.” That tells us about the setting and character in just four words.

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