Write It Sideways

Excerpt Critique: “Patrick,” Children’s Fiction

Please welcome today’s aspiring author, Jackie Randall, ready for a peer critique.

Take a moment to read the excerpt and leave some thoughtful feedback in the comment section below.

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Children’s Fiction

Note: This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the work.

On the morning Patrick broke the rules and rode through the enemys’ land, the mist bore the smells of peat and grass. The thick mist hung like a grey curtain and dampened the jangle of bridles and the thud of hooves.

Patrick’s chest bobbed close to his mare’s neck. In front of his face, his fists punched with the reins while his feet swung in the stirrups below. Far behind in the valley his hood had given up its hold and now his cloak pulled wildly from the straps at his shoulders.

He turned his head. Eight lengths behind, leaping on the green blur of the meadow, a ghostly image rode hard towards him.

‘Patrick! Wait!’ it called.

Patrick lowered his rear to his saddle and slowed Torne, his mare. The thud of hooves came closer until Niko’s horse thudded beside Patrick’s.

‘You’re going… to kill… that horse!’ Niko said. He used his collar to scrub away the tears the cold air had brought.

Patrick’s eyes sparkled and turned into the fog ahead. His voice was brave. ‘Rot!’ He put both reins in one hand, leaned forward and patted the chestnut’s soaked neck then wiped his greasy hand on his leggings. ‘She loves it!’

‘Where are we?’ Niko asked.

‘Ahh. About… a mile from the wall.’ Patrick’s belly knotted. Had they ridden too long? Had the guard changed? Would Rohan be on duty still to let them through? He swallowed and rode forward as though all was well, although a little faster.

Potential Feedback Prompts

When you respond, you might consider:

  • your immediate reactions
  • likes and dislikes
  • anything that seems unclear
  • language issues
  • point of view
  • voice
  • inconsistencies
  • general encouragement