Show Me The Voice Blogfest and Contest

I’m participating in the Show Me The Voice Blogfest over at Brenda Drake’s blog. Here’s how it works (taken directly from Brenda’s blog).

Post the first 250 words of your finished manuscript (any genre) on your blog to get critiques from your followers and then hop around to the other participants’ sites and give critiques. Polish those 250 words and email them to me [Brenda].

All entries submitted before the cut off time will be considered. The first round will be judged by a chosen panel of your peers (agented and unagented). We’ll pick the best 20 entries and post them on my blog by March 24. The 20 entries we pick will be judged by Natalie [Fischer]. The winners will be announced on or before Monday, March 28.

So, without further ado, here’s my first 250(ish). Please, let me know your thoughts, especially the sentence I’ve marked. (In your comment, please specify if I should keep it as it reads now, or change the sentence to the version at the bottom of the post)

Name: Christi Corbett

Title: Along the Way Home

Genre: Historical Fiction

Charlottesville, Virginia

Wednesday, April 5, 1843

Every Wednesday Kate stood on the same front porch, her hand poised inches from the door, willing herself to finally do the unthinkable—walk away without knocking. However, during the hesitation, her courage inevitably fled.

Wednesdays were a long-standing tradition, and one she couldn’t disrupt.

*Stiffening her spine and her resolve, Kate rapped her knuckles on the wood.* Familiar footsteps clicked toward the other side of the entry and she forced a smile as the door opened to reveal an overdressed, overfed, overbearing woman.

“Katherine Davis, how dare you appear at my doorstep looking like some commoner? Get that bonnet on your head this instant!”

Her smile faded. “Yes, Aunt Victoria.”

Kate pulled the velvet cage over the mass of auburn hair secured in a knot at the nape of her neck, knowing full well she’d only remove it after stepping across the threshold. Under the guise of propriety, her aunt had tortured her for years.

From etiquette during afternoon tea to running a household, Aunt Victoria enforced her opinions over Kate’s every move. Recently she’d expanded her teachings to include the fine art of manipulating men. Snaring a husband was the ultimate goal.

Kate followed the perfume cloud into the parlor. Cream and gold wallpaper, the best her father’s money could buy, adorned each wall. Marble-topped tables stood between overstuffed chairs and a matching sofa. Polished mahogany frames held paintings of stern men and sweeping mountain ranges. A buffet displayed a china tea set adorned with red roses.

Taking a seat on the sole wooden chair in the room, Kate prepared for the upcoming interrogation. The bitter spinster didn’t disappoint.

*(I need some advice. Should the line above stay as is, or instead read Steeling herself for what she would endure over the next two hours, Kate rapped her knuckles against the door.)*


44 thoughts on “Show Me The Voice Blogfest and Contest

  1. Hi, mine’s historical (with a ghostly twist) and starts in 1843 also!

    For that specific sentence, I like the first version better. You do a good job of showing what’s contained in the second version, with the descriptions and dialogue.

    And love your first line–nicely draws us in!

    • Angelica,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Just a quick clarification…by “first version” do you mean the one in the excerpt itself and NOT the one at the bottom of the page? I think that’s what you mean, but I want to make sure 🙂


  2. Hello Christi, I’ll get mine in a bit later today.

    I am conflicted because I love the first 250’ish words already. Leave the original version and hold on to that revision. When you’re done, you may still want to change that sentence and again, you may see you had it right the first time.

    I’m going to have fun checking out all the posts from this contest. See ya later this evening 🙂

  3. I love historical fiction. Thank goodness no vampires or werewolves here, I’m so tired of them.

    About the sentence in questions, definitely the revision. The other sound very cliche. I’m confused about who paid for the wallpaper, Kate’s father or the Aunt’s father. It sounds like Kate’s father which at this point does not make sense. I’d love to read more.

    • Nicole,

      Yeah, I’m about done with those too 🙂

      Just to clarify, you like it how it reads now or should I change it to the sentence below my excerpt? (I realize I was confusing in my original post and now I’ve clarified)

      You’re right…Kate’s father paid for the wallpaper. He’s the one who pays for Kate’s “Lessons” and through these, the aunt has gotten very rich.

      Thank you so much for your comment,


  4. Christi- one more note-
    I too live in a small town in Oregon. Down the Columbia River from Portland. Most of my current WIP takes place on a small fiction farm here in Oregon. The first 250 words don’t show that but… Looking forward to “following” you.

