Hopefully you’ve been following along with the Writer In Motion saga! Check out the prompt and my process, as well as my first draft, and don’t forget to check out the works of all the other participants: they are seriously amazing.
So I wrote my first draft in 2nd person which very very quickly morphed to 1st person. I had to think long and hard about this, because I really wanted it to be in 2nd person. I only ever write in 3rd person, so this is experimental for me. To stick the landing, so to speak, I knew the end needed to go, which would also help shorten the story from 1140 to closer to 500, and I need to strengthen the ending.
My scrapping of the ending and rewriting started at “Drop the meat on!”
I needed to add more character to the “monsters” at the beginning too, so I took some from the original ending and patched it in earlier in the story.
That got the word count down to 963. Now to go through and really strengthen the 2nd person PoV. The thing is, I can’t be in 2nd person if there’s also an I/me because by nature, I’ll be in “my” own head, so “I” can’t also be in “yours”. I went back and re-read Rebecca Roanhorse’s 2nd person short story to stick myself in that PoV, and then went to work, correcting present tense mistakes to past tense as I went. That got the word count to 916, by cutting a character. Another thing I firmly decided was that I didn’t want to have any names, so a single Space Cow it was. You are a Space Cow. Congratulations.
I also needed to look at character arcs- I have a clear external arc, but I really wanted to pack an internal arc in here too. In talking through the plot as-it-was, I realized there’s a potential arc already set up in the cow’s atheism, and also in the cow’s vegetarianism. I went with “Who am I cooking” since I already have the sensory disgust from the act of cooking the meat to launch the reader into that conflict without adding too many more words. That brought me to 982 for a word count.
Next, I checked for characterization, trying to pack as much character and voice in as I could into the story, as well as making sure motivations come through for all the characters. Also, removing idea repetition- this is something I have issues with, and sometimes it’s stylistic, but not here. I cut it out.
Then to check for smoothing the telling of the story, once the story itself is stronger. This meant reading it aloud, and looking for and fixing filtering, telling, and passive voice, as well as any repeated words. After all was said and done, AutoCrit gave a score of about 79 (which is pretty good, though I usually score higher) and my word count was 936.
Here’s my second draft (and a handy link backward if you want to compare it to the first draft):
You huddled among the scraggly brush, your rasping breath loud in your ears. Around you the howls rose. Only a sandy stretch of barren land lay between your meager cover and the Drop Site. It waited, concealed in the rusting remains of a small ship which listed to starboard on a sandbank. Nothing the monsters could understand.
The howls closed in around you. You lunged for the derelict, breaking cover. The packed sand crumbled beneath your feet as if plotting with your pursuers to slow you down.
You stumbled, your hooves pattering a staccato beat. The scent of your own fear clogged your nostrils. It was a wonder the monsters didn’t smell it too.
Or maybe they did.
They roared out from the brush and a strangled squeal ripped from your throat. It seemed to call them on, to drive them ever faster, their huge splayed feet grabbing the sand you struggled on, throwing them forward with ease. Primitive creatures, they never stopped, never needed to rest. But they were intelligent, too, and their eyesight was better than yours. They’d seen you watching them, and they hadn’t taken kindly to that. That moment was frozen in your mind, the flapping hides, swinging limbs, and eyes gleaming in the dark. Fodder for nightmares, should you be lucky enough to have them later.
You galloped across the sands and through the tide which licked at your hooves, as if the water too conspired to drag you down. Did the monsters compel all of nature to do their bidding? You shivered, your hide twitching and jumping. It couldn’t be. Such a thing would be magic, and everyone knew magic was for children. Just silly superstitions, is all. Believing in magic would be as likely for you as hunting and killing some poor creature. Ridiculous.
You flung yourself into the derelict. No door to slam in the monsters’ faces. You lunged across the small ship to grab the crate the Wolves had sent down for your return, banging it against your knees as you hauled it back to the doorway. It was too small to block the opening, but there was nothing else. Only a few planks peeling away from the interior wall. The ship screamed, too loud in your sensitive ears, when you pulled them away and slotted them in the doorway, cannibalizing the ship. The planks rattled and shivered when you shoved the crate against them. There was no way they would hold.
Hoping you’d at least bought yourself enough time, you opened the crate, scanning the instructions. The Wolves had set up the Matter Teleportation Device, but they hadn’t told you how to use it. The “Matt” now felt like a mat in the fur, tangling and irritating, growing into something that could injure.
This was supposed to be an easy mission. Drop down, catalogue the natives, and Matt up. No one was supposed to get hurt. But the Wolves, likely thinking it a prank, had not set the Matt up with a verbal or physical passcode. The crate held a sensor along with matches, kindling, and two slabs of raw meat. You recoiled, even as you read the Wolves’ instructions: the Matt would initiate automatically when the sensor detected cooking meat.
You stared in horror. Who was this? Surely not another Cow? Could you live with yourself if you cooked another Cow?
You cursed the Wolves and their set up. You were sorry for it immediately, but you weren’t in your right mind. Some prank, forcing a vegetarian to cook meat in order to return to the ship. To safety.
But whoever this was, they were already dead. You dying too would not bring them back. Bile rose, and tears flowed from your eyes and down your sensitive muzzle. But you weren’t ready yet to die. Fumbling, you grabbed the matches, dropped them, and grabbed them again. You trembled as you tried to light the kindling in the crate.
Something slammed against the planks and they jumped, but you lunged to hold them up. You muttered prayers under your breath. Of course there was nothing in the starry expanse to pray to, but desperation drove out reason.
You were going to give the Wolves an earful, if you saw them again.
Finally, the match lit, just as a weight slammed against your back. Screaming with wordless terror, you scrambled with your hooves on the slick metal flooring, but there was no good footing. Maybe if you had massive flat feet like the monsters did. The match dropped from your grasp onto the kindling.
The kindling caught, lucky for you. Hairy arms snaked in through the holes in your barricade, scratching at you with blunt nails as the fire flared brighter. Another weight bounced against your back, and howls rose up all around the derelict. Fortunately the metal wasn’t rusted all the way through.
Shallow, quick breaths puffing out of your mouth, you dropped the meat on the flames and wafted the smoke toward the sensors. Your stomach turned, nausea rising. The things you were willing to do to survive were horrifying. You were disgusting.
As the stench of cooking meat filled the cabin, the monsters outside paused, snuffling around the edges of the planks. And then, they threw themselves like a wave at the barricade. At you.
Your eyes widened and you shrieked,… and disappeared, safely Matted up to the ship.
The Wolves considered the mission a success. After all, you survived. Even more, in one single exposure to the concept, you taught the humans how to harness fire.
You taught them to cook their meat.
I’m not 100% sure about the ending, and I’d like to cut more as I think we’re supposed to get to 500, but at least I’m under the 1000 word cutoff for CPs. And I don’t know what else to do with it, which means it’s ready for the next step: sending it off to CPs so they can give me critiques and suggestions on improving the story.
Check out the other Writer In Motion participants!
– Jen Karner http://www.SyllablesandSass.com
– H.M. Braverman http://hmbraverman.com
– J.M. Jinks www.authorjmjinks.com
– Melissa Bergum (will be posting via KJ’s site)
– Thuy Nguyen http://www.tmnstories.com
– Kristen Howe https://kristenswritingendeavors.wordpress.com/
– Kathryn Hewitt https://spinningmyyarns.wordpress.com/
– Sean Willson https://www.seanwillson.com/blog/
– Paulette Wiles http://www.paulettewiles.com
– Talynn Lynn inkinthebook.blogspot.com
– Ellen Mulholland www.ellenmulholland.com
– Steph Whitaker stephwhitaker80.wixsite.com/swhitakerwrites/
– Sheri MacIntyre https://sherimacintyre.wordpress.com
– Susan Burdorf https://writingnotes.home.blog
– Dawn Currie https://dawncurrie.wordpress.com
– Megan Van Dyke http://www.meganrvandyke.com
– Ari Augustine https://bookishvalhalla.com
– Fariha Khayyam http://www.farihakhayyam.com
– M. Dalto https://authormdalto.wordpress.com/blog/
– Sheryl Stein http://www.wrekehavoc.com
– Belinda Grant https://belindagrantwrites.wordpress.com
– Coffee Quills https://coffeequills.com
The amazing editors:
Jeni Chappelle https://www.jenichappelleeditorial.com
Carly Hayward https://booklighteditorial.com
Maria Tureaud https://twitter.com/Maria_Tureaud
Justine Manzano https://www.craftquest.org/