Writer in Motion – The Critique Partners Have Spoken!

Before I post the 3rd (4th? 5th?) draft of my #writerinmotion piece, I need to share my revelation for the week.

Writing may often be framed as an individual pursuit, but it is ALWAYS made better when it happens within a community.

I want to print that out and stick it up. Previous to WIM, I thought writing was something I plugged away at on my own. I wrote, read, editing, polished, and at the end would come out with something good. But this process, and this week in particular, has been one of exposure and letting myself be informed by a group of voices that have not only been encouraging, but have helped me make my story into something I never could have managed on my own. The people who commented, and in particular my two critique partners (friends? Certainly friends by now), Belinda Grant  and Fariha Khayyam , challenged me in ways that brought out dimensions and depth I didn’t realize I was missing. WIM has made me hungry for a community to share my WIPs with, and that’s an amazing gift.

That said, what were the specifics that Belinda and Farina made me address? Redundancy in my prose, unclear ideas, bad flow. One fault I have in particular is leaving things in my head when they need to be made clear on the page. I think I’ve fixed that. Anyhow, on with the actual story, Written in Sand.

This wasn’t her bay. This one was sand and seagrass all shaped into hillocks like a badly stuffed mattress. Home was all rocks, black ones slick with weeds that would slip you under the waves in a heartbeat and huge grey ones further back where you could sit and watch the water if there was no work to do. But home was also across the bay, a thin line on the horizon. On days when she had the time, Lil settled on a stretch of wet sand with home in front of her and the city walls at her back. 

The wind picked up a little, and Lil pulled her knees up so she could wrap her arms around them to keep off the chill. The tide had come in enough that the water was nipping at her bare toes. At home there’d be hard work, splitting wood with Tique or pulling young lobster out of the upper cove for supper. Maybe she’d have been shaving a branch to make a staff so she could accompany Bryson on a trip to Big Bend On The Narrows. There was no work like that here. No bare feet on grey rock while watching the surge and no hard labour to sweat out any troubles. 

Here there was a desk and paper and an ink bottle and a quill. 

It was stupid work for stupid people who couldn’t manage to keep their stories in their head. She grabbed a stick from the ribbon of dry drift the last tide had pushed up and started scratching in the sand. It was the symbol for the sound a person made when they touched their tongue to the roof of their mouth, like in her own name. It wasn’t half bad, and that annoyed her. Their symbols shouldn’t take to her hand like that.

The water was around her feet now but not deep enough to carry the cold. She etched another figure in the sand below the first. This one was a boat – long and clunky like Aven’s. She sketched in a few lines for the planks in the hull, then a low cabin on the deck. She’d wanted on that boat, had begged Aven for the chance to work it, prove herself, and earn the coin she’d need to build one like it one day. He’d humoured her for a bit by letting her go out on the water with him, and eventually her hard work and persistence earned his respect. It was a dream she’d almost managed to churn into something solid. 

Then the Guild had come to the village and, with a spell no one understood, had passed a hand over the head of every child and unbetrothed young adult. This decided who would return to the city with them to learn their magic. What a betrayal that her tall, strong body built for hauling nets and swinging an axe was harbouring some spark that attracted those outsiders’ attention. She’d thought she was permanently attached, as immovable as the boulders on the shore. I wish it weren’t so, her mother had said as she’d wiped the tears from Lil’s cheek, I wish it weren’t so

The top edge of her letter crumbled at the touch of a wave. Another few moments and the symbol and boat would both would be gone. She wondered if the magic they’d teach her would be able to hold back the tide. Not likely. 

She had an idea. At her desk behind the walls, they wouldn’t let her write her name. No paper or ink could be wasted for a fancy before she could write perfectly. But here… Lil quickly scrawled a few more of their symbols into the sand beside the first. There. She tossed the stick into the water, wishing it was her quill.

Another wave came up in a rush. It broke the edges completely and filled the trenches of her writing before dragging the sand back over it to leave nothing but soft mounds in its wake. It took her name with it. It wasn’t real magic, but if they were going to claim her and carry her off, then she was going to claim the bay. When she walked back behind the walls and sat down at her desk, she’d be able to close her eyes, remember the beat of the water on the shore, and know the same water that took her name was touching the black rocks of home. 

