Open Pen

The Morning After She Came: An Open Pen Critique

Yes, it is a Monday, and I am posting an Open Pen Critique rather than a Writing Tip. The reason is simple– I have a couple of scholarships and a summer course to finish this week (in addition to edits on my WIP and working full time) before I backpack this weekend. Yikes!

So, today– Monday– we have an excerpt from Bethia’s fantasy novel about a prince, dragon, and damsel-armed-with-a-bucket-of-water. Bethia blogs over at Reflections on Glass, so if you like this piece, you might want to check out her blog.

As for critiques, Bethia would love to hear about the content of the story. Do you understand what is happening? What is confusing, and is the story too wordy? But so long as you are honest, I think Bethia would love to hear all constructive comments. As always, even short, simple comments help. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this piece– I know the authors who submit to Open Pen love your feedback!

God bless,


Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit, especially if you are targeting the YA audience. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.


The Morning After She Came by Bethia Lark

Altaio woke with a start. His face was dripping with moisture, and he didn’t think it was sweat. As he wiped the liquid out of his eyes, he saw Bethia with an empty bucket standing over him.
“It’s about time you woke up.”
“What happened?” Altaio asked as he sat up, wringing out his tunic. “Why am I on the ground?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the dragon got you.” She approached him, but Altaio shied away.
“What art thou attempting to do to me?”
“I am trying to see if the dragon injured you. I tried examining you earlier, but I didn’t think you’d appreciate it much without your consent.” She looked up. “Are you in pain?”
“Nay, I am unhurt.” Altaio stood up.
“Are you sure?” She asked doubtfully.
“Then why wouldn’t you wake up?”
“But I did.”
“Yeah, after the fourth bucket I poured over you.” She pointed at the stream of water that was slowly finding its long curving way downhill.
Altaio shrugged. “I canst be a deep sleeper at times. That is why I am all alone.”
“Your family got tired of having to wake you for breakfast?” Came the sarcastic reply.
“Didst thou make breakfast?” Altaio asked hopefully.
“Yes, but not for you.” She said with a smile, and spun on her heels and walked away.
Altaio followed. “Didst thou see the dragon?” He asked as he matched her stride for stride.
Bethia stopped in the middle of the hallway. “Yes, I saw it.” She had grown strangely quiet.
“What didst it look like?”
“It was golden, large, and breathed fire.”
“Was it the dragon that brought thee hence?”
“Yes, the very same.” Bethia let out her breath quickly. “Prince Altaio, tell me now; why did your family leave you here alone?”
“They couldst not find me. This I hath already told thee.”
“Yes, but why did they leave?” Bethia was growing more impatient.
So was Altaio. “Dost thou not use thy head in the morning? They left for fear of the dragon.”
“Then why don’t you leave?”
“I fear not the dragon.” Altaio crossed his arms. “Why dost thou question me thusly?”
“Because I have to know something. Are you the dragon?”
Altaio was a bit taken aback at this question. “Why wouldst thou think that I was the dragon?”
Bethia lifted her hand and started counting on her fingers. “One, you have never seen the dragon. Two, you disappear as long as the dragon is here. Three, the dragon disappears shortly before you reappear and it reappears shortly after you disappear. Doesn’t that look suspicious to you?”
Altaio moved Bethia’s fingers out of his face coldly. “Then thou art supposing that I was the one who kidnapped thee from thy country?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking, so somewhere in the back of your brain, you know where I come from.”
“And thou dost think that I can retrieve this memory, carry thee back to thy native land, all so that thou canst marry thy gentleman?” Altaio asked angrily.
“Yes. Maybe if you met him, some of his good behavior would rub off on you.” She huffed.
“Is he a prince?” Altaio shot back.
“You know he isn’t.”
“Then I shouldst rather not meet him that I might not retain his undoubtedly uncouth manner.”
“And your manners aren’t?” Bethia said in disgust, marching onwards.
Altaio didn’t follow her. Breakfast was the farthest thing from his mind right then.
So, he was the dragon? The thought had played about in his mind for years now, but nothing confirmed it. He never saw nor felt the transformation. A second person thinking about it just made it seem all the more concrete. Also, it didn’t really matter before. Now he had another person to think about.
Altaio decided to assume for now that he was indeed the dragon. His first thought after this was how great he was now. Not only was he a prince of one of the greatest kingdoms in Eyleb, but he was also one of the most rare and feared beasts on the island. He would be respected wherever he went.
But the other thought bugged him. It was a tiny part really, nagging at him from the back of his mind. A part that said that this is what his heart really looked like, and it wasn’t right. But he silenced the nagging with the possibility of taming the dragon, now that he was pretty sure it was him, and bringing it under his control.
Altaio’s stomach growled. Breakfast had come back in full fury. He headed to the kitchen, wondering if Bethia had left any for him.
“Probably not.” He thought grumpily.
Sure enough, the pot was clean. She had even washed the dishes so that he couldn’t scrape out any leftovers. Little she knew about him. He would never deign to scrape for leftovers.
He grabbed some salted pork from the pantry, noting that his preserved meat stores were dwindling. He pulled out a skillet and started frying his breakfast up. As he was setting his place, he noticed a basket of freshly baked rolls sitting on the table. He looked around, and when he saw no one, he took one, stuffing half of it in his mouth.
“Aha!” Bethia cried as she came from behind a pillar. “I knew you’d take one.”
“And what wouldst be the issue of my taking these freshly baked goods?” Altaio mumbled out, barely capable of being understood with his mouth full of roll. He swallowed, then added, “Thou didst bake them using my flour, not thine, if I art not mistaken.”
“You’re not.” Bethia took the remaining half from Altaio’s hand right as he was about to stuff it into his mouth. “I did half the work, so I get half the product.” She opened her mouth wide and in went the roll. “It’s fair, really.”
Altaio huffed in disgust.
Bethia mumbled something else, but Altaio couldn’t quite catch it.
Hastily swallowing and almost choking on the bread, she pointed to the stove and repeated, “Your breakfast is burning.”
As Altaio hurried to put out the flames, he heard Bethia chuckling behind his back. She would regret that, he thought.


