Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #47

TITLE: I'm Not Sharing My Horse!
GENRE: Middle Grade

Mountain laurels and pine trees lined the trail, filling the air with sweet scents. The best smell of all, of course, was the smell of a horse. I leaned forward in the saddle and buried my face in Sparkle’s brown neck.

Sparkle flicked an ear back at me. The steady thud of his hooves on the dirt didn’t change rhythm. But he knew I wasn’t paying attention and grabbed some leaves off an overhanging branch. He munched happily as we continued down the trail.

“Bad boy," I said, sitting up. "You'd better finish eating before Aunt Margaret and the twins catch up." Aunt Margaret would know right away that I hadn't been paying attention. “But I love being on the trail and leaving all my troubles behind.”

I especially loved leaving my bossy new stepsister behind. Charlotte was thirteen, two years older than me. For two weeks now she’d followed me around the house, telling me what to do. “You need to brush your hair.” “Do your math problems like this.” “You can’t wear that shirt to school!”

The only time I was safe from her bossiness was when I was here at Aunt Margaret’s barn. She never followed me here. Probably afraid she’d get dirt on her designer jeans.

“Lucy, here we come!” The twins trotted toward me, bumping unsteadily in their saddles.

I turned Sparkle to block the path so their ponies didn’t try to run away.


  1. * I enjoyed the opening paragraph. It sets the scene nicely.

    * I started to run into some trouble in the middle of the sample though. "But I love being on the trail and leaving all my troubles behind.” I don't think anyone would say this to themselves out loud. Even if you changed the sentence into something she was thinking, it seems unneccessary. You've already shown us how much she loves being on the trail.

    * You establish that Lucy's on the trail, but then you say, "The only time I was safe from her bossiness was when I was here at Aunt Margaret’s barn." I know what you mean, but it still pulled me out of the story for a second as I went, "Wait, is she in the barn or on the trail?"

    * The part about the designer jeans made me laugh.

    Just work on the flow of the writing, on the sense of place, and show what she's feeling rather than talk about it, and you'll have a much improved opening. Good luck!

  2. Its a good start, but there are some things that I find confusing.

    If she's on a trail, how can she be at a barn? To me, a barn is a particular building on a farm or estate.

    How does her 13 year old stepsister get to decide if she goes to the farm/barn or not? Wouldn't a parent decide at that age?
    Which twin, or both call her Lucy?

    Good luck!

  3. I'm a sucker for horse stories. My unchosen submission was about Emily and a horse. I agree that you need more showing and less telling, but I can visualize being on a trail, probably because I've ridden on so many. I would like a bit more description about the trail and the season. Good luck.

  4. I liked the opening, but then got a little lost as to whether she was in a barn or still on a trail.

    The line about the jeans really showed the difference in their personalities.

  5. It didn't exactly hook me but I'm not one for "A girl and her horse" stories. I did notice a few things that seemed awkward. I don't think that the MCs dialogue to herself sounds realistic. Its telling and its very stilted to boot. It pulled me out of the peace.
    I also don't get why Aunt Margaret wouldn't like riding horses from the barn SHE owns or why she would be a designer jeans person. Why own a barn if she hates dirt? Maybe the MC can make a comment on that to add in some humor.
    There's not much about this opening that grabbed me but, then again, maybe that's because this isn't my genre. Good luck!

  6. This has some really nice elements to it - a girl stuck in the middle between little twin siblings, an older, perfect and bossy sister and an aunt who lets them ride horses to sort it all out.

    I agree that the piece needs a bit of polish, but there does seem to be potential here. One specific I would caution is to not have the twins speak as one. It's nearly impossible. :-)

    I would read a bit more bout would really need to see some specific action, conflict or tension to keep going.

  7. You have a strong sense of place and I was immediately transported to my own horse-riding childhood. I do think that the protagonist's internal dialogue is distraction and you might do better to show her frustration in another way. Also you need to show Charlotte being bossy rather than have the protagonist tell us that she's bossy.