    • Nicole,

      Wow, we’re neighbors! I live outside of Eugene 🙂

      To add to the authenticity (can’t spell) of my book, I’ve traveled the 84 highway along the Columbia River seven times. I figured since my book is about the Oregon Trail I’d better make it correct.

      Thanks again,


      • That is a beautiful drive along 84, I live on the other side of Portland, near Scappoose, down HWY 30. If you are ever coming this way drop me a note we could grab lunch or something.

  5. What a great opportunity Brenda and Natalie are offering! I had to hurry over and sign up even if I’m a day behind.

    I like this excerpt a lot. You’ve immediately established the two characters with distinctive voices. I can just imagine life in Aunt Victoria’s family! The opening provided good questions to draw me in, but they were quickly answered, so I’m not sure if this is the most dynamic place to begin your story. I would hope there is significant conflict coming soon.

    Beginning too many sentences with gerunds (as I just have, LOL) isn’t a great idea, and both “stiffening her spine” and “steeling herself” strike me as cliches, so I’d prefer to see Kate do something to show her reluctance rather than have you tell me about it. Still, it’s just one phrase, and it gets the idea across. If I were to pick one, I’d go with ‘stiffening’ as it’s more visual.

    I’m curious about what follows — why, between overstuffed chairs and a matching sofa, Kate chose the only wooden chair in the room. And what the coming interrogation is about. Nice writing, Christi! 🙂

  6. Carol,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m hoping over to your blog now to check out your first 250 🙂


  7. I love this–very polished writing and a strong but quiet voice. Here are the things I’d pick out:

    -“Under the guise of propriety, her aunt had tortured her for years.” I’d flip the clauses to “Her aunt had tortured her for years under the guise of propriety.”

    -I’d change “Recently she’d expanded her teachings to include the fine art of manipulating men. Snaring a husband was the ultimate goal” to add “. . . men, for snaring . . . ” just to break up the shortness of the sentences.

    -Kind of like the above, the last paragraph is a little choppy since every sentence is a similar length and structure.

    Anyway, I definitely enjoyed this!

    • Taryn,

      I love the phrase “a strong but quiet voice”. You’ve captured exactly what I was trying for…and how I picture my female lead.

      Thanks for critiquing!


  8. Lori,

    I’m so glad the time period comes through with this. It’s been a struggle to establish Kate’s “upper crust” lifestyle. I’ve found when she departs for life on the Oregon Trail to be much easier for me to describe/set the scenes since I grew up camping and traipsing through the woods :).

    Thanks for commenting,


  9. Christi, You know I love this entry. As for the sentence on which you are wavering, it struck me as a cliche when I read it. I say, use the relacement, but I like the last few words of the first…”on the wood” not door.

    Isn’t it strnage to redo these paragraphs? I’ve done it so often, it’s hard to “hear” it with fresh ears. Thanks to Brandi for this opportunity for fresh ears.

    Oh, also, I’m wondering if the piece would be better served by dropping the last line of the 5th? (I think it was) paragraph all together? Started with “Under.”

    Good luck, friend! I’m excited!

    Shelley L. Houston

    • Shelley,

      I’m so glad you are participating in this contest too. I see you’ve been getting some thorough critiques too…aren’t fellow writers great?


  10. You know I already love this! I will say that I think I like it with ‘Stiffening her spine’ better than the original. Something about the way that I picture Kate hardening herself within the confines of all the soft foppery of the attire her aunt insists on forcing her to wear really hits home. Like she’s saying ‘Dress me like a china doll all you want but there’s going to be steel bones inside the stuffing.’ 😀

    • A,

      Thanks for the input on which sentence I should include. I’ve wavered over this for weeks so I’m glad to hear other writer’s thoughts. I love the last line of your comment, it really is what I am trying to show the reader–that she does what she’s supposed to, but hates it on the inside. I’m trying to set up why she agrees to leave everything behind for Oregon 🙂

      Thanks again,


  11. I really enjoyed this Christi. I think everyone has touched on everything I saw except the “opened to reveal an overdressed, overfed, overbearing woman” That’s a lot of O’s and it feels like it goes just a bit long. I’d keep overdressed and overfed (but maybe find a new way to say or show one of them) and drop overbearing. You show that well in the next few paragraphs.

    As for your question, I like what you had in the 250 words better than the one at the end. Wondering if you could say squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin strengthened her resolve? I don’t often think of stiffening my spine, I’d say back or something, but having said that, it didn’t bother me.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I posted an updated version of my 250 words. Half of it is completely different, but I think it is at least all in past tense now. LOL.

