FRIDAY FEEDBACK – The Octopus ODDyssey

Today’s writing snippet is kindly provided by my good writing friend, Sheryl Gwyther. Sheryl is the author of Secrets of Eromanga, Princess Clown and Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper.

Here’s an excerpt from Sheryl’s work in progress, The Octopus ODDyssey.

I have an excellent reason to hide from Bufo Bentley. It began with a dirt-spraying wheelie on my bike and a bagful of textbooks on my back. Over I flipped, but the bike kept going, right into Bufo’s new Avanti Mountain Bike.

He wouldn’t have noticed the scratch on its frame except I wasn’t alone in the school bike shed. The word went out … Bentley’s gonna get Danny O’Leary.

It meant I can’t hang out in the Dirty Duck Café on Friday nights – it’s enemy territory since Bufo and his mates (a.k.a. the Toad Gang) took it over. Instead, I tramp with Finn, Ant, and Leah, deeper into the shadows of Brownie’s Swamp.

‘We’ll miss out on the Dirty Duck’s half-price milkshakes.’ Ant slaps the air around his ears. ‘Plus I’m getting eaten alive.’

‘Serves you right for not using mozzie repellent.’ Leah’s torch flickers into the dense paperbark forest at the side of the track. ‘Let me concentrate or we’ll end up lost.’

Sheryl, I love your opening line. It sets up your story problem and you just know that your main character is going clash with Bufo. It also creates tension right from the start and makes the reader want to keep reading.

But then the tension dissipates because you give the reason for the conflict straight away and it’s told not shown. I’m wondering if the reason for the animosity can be fed into the story as it progresses. Perhaps Bufo sends him a bill for the bike and he can’t afford to pay it.

Explaining what his excellent reason is also drags you back into past tense, which slows the pacing down. It also means that in the third paragraph you have conflicting tenses “it meant” and  “I tramp”.

The swamp is a great scene and the tension picks up again here.  if this were my story I would probably go straight to the swamp. Here’s what I mean.

I have an excellent reason to hide from Bufo Bentley, which is why I’m tramping deeper into the shadows of Brownie’s Swamp instead of enjoying the half price milks shakes at Dirty Ducks.

Another thing you might want to look at is word repetition. In the second paragraph, you mention the word, ‘bike’ three times. If you did want keep this paragraph here, you might want to think about expanding your descriptions more and this will allow your reader to picture what’s going on, enable you to choose alternative words, and reveal things about your character.

Here’s an example:

I was doing wheelies when my backpack full of last week’s homework slipped to one side and unbalanced me. I lost control and hit the dirt but my wheels kept going.  My bike skidded into Bufo’s brand new Avanti and it toppled to the ground, its spokes creased and a scrape the size of a fifty cent piece on its shiny black frame.

Thanks for sharing this piece with us, Sheryl. I can’t wait to hear what happens to Danny in the swamp, and more about his conflict with Bufo and whether he stops hiding.

I hope you found this feedback helpful. If you have any constructive suggestions about Sheryl’s piece, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

If you’d like feedback on your 150 words, send it to FridayFeedback*at*Deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Happy writing:)


TUESDAY WRITING TIP – Writing Chapter Books with Sheryl Gwyther

Today, children’s author and my very good friend, Sheryl Gwyther is visiting  to give us her tips on how to write Chapter Books. Sheryl is visiting us as part of her blog tour for her new book, Princess Clown.

Here’s what Sheryl has to say:

I usually write Junior Fiction – the 9 to 13 age group, but for the past six months I have added another genre into my work – CHAPTER BOOKS. Princess Clown is out now, and my second chapter book, Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper will be out in early August with Pearson Australia.

Chapter books are stories designed especially for children who are beginning to grow in confidence with their reading ability. Their vocabulary knowledge is expanding and they are at that special age where they want to do things like the older kids – including reading books by themselves. They also are the right age to be excited and enthused by their new reading skills. Because of all these things, I think Chapter Books are extra special!

Chapter books cater for these developing readers. The books are also called ‘easy readers or bridging books’ for obvious reasons.


  • Fast paced
  • Interesting and lively writing
  • Simple, clear plots
  • Use lots of dialogue to show characterisation
  • Word length can vary from 500 words – 2,500 words
  • Shorter sentences – leave out unnecessary words
  • Short paragraphs
  • Heavily illustrated
  • Usually told through the viewpoint of a single character/or about the adventures of a single character who is generally around the same age as the reader, not younger.

It’s fun imagining stories that might suit the Chapter Book market – especially when they involve funny situations and interesting characters.

Humour rules in chapter books! If you can make kids laugh, they will keep reading and come back for more.

Kids this age also love mysteries, adventure tales and funny mishaps at home with the family or squabbles between friends at school.


Princess Clown began as a challenge … to write a short story using two nouns unrelated to each other. Well, more than unrelated! They had to clash, because that brings conflict. Conflict is the story. CONFLICT RULES!

With princess and clown it was obvious my main character would be a princess who loves clowning so much that is all she wants to do – forever.

Then to ‘up the ante’. This princess, we’ll call her Belle, is the heir to the throne – there is no chance she can follow her dream. But will she stop? Of course not!

When she practises her clowning tricks around the castle – from her schoolroom to the royal kitchens, Belle creates havoc. The King insists she act like the Princess Royal she is. After all, when he was her age, he wanted to be an inventor, but he had to become the King. Of course, in the end, things work out perfectly for Princess Belle.

The original few drafts were much longer. I got everything down on paper, and then pruned the story. Then out went the filler words, while keeping the rhythm of the story flowing. A dozen rewrites later, I was happy with the manuscript and sent it out to publishers.

Blake Publishing accepted Princess Clown. When they edited the story it lost even more words, but they kept its lively pace.

The book is in Blake’s Gigglers Blue 2 series – a set of 8 books especially designed as high-interest chapter books for 7-8 year olds. They are very popular with children and with teachers so naturally schools buy most of them. Princess Clown is also available online or from educational retail outlets.

There’s another little thrill if your chapter book becomes a reality – a top illustrator commissioned by the publisher will illustrate it. Princess Clown was so lucky Sian Naylor, a wonderful artist got the job. All her illustrations are in full colour.

Sian captured the spirited and energetic Belle so well, and her depiction of all the other characters went beyond even what I imagined. I didn’t see most of the illustrations until I got my first author’s copy of the book – what a thrill to see the King and Queen of Danzania as African royalty trèschic!


Blake Publishing:

Penguin Books Australia (Aussie Nibbles series)

Pearson Education: Primary Publishing Coordinator, Pearson Australia, 20 Thackray Road,

Port Melbourne, VICTORIA 3207


Sheryl has another chapter book, Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper – included in Pearson Australia’s new series called Chapters.

You can catch up with Sheryl on tour at these other great blogs

06 July Tuesday  Dee White – Tips on writing chapter books

07 July Wednesday Rebecca Newman (Alphabet Soup magazine)

08 July Thursday Robyn Opie

09 July Friday Catriona Hoy

10 July Saturday Kat Apel

11 July Sunday Sheryl Gwyther 4 kids

12 July Monday Sandy Fussell

13 July Tuesday Sally Murphy

14 July Wednesday Claire Saxby

15 July Thursday  Mabel Kaplan