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.