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:
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!