Re-writing an old story

I’m rewriting a story that I started, but never finished, in high school, some ten or so years ago. The pacing of the story was off though the matter of the story was engrossing enough for one of my teachers to take the time and miss his lunch break reading it, even though it was only ten or so pages at that point in time. I want to use the synopsis of the story and expand it to novel length, which I know will be quite a bit of work, but it’s something that I believe in and I think that should be done, for myself if nobody else.

This is the first few paragraphs of what I have re-written:

The sound of a crack of a whip and a shrill feminine scream echoes throughout the halls of the lower section of the confinement building. The lowest floor of the basement was, of course, an imprisonment area that was dimly lit with dirt floors thinly veiled in straw. Along both sides of a corridor are several open air cells with bars of cold iron, only a couple of which were occupied, though I could not see by whom. At one end of the corridor was a wooden door with a grate about head level; this grate was open to allow sound and air to pass through, maybe a bit of light when chance happens to allow this. 

At some point my eyes had adjusted to the darkness though I can not say how long I had been here. 

My eyes open halfway as I feel my body being lifted up by my arms and the sting of some metal manacles biting into my wrists. I don't really know where I am at the moment as the last thing that really comes to mind is sitting in a dark cell with straw on the dirt floor. The smell of which told me that I was not the only person to have been in that cell in the past few days, though there was nobody else there at the time. The reason I had gotten into that cell in the first place had been simple enough; I had been caught stealing from a bread merchant at a marketplace in Maltoria. Nonetheless I was here now. 

Soon, my eyes raised up a bit to the person that was somewhat carrying me around and it was a largely-muscled and bald dark-skinned man wearing what seemed to be the remains of a canvas sleeveless shirt, the chains attached to the manacles slung over his left shoulder. I was not being dragged about long before the man stopped and turned, grabbing me around the throat with one massive hand and pressing me back against a wooden pole that was at least the size of my waist. His other hand lifted the chains attached to the manacles up to a hook that was a good three feet above my fingertips and attached them to a clasp there, it wasn't until then that I discovered where I was.

A slave market, I had been delivered into slavery by the law enforcement patrols...

I would appreciate some critique, the good, the bad and the ugly. I know my writing isn’t perfect but I’d like to know what other writers see that I don’t. New eyes and such.

well, i,m not a writer… i,m a cat and a pretty negative one at that, but here are some thoughts…

the crack of a whip is the sound, so this is kinda saying ,the sound of the sound of the whip,

best to avoid doubling up on adjectives. ,shrill, probably not needed.

the ,of course, here tells a lot. it says that the narrator has some reason to know that they are in the imprisonment area, probably because they have some inside info. did they used to work here… have they been here so long that it,s just an accepted part of life… also, the use of ,of course, is very conversational. ie, it says the narrator is aware that they are narrating to someone and is involving the reader in the story, which may or may not be the effect you are after

this section is just a description of action really. we aren’t told anything of the reaction of the ,largely muscled and bald dark-skinned man,. lots of adjectives there as well. you could do a lot just by showing the man,s reaction to what he is doing. if he is genuinely dispassionate… like he is just moving meat in a butcher,s shop… then say so. else he could have an apologetic touch that suggests he is equally tied to his own role in the events. or of course he could have any number of other emotional reactions… lust, anger, contempt… which could help round out the scene.

be careful that you haven,t assumed you,ve said more than you have. at this point i know next to nothing about the narrator. i don,t know if they are old or young, male or female – something the bald man,s reaction could have added colour to. it can be jarring to the reader if you let them make assumptions about the characters and then have them contradicted later. something simple up front like… i broke a nail… could give the reader something to seed an image around, with that particular example suggesting a youngish woman still unused enough to her circumstances to be concerned with appearance.

Care for your verbs: for example currently in the section above, tenses - past and present are inter-mixed - and there’s disagreement between subjects of sentences and their verbs (for example in the first - plural subject, singular verb). These jar.

But I do want to read on.

A hook has never been my issue, one of the few things I think I do right. But the selection and use of adverbs, adjectives, verbs, and my lack of control with run-on sentences has long been an issue for me.

Also, I’ve intentionally not said anything to describe the main character yet.

As flagrant violator of “proper” I would suggest you consider several approaches. First, try what feels right, what you hear in your head. Then rewrite “by the book”. This will vary depending on which book “the book” is, but generally the 'less is more" rule and “no adjectives/adverbs” rule are universal (obviously all rules are meant to be broken, right, or they wouldn’t have made them “rules”).

Now once you have that done, rewrite it the third time with both methods in mind. If your like me, which I regret to inform you seems to be the case, you might find this third one is really what you wanted to write the first time.

Obviously an entire novel using this approach would be a trauma to write home about (assuming you have moved to an alternate universe) or one that a shrink would love to listen too (they have house payments too you know). I found that after my fourth use this “third” rewrite started to show in in the first draft.

Note the complete lack of real information about what I think of your offering.

  1. I’m not qualified.
  2. I’m really not qualified.
  3. I had trouble getting past line one. While clause/phrase construction for the simple sake of creating confusion is sentences is one of my favorite pastimes, the double “of” tossed me so far off my rocker that the “shrill feminine scream” smothered me with the seat cushion just as two more “of” phrases began their assault. Now I know what you are getting at and Floss (the adjectives I have resisted in typing that!) already provided some alternatives.
  4. I’m really really not qualified.

Take a stab at the rewrite and post it again. Be brutal with yourself. I think you’ll see the diamond start to show very soon.

Thanks for the feedback, I’ve taken two of the of’s out so it should help, as well as some other editing. I’ll repost what i have changed when I get home. There should be a significant difference though I only threw out about 50 words.

Oh, but the cat is?

Comparatively? Yes. better grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. And it’s a cat. And cats only let us think we are in control. Uniquely qualified.