Survey: Help me Figure out what to put in my Newsletter

This week, I have been working on launching a newsletter for my writing. Unlike my blog which focuses primarily on writing tips, this newsletter will be all about a personal journey to write and publish novels. In short, my blog is written for fellow writers; my newsletter will be written to fellow readers and nerds!

This newsletter will be sent monthly to my email list of subscribers with a quick update on where I am on edits or querying agents, and once I start publishing my novels, I will also be sending exclusive stuff like deleted chapters and special pricing. And the goal is someday to have a novella to send to all of my subscribers. But with all of that said, my newsletter will always be short.

However, I don’t want my newsletter to just be an impersonal update on how publishing is going for me, and that is where you come in!

Before I officially launch my newsletter next week, you can help me decide the content for my newsletter. Part of my reason for creating an email list and sending out a monthly newsletter is to connect better with you guys, and I have set it up so you can reply to my newsletter at any time, and your e-mail will show up in my inbox.

Because I want this newsletter to be about connection, I want to know exactly what you want to find each month in your inbox. So I created a super quick four question survey. The first question asks your name; the second is a multiple choice list, and the last two questions are completely optional. The survey is super, super short– essentially there is only one question that requires thought, and it is multiple choice!

Though the survey is super short, your comments and feedback mean a ton to me as I launch this e-mail list. So please take five minutes and click on the link for me.

Thank you all for supporting me in my writing journey, and I love hanging out with you on this blog. But since most of you are writers, I have to ask: Do you have an email list or send out a newsletter? If so, do you have any tips for me?

Have a great week everyone, and God bless,


Writing Tips

How to Write Stuttering

As I worked to develop some of my minor characters, I decided to give one a stutter. Then I had to figure out how to write a stutter. Fortunately for me, I have a lot of resources to tap into for my research– one of my biggest resources has been my father who had a stutter for all his life.

Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Stutter

But before we beginning talking specifically about stuttering, there is one very important rule for writing any dialogue that we need to remember:

Don’t go overboard with phonetics

It is a basic rule for respecting your reader’s tolerance level. You should never write speech exactly as it is pronounced if you are writing a character with an accent or a stutter because it will kill your reader’s brain. I stumbled across one blogger who enthusiastically declared, “I r-r-recom-m-mend you wr-write st-st-stuttering like th-this,” and then proceeded to write the entire article in that fashion. I almost hired an assassin (either to take him out or to take me out– after reading his article, I did not care which.)

Your reader is smart, so just occasionally remind your reader of the stutter. Readers will fill in the blanks spaces, and no one wants to read something that reads exactly like a stutter sounds.

So how do you write the actual stuttering? Our overly-enthusiastic friend r-r-recom-mended dashes, but is that the best way? Is that actually how a stutter sounds?

There are actually three different types of stuttering: Repetition, Prolongation, and Blocks. Since most writers will only need or use one, I want to focus on writing blocks since I have a man on the inside. My father’s stuttering takes the form of blocks, and after sitting down with him and pestering him with questions, we combined perspectives and came up with a punctuation for stuttering:


Punctuation needs to be simple, and dashes (s-s-ample) also can work, but my dad liked this option best because the ellipsis (…) draws out the first sound and then the dash throws you into the full word. This phonetic depiction represents the sound of stuttering pretty well. However, there is some compromise for our readers here. More often than not, stuttering actually occurs several times before the word actually comes out (s…s…s…s-ample), but this is going to frustrate readers, and I think the one ellipsis and one dash gets the point across in the most effective way.

Rules for Stuttering

  1. Stuttering occurs on the first sound of the word— stuttering will not occur midword
  2. Stuttering happens on the first sound– not the first full syllable (s…s-ample NOT sam…sam-ple)
  3. Do not write a stutter more than once in a single sentence or three times in a single paragraph (in a situation with high stress, you might be able to get away with two stutters in one sentences and up to five in one paragraph, but don’t do this often)
  4. Chose 3-7 sounds for your character to struggle with: People who stutter consistently tend to get blocks on particular sounds (For my dad, these particular sounds are b, p, k, w, the soft g, and ah as in audio)
  5. People who stutter often back up and try to get a “running start” when they reach a block (ex: “I would like you to g… like you to g-go to the park.”)
  6. Another strategy for stuttering is to use another (often imperfect) synonym for the word they are struggling with (ex: “You look g…g… really pretty tonight.”)
  7. Under higher stress, the stutter will be more frequent; under low stress, many don’t stutter at all, so don’t feel obligated to have your character stutter in every single conversation
  8. If you use the dialogue tag, “he stuttered,” do not write the stutter in the quote: If you write the stutter in the dialogue, don’t say “he stuttered.” Your reader is smart– you don’t need to beat them over the head with a stick for them to understand that your character stutters
  9. Do not write a stutter in thoughts: This is major– people who stutter think normally and many are extremely smart. Some people automatically assume that slow speech means a slow mind. This is not true in the slightest, but the misunderstanding is something that many people who stutter have to deal with, and it is extremely insulting.

Also, in my interview with my dad, I learned that you cannot join the military if you have a stutter. I think that fact could be really interesting for character development or motivation, so I’ll leave it here.

So have you ever written a character with a stutter? Would you consider it?

God bless,