I wanted to share a little of my self-editing process as I did it, but I already got started a tad before I remembered to show my work. I thought I’d show you what my notes to myself sometimes look like as I work.
So what am I doing here?
First, I wanted clarity of story, with complete internal and external arcs, and a resolved plot. I figured I could get the words for that by trimming the on-ship scene, as I feel there’s some repetition (cycling) there to cut out.
As I did this, I got rid of all my stream-of-consciousness notes to myself (marked in the original by AA…).
Once I had a decent draft, it’s time to strengthen it by looking at characterizations, polishing arcs, and descriptions.
Finally, line edits, such as weeding out unnecessary words and phrases and strengthening emotion and weaker words for stronger ones. Once it was as good as I could make it, I had the computer voice read it aloud (to increase my own criticism of it), and then ran it through AutoCrit for help seeing potential issues that I was too close to see (including some pesky tense errors!).
Completing arcs took the word count up to 1587, but it feels much more like a story rather than the scene that it was before. Still, it means I had a lot to cut, while maintaining those now finished arcs!
Behold: my self-edited version of Space Cows 2.
“This is where you’ll be going.” The Whale’s fin indicates the Beacon lighting the screen.
You give a show of attention. You aren’t going, after all—you just got back from a mission.
“We’ll need you, Cow.”
Good thing Cow faces are naturally docile. You flick your ears instead of giving voice to your frustration, especially when the Whale continues.
“And a Wolf.”
Your forestomachs clench at the thought of working with a Wolf.
“Investigate the Beacon and come back.” The Whale’s voice follows you out of Command.
As you head toward the Drop Room, your mind races. The Beacon is some kind of call for help, but from whom, and why? And why is the Whale sending you, instead of a team of Wolves? Wolves are cunning and work well together. Just not so well with others.
A Wolf joins you in the Drop Room, and you stare at the controls rather than look at him. You breathe deep. You’re ready for anything.
Or so you think.
Splash! You flounder in the marsh, a bellow escaping your throat. Beside you, the Wolf struggles, the Matt clamped in his jaws. He goes under, then fights to the surface. Your stomach twists. If you lose the Matt, you’ll never get home.
“Climb on my back,” you grumble.
The Wolf pants harshly as his claws dig into your hide. You try not to flinch. What other tricks might the Wolves play if you act like prey? You don’t want to find out.
The squishy mud of the marsh sucks at all four hooves as you slog on, the Wolf lying on your back. When you finally meet dry land, the Wolf drops to his own feet and shakes himself. You do likewise as you stand back up on two legs. He holds the Matt, but his eyes are wide and ringed with white. Is he…frightened?
“Come on, we need to find the Beacon,” you say.
He shivers, eyes never leaving the marsh. Your nostrils flare as you walk uphill, where you can see and smell more.
“We’re stuck here, you stupid Cow.”
You stop, turning back to him, and wait for the next words to fall from his muzzle, dreading and hating them before they’re even born.
His ears flatten. “I hung on to it. But the water… Just look! Do you see any lights?” He thrusts the Matt in your face.
Your hooves stamp on the dirt, reassuring yourself that there is something solid in the universe, safe places in this nightmare.
“We can’t get back.” The Wolf’s voice is full of bitterness.
“We’ll figure it out. The Beacon is still out there.”
“They’re not going to send anyone after us. We had the only working Matt.”
You shake your head. You slide backwards on the mud, but continue up the hill.
“We’re stuck here!” he shouts, as if you hadn’t understood.
“I’m still going to do my duty. I may be just a stupid Cow, but I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ll figure out a way home on my own if I have to.”
After all, you were given a mission: investigate the Beacon and come back.
And that’s exactly what you intend to do.
Once you’re halfway up the hill, the Wolf appears beside you like a ghost, and you Do. Not. Spook. No, that quick breathing is all exertion. You lumber on to the top.
The Beacon lights the sky above a settlement, crisp against the ocean, with a tall metal fence rusted by the salt air. The gate creaks open to allow you in. Settlers fill the space, their physiology eerily similar to the monsters from the previous planet. You shiver. You can’t help it, even though the Wolf gives you a toothy grin.
“The Wolves are here!” The person who opened the gate flaps hairless arms. “And they brought…” He furrows his brow, “…food?”
“Might as well,” the Wolf says. “Since I can’t return to my ship.”
The gate clangs shut, displaying a bared-tooth wolf carved on the inside. Terror slams through you, electrifying all your nerves, but you can’t be prey. Not with that look in the Wolf’s eyes.
“But the Beacon!” you shout nonsensically.
“Yes, we lit it as instructed when the water purifier broke. See?” The person leads you to a large rusty machine—a water desalinator.
“We’re supposed to help you.” You stamp, desperate for time. “At least let me try to fix it.”
“I suppose you can have until evening,” the settlers agree.
You crouch by the machine. The nearby marsh must be fed by freshwater, so there must be a nearby source. Even if not, there are other ways of getting salt out of water. But you’re trapped inside a fence with people and a Wolf all looking at you like dinner. A wire catches your eye. As dusk settles on the settlement, you realize: the desalinator may never work again, but it could power the Matt, now that the sun has dried it.
“Time’s up: the people are hungry, and it’ll take a while to cook you,” the Wolf says.
You finish mashing the new wire with the old to splice it, using the exterior of the Matt to shape it.
The Wolf’s paw lands on your shoulder. “What are you…”
“Not such a stupid Cow.” You keep the Matt well away from him. “I can go home anytime.”
“Let’s go then!” the Wolf’s eyes gleam.
“You were going to let them eat me!”
“Come on, Cow, it was just a joke.”
“Fine then. I have a joke of my own.”
As he opens his mouth, you press the button, Matt’ing up to the ship.
After your report, the Whale agrees with your assessment, and together you send a message, both to the Wolf on the surface and those on the ship. The Wolf can rejoin his pack… after he turns the Wolf carving into a Cow.
This version comes in at 990 words, and while there’s still some things nagging at me, I’m much happier with it.