  12. Charity,

    I hadn’t thought of the squaring her shoulders angle…nice one!

    I checked out your new entry and LOVE your new first line!


  13. Oh, great juxtaposition of personalities. I definitely like your MC and her apparent distaste for her training. I like the second version of that sentence better btw…

  14. Hart,

    You’ve nailed it! Kate hates the Victorian society and the expectations on her behavior it demands. I’m setting up part of her motivation for leaving it all and traveling to Oregon 🙂


  15. I really liked this. I felt an immediate connection with her, and that’s always huge!

    One nitpicky thing: Wednesdays were a long-standing tradition, and one she couldn’t disrupt. >I would delete the ‘and.’ It gives the sentence more impact.

  16. Nicole,

    Thanks so much for stopping and commenting on my first 250.

    I like your take on cutting out the “and” in that sentence. Now I have even more to think about 🙂


  17. The MC’s voice comes across really well in this passage. I get a clear sense of who she is and what she thinks of her time with Aunt Victoria.

    As for the sentence you’re unsure about, I like the one at the bottom of your post better.

    The paragraph beginning “Kate followed the perfume” has no variety in sentence structure. That combined with the paragraph being description of home decorations makes it a bit blander than the rest of your opening. I don’t think I would notice it as much, except you do a great job varying sentence structure in the rest of the passage.

    Great job!

    • Dustin,

      You caught me on the sentence structures being the same for the “home description” paragraph:) . I eliminated one sentence in the excerpt I sent to Brenda to fix the issue, and when I go back (yet again) and revise I plan to play around with that paragraph.

      Thanks for visiting and for your critique.

      Loved your excerpt!


  18. Trisha,

    I love that you already feel for Kate and her aunt hasn’t even started bitching at her yet. But don’t worry, Kate gets in a major zinger before their meeting is over 🙂 That one was super fun to write!

    Thank you for taking the time to critique and comment. I really appreciate it.


  19. Anyone who can write historical fiction is heroic to me. And I love getting immersed in the time period, which you did for me! Nice voice and I’d like to read more =)

  20. Tara,

    Wow! I sincerely appreciate your comments and hope one day you can read more. I only wish I could introduce you to the gruff, yet honorable trail guide on Kate’s journey. He’s been so much fun to write for!

    Thanks again,


  21. Love this! *Stiffening her spine and her resolve, Kate rapped her knuckles on the wood.* Familiar footsteps clicked toward the other side of the entry and she forced a smile as the door opened to reveal an overdressed, overfed, overbearing woman.

    And then; Her smile faded. “Yes, Aunt Victoria.”

    LOVE IT!

    Fantastic description and dialogue! Best of luck, Christi!

    • Jillian,

      Thanks so much for your input and lovely compliments 🙂

      I can hardly wait to buy your first book next month!


  22. How did you create these threaded comments? I have a strange aversion to blogfests and I’m a little paranoid about publishing my un-published work online (although I did once post snippets of a rough draft of my first chapter). Anyway, this looks great, but I’m too chicken.

    • Meghan,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “threaded comments”? I’m thinking you’re talking about how I can reply to each comment just below it? If so, it’s the way the comment system is set up through WordPress. Under each comment is a “reply” button and I just hit it and insert comment. You can have several different replies to one comment using this system. WordPress rocks!

      As for putting my stuff online, I’m a bit iffy about it too, but in this case the potential payoff (winning a critique from a AWESOME literary agent) is worth the risk. I have my first page on this post, and my first two pages under the “My novel” tab. But nothing else, and the second a agent/publisher wants it down it’s gone 🙂

      Here’s a small blogfest contest to get you started. It’s a “pitch” contest going on over at Shelley Watters blog…give your 140 character Twitter pitch and if you win Suzie Townsend will request a FULL manuscript. I’m honing my pitch for that one!

      Here’s the link…


  23. To answer your question about KAte standing at the door,the key to this beginning is really in the bonnet she has to wear.
    “Kate pulled the velvet cage over the mass of auburn hair secured in a knot at the nape of her neck, knowing full well she’d only remove it after stepping across the threshold. Under the guise of propriety, her aunt had tortured her for years.”

    THis could be a killer opening, because the bonnet symbolises repression, duty, formality, propriety etc…

  24. E,

    Your description of the symbolism of the bonnet is exactly what is behind my calling it “the velvet cage” 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by,


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