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Day 18 of May’s Voice Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentor Jennifer Blackwood

Wednesday, 25 May 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman


voice workshop

Welcome to May’s Voice Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample that the writer chose from his or her manuscript where he or she felt they needed help with their voice. Our hope that these samples will help you with your work and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors.We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.

And now we have …

Pitch Wars Mentor Jennifer Blackwood

Website  |  Twitter

Jennifer Blackwood is an English teacher and contemporary romance author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black lab puppy. When not chasing after her toddler, you can find her binging on episodes of Gilmore Girls and Supernatural, and locking herself in her office to write.



Jennifer’s 500 Word Critique . . .

YA Historical Fantasy

Scotland, 1818.

Ominous clouds hovered over the loch, and Rowan Sinclair was about to lose his chance at freedom.

The dense, yeasty aroma of alcohol settled on the sleeping casks like a thick blanket as Rowan crept into the whisky warehouse. Through the thatched roof, slivers of moonlight illuminated ceiling-high stacks of barrels. He thumped his knuckles against the oak staves until a hollow sound responded, and then he rolled a large, empty barrel out of the building.

Alistair leaned against the stone walls outside the warehouse, flask in hand. “Just what do you think you’re doing, lad?”

Rowan grabbed an end with each hand and halted the cask. He straightened to his full height and looked down on the portly man. “Testing the device for the Laird.” His voice strengthened. “It’s empty, by the by.” As if he needed to steal whisky. His own peat reek tasted better than this dross.

“But you said it wasn’t finished.” Alistair slugged a drink and wiped his ruddy face with his hand, nearly dropping the flask. The irony of Alistair’s employment as the Distillery Manager was not lost on Rowan.

True, The Angel’s Wings wasnae finished to his satisfaction. It had taken nearly a year to create a machine that would help casks swim through the water, away from the greedy eyes of tax men. But the Laird was demanding the device now. Rowan had run out of time.

“It’ll hold,” Rowan said. It had to. If his device worked, the Laird had promised to clear the debt. His arm muscles strained as he loaded the heavy oak barrel onto the wagon. “I could use some help here.”

“Och, you’re fine.” Alistair grabbed the side of the wagon and heaved himself into the front bucket seat.

Was it possible for Alistair to be less helpful? Rowan led the wagon to the edge of the water, the wind scattering droplets of rain on his kilt. From the back of the cart he lifted the delicate but heavy paddle wings, a shiny copper hoop and a length of rope. He walked away from the wagon, depositing his items on the edge of the loch.

“Storm’s coming.” Alistair said.

“I’ll be quick,” Rowan said. God forbid the Laird’s whisky was delayed.

Actually, God had nothing to do with it.

Rowan rolled the heavy wooden barrel to the shore. He placed the metal hoop around the middle of the cask and secured it, twisting the screws into place. He attached the copper paddle arms to the hoop, one on each side of the barrel. It resembled a large, overweight bird, its wings too delicate to get off the ground.

After setting the machine’s compass due west, Rowan shoved the cask into the water. He spun it to the right, an deiseal, for luck.

“Is that it?” Alistair climbed down from the wagon and stood on dry land, watching. “I thought those wing things were supposed to make it swim.”

Rowan’s jaw clenched. “I have to activate it first.” He threw the rope in the dinghy and dragged the boat into the water. Wiping the sea spray from his mouth, Rowan tasted salt and brine and menace.

First off, I really love your descriptions. You pay great attention to detail and your prose is truly beautiful. I can really imagine myself in this scene. With that said, there are some words that are repeated quite often (barrel, whiskey, loch, etc.). Just try to pay attention to that. Also, I get that he is working at a distillery, but you might want to let up on the references to alcohol and drinking. A few are fine, but in the two pages, it is repeated a lot, which can pull readers out of the story. I don’t know if it is brought up within the next few pages of the manuscript, but as a reader, I’d like to know why he made this barrel that can swim through water. Or why this is so important to the Laird? Why does the MC, specifically, have to make this? Does he have a special skillset? I think if these questions are answered, you have a real winner here! Good luck J

Thank you, Jennifer, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice critiques? Come back tomorrow for two more critiques. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.

Books by Jennifer Blackwood . . .

The Rule Book





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