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Writer in Motion, Week 4

Oh boy. So I finally have a finished second draft for this first draft and while there’s now a real story there, I’m still a long way from the finish line. If I weren’t on a schedule, I’d probably set this aside for a few weeks and then rewrite it again.

Yes, rewrite. I did a lot of editing and reshaping (an example of one of the edits copies is here)and such this week but ended up simply sitting down and basically rewriting it from the various scraps. It was so vague in the first draft that I didn’t want to be tied to it too much. I’m honestly not sure how it reads because I don’t have the distance from it to judge, but that’s what week 3 is about! I have a second draft, and I get to send it off to two critique partners who will go through it and give me valuable thoughts on what I could do to improve it. So without further ado, here’s draft two!

This bay wasn’t like her bay. This one was sand and seagrass all shaped into mounds like a badly stuffed mattress. Home was all rocks, black ones slick with weed that would slip you under the waves in a heartbeat and huge grey ones further back where you could sit and watch the water if there was no work to do. But home was also across the bay, a thin line on the horizon. On days when she had the time, Lil settled on a stretch of wet sand with home in front of her and the city walls at her back.

The wind picked up a little, and Lil pulled her knees up so she could wrap her arms around them to keep off the chill. The tide had come in enough that the water was nipping at her bare toes. At home there’d be hard work for that, splitting wood with Tique or pulling young lobster out of the upper cove for supper. Maybe she’d have been shaving a branch to make a staff so she could accompany Bryson on a trip to Big Bend On The Narrows. There was no work like that here. No bare feet on grey rock to watch the surge and no hard labour to sweat out any troubles.

Here there was a desk and paper and an ink bottle and a quill.

It was stupid work for stupid people who couldn’t manage to keep their stories in their head. She grabbed a stick from the ribbon of dry drift the last tide has pushed up and started scratching in the sand. It was the symbol for the sound a person made when they touched their tongue to the roof of their mouth, like in her own name, and it wasn’t half bad, which annoyed her. Their symbols shouldn’t take to her hand like that.

The water was around her feet now but not deep enough that the ilips of the waves were cold. She etched another figure in the sand. This one was a boat – long and clunky like Aven’s. She sketched in a few lines for the planks in the hull, then a low cabin on the deck. She’d wanted that boat, had begged Aven for the chance to work on it, prove herself, and earn the coin she’d need to build one like it one day and he’d humoured, her for a bit until he learned to respect her. That was a dream she’d almost managed to churn into something solid.

Then the Guild had come to the village and, with a spell no one understood had passed a hand over the head of every child and unpromised young adult, deciding who would go would return to the city with them to learn their magic. What a betrayal that her tall, strong body built for hauling nets and swinging an axe was harbouring some spark that attracted those outsiders’ attention. She’d thought she was as attached to that place, as immovable, as the boulders on the shore. I wish it weren’t so, her mom had said as she’d wiped the tears from Lil’s cheek, I wish it weren’t so.

The top edge of her letter crumbled at the touch of a wave. Another few moments and the symbol and boat both would be gone. She wondered if the magic they’d teach her, once she’s learned all their symbols, would be able to hold back the tide. Not likely.

She had an idea. At her desk behind the walls, they wouldn’t let her write her name. No paper or ink could be wasted for a fancy before she could write perfectly. But here… Lil quickly scrawled a few more of their symbols into the sand beside the first. There. She tossed the stick into the water, wishing it was her quill.

Another wave came up in a rush. It broke the edges completely and filled the trenches of her writing in before dragging the sand back over it to leave nothing but soft mounds in its wake. But it took her name with it, because that was what she’d spelled. It wasn’t real magic, but if they were going to claim her and carry her off, then she was going to claim the bay, so that when she walked back behind the city walls and sat down on her desk, she’d be able to close her eyes, remember the beat of the water on the shore, and know the same water that took her name, was touching the black rocks at home.

#WriterinMotion, Week 2

Editor Jeni Chappelle had a marvelous/terrifying idea – get a bunch of writers to explore their process from first draft to finished story, and do it in public so everyone can see. It sounded like a fantastic opportunity so I jumped in.

It’s Week 2, which involves writing a first draft from a prompt.The prompt is this gorgeous picture:

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

I sat down last night and wrote 700-800 words. I didn’t have a clear story idea going in, but I thought I’d work it a bit and see what came out. I used the MC from my novel as a crutch, but she will probably be replaced as I go. As you’ll read in a moment, what came out was an absolute mess, and there will be some drastic changes between it and the second draft, but it did give me a direction, so here it is:

This bay wasn’t like her bay.This was sand and seagrass shaped into mounds by the waves. Home was rocks. Black rocks, slick with weed close to the water that slipped you under the tide, and huge grey humps of rocks further back. that to Lil had always seemed a little like pillows. Not soft, but comforting on the days when the sky was clear and the wind whipped up just enough to blow her dark curls around her face. But even on the calm days, the tide came up [like a knife??] swallowing up stone until the black rocks were buried and a frisky[? ugh] wave could jump the grey ones to splash her feet.

Here the tide came traveled in and out, not up and down, and it worked itself in stealthy inches [towards a person on the beach].

She dropped to the sand and sat with her legs stretched out in front of her. That was what they wanted of her here, on her ass. They wanted to put her at a desk in one of the rich houses well behind the city walls, stick a quill in her hand, and teach her, by those same stealthy inches, to scratch out symbols she couldn’t even read yet. It was silly and useless. Waste time making their words when she could memorize what she needed? But Lil, Betrys had said, you can’t pass on your memories. Lil had managed to keep her mouth shut because Betrys drank fancy teas and was raised in a rich house. [She could afford to forget. She didn’t know a damn thing about memories].

The wind picked up a little, and Lil pulled her knees up so she could wrap her arms around them. At home she’d be splitting wood for Tigue or pulling lobster out of the upper cove for supper. Maybe she’d have been shaving a branch to make a staff so she could accompany Bryson on a trip to Big Bend on the Narrows. She certainly wouldn’t be sitting on wet sand.

There was a stick by her foot. Lil picked it up and scratched a figure in the sand – a boat, long and clunky like Master Aven’s. She gave it a few lines for planks in the hull, and sketched out the low cabin on the deck. By now the tides had snuck up to her feet, but she ignored it. The picture was a decent likeness, and if she’d had finer tools, like the quill and ink they made her waste on symbols, it could be better. Even a piece of slate on the grey rocks at home would have done better. She threw the stick out into the waves.

Her feet were wet, the waves reaching closer to her backend when she traced another figure into the sand. It was an ‘r’, made with her fingertip, and it wasn’t half bad. That annoyed her. She shouldnt’ get good at their symbols; they shouldn’t take. A moment later a wave reached up and water filled in the grooves of the letter. Another few waves, and the letter would be gone.

At home, the tides didn’t wipe out the rocks like this. The cracks worn in them didn’t disappear in a wave. At home… Lil watched as another wave came in, filled up, and then pulled away at the ‘r’. It fell apart, not quite gone, but soon to be. She smiled. This bay wasn’t like her bay. This was sand and home was rock, and she was rock. No symbol they taught her would change her and blahblahblah memories in rock.

END (the rest is just extra stuf to consider?)

So: She realizes they can’t change her with their symbols and her memory is like the rock – steady, permanent?

Everything was slow here. Slow wasn’t bad, not when it had a rhythm to it that matched the work done in a day, but here it made no sense. Just a short walk down the beach and there’d be walls built high and behind that, people who almost made sense to Lil, but further into the city there were rich houses and in those, people worked without rhythm, without the tide beating at the shore, with quills scratching symbols Lil couldn’t read onto blank paper.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t those in the rich houses who expected her to learn those symbols. Stupid really. She could be at home still, toes baiting the waves, but she was here.

Next draft I’ll go through this and find a clear theme and character motivations, then do some structural work to give this something of a clear arc that will work in 500 words. I’ll also be cutting like crazy and working on grammar and phrasing because there’s a lot here that just doesn’t flow or even make sense.

I’m going to be busy with this next week!