The first thing I did was let it sit. I always let stuff sit before editing. My subconscious is able to work on it that way. For this, obviously, there’s not as much marinating time available. Then I did a read through and made note of what I wanted to change:
- Really get into and sophisticate Goat’s voice. I don’t want Goat to sound like a kid, while preserving Goat’s excitement, spunk, and sass.
- I want to make sure there are no pronouns associated with Goat. I want Goat to be able to be anyone who feels like Goat.
- I also want to smooth out the whole reason to be here on this planet, as it got a bit muddy while I was discovering it.
- See if I can strengthen the arc I have in here.
- Then line edits, to make sure everything’s as polished as I can make it. Obviously typos, cutting word count, and tightening sentences. Oh, and read aloud!
Once I had everything as good as I could make it, I ran it through AutoCrit. As usual for me, it found some repetitions and I got to think about alternate ways to say things. I love how this word map summarizes my story so well!
I’m pretty happy with Space Goats right now! It clocks in at 991 according to Scrivener, so I came in comfortably under the word count limit. Have a look:
You sproing through the short bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so much different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains. Are all planets going to be like this one?
Frankly, part of you is disappointed. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien? For another thing, there’s an odd artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they, or what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, you rise up on your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing.
But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, thrums of energy race through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you.
All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better.
Oh, also and to finish your mission, you suppose.
You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he was standing in front of you, his long face scowling in your memory. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your wits to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matt. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”
Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building.
Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible.
A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—
Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust makes your eyes tear up. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first space walk, and you scramble to your hooves.
A Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Not following orders, again, Goat?”
What’s a Cougar doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. The Cougar will outrun you.
The Cougar prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”
“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.
“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws.
You flick your tail. You won’t cave to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully.
You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head. A flicker of surprise lights the Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side, just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. The Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does.
The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, so you abandon decorum and go to all fours. Twice as many hooves to propel you to the hilltop does wonders, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air.
Where’s the door? Where’s the door? The Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying.
The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. Ironically, Cougar would likely have an easier time with it. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it.
It springs open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around yourself, gaping. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space. An enormous cavern of bustling workers spirals deeper into the mountain beneath you. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors accent the interior. This is more like it.
One floor below you, Cow waits idly. “How’d the Goat do?”
Your mouth works, but nothing comes out.
Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’”
Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”
“What?” you squeak.
Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”