The best way to learn punctuation is "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss. It's available cheaply on Amazon. It's not only a working textbook, it's also engaging and entertaining. You'll find yourself reading it for fun.
As to editing, the best thing you can do is sit on the story for a couple of days after you've finished writing it. Then come back and try to read it as a stranger would
--since, after all, every reader is
a stranger. This will not only help you catch misspellings and such, it will make you question what you meant by this sentence or that one, and whether you communicated it properly.
Remember, spelling, punctuation, grammar, all the annoying "details"--well, they're details the way traffic signals are "details". Sure, you don't have
to comply with stop signs or traffic lights, but if you do, you'll get where you're going much more safely and with fewer fatalities. Even worse, as a writer you are a taxi driver
, and The Reader is your passenger. The more erratically you drive / write, the more likely The Reader is going to jump out of the car / story for their own safety.
Finally, the story itself. There are a lot of historical details you've thrown in that I, quite frankly, doubt. The idea of slaves being allowed
to read and write... Well, the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to realize that their lot in life sucks
and that they should--and can!
--do something about it. This is why, historically, literate slaves were rare exceptions. The idea of hunting slaves is also ridiculous, the same way it is in The Hunger Games
(which, for all its virtues, does not not present a society that is even vaguely plausible). To pacify a slave population, you don't want them fearful--you want them apathetic
. You want them to be resigned to their lot in life. Knowing that they might be dragged out and slain at any moment, at the whims of their masters... Well, every slave lives with that knowledge. But if their master is smart, they don't exercise the option very frequently, so that it becomes a terrifying but rare punishment. Otherwise, the slaves fearing constantly for their lives... What's to stop the slaves from simply ganging up on the master and killing him? There are a lot
more slaves than there are owners on this plantation.
And don't say that the plantation owner has more advanced technology; he doesn't. A muzzle-loading musket, of the sort used to fight the American Revolutionary War, took as long as fifteen seconds to reload, and a man who could get off five shots a minute was considered very speedy indeed. So let's say you have fifteen slaves advancing on the master of the house, who has a musket. He gets one round off and kills or wounds one of the slaves. Now what does he do about the other fourteen? The answer is, he doesn't: they grab his musket and bludgeon him to death with it. And that's what you get for using your slaves like prey animals.
Even things like names can have an effect. "Jessica" gets a pass because it first appeared in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
, prior to the year 1600, though it didn't really become popular until the 1980s. In other words, it is not inconceivable for a Virginian in the colonial or early-nation period of America to be named Jessica. However, this gets less towards what is factually true and more to what The Reader thinks
is factually true. Everybody "knows" that Santa Claus wears red and is fat, even though his size was only popularized by "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1823, and nobody's actually sure where the red came from (its earliest appearances was the first few years of the 20th century). So if you get up and say that Santa is Greek, everyone's going to yell at you for being "factually incorrect"--never mind that St. Nicholas, the historical figure, was
Greek. And if The Reader thinks
"Jessica" is an unusual name for 1700s Virginia, then it is, regardless of fact or truth. Your only recourses at that point are to either 1) somehow work your research into
the story, or 2) give up and rename her.
To extend our taxi-cab analogy, facts are less about traffic signals and more about general know-how. If I get in your cab and I say, "I need to go north," and you start driving south, I start wondering if you have the faintest idea what you're about. Getting facts wrong, especially visibly
wrong, is doing exactly that. Now, if you're convincing about it, you can breeze over these problems--Dan Brown certainly has--but, with no offense intended, you are not Dan Brown. (And that's to the good. You don't want to be him.
The sex is very summarized, as others have mentioned. When you write sex, do as much as you can with the five senses. Concrete details are the lifeblood of smut. Summaries of events are not. "She rode me cowgirl and then we did doggie and then I came on her tits" is not very hot. "She ground her hips against me, tilting her head back, her breasts proud and her nipples hard and free in the cold air. I reached up to cup them, feeling their liquid heft against my palm, as..." (blah blah blah) is, hopefully, somewhat more hot. It also helps pad your word-count. The sex scene is already twice as long and barely anything has happened.
Finally, I am confused by the geography. My understanding of the four slaves was that they were inside a cage. How then did they have their way with her? And how did they hide her for later? On second reading they were evidently cleaning the cage, but why? Who has cages? And why didn't Jessica scream when she was captured?
All right, that's likely enough to be going on with. Hope it helps some.