This past week has been a crazy one. My initial plan for the week was to have my final draft based on editor feedback finished Tuesday, and up by Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. Instead the beginning of my week involved playing internet roulette while trying to work from home and beginning my graduate level fall classes. Between trying to get work done while I had internet and figuring out how to attend classes when I didn’t have internet, I wasn’t left with a lot of time figuring out how to incorporate editor feedback.
My editor for Writer In Motion was Carly Hayward and she was awesome. Like my CPs she pointed out the small easy fixes, while giving me a lot of things to think about. Suggestions such as digging deeper into Ray’s POV and her reactions, and the friendship and banter between her and Luce. She also suggested maybe teasing a secret to amp up the tension in the beginning, and pointed out things I hadn’t noticed before. It was all good advice and pushed me further as a writer than any of the previous edits had. Carly was also really nice about her feedback, putting my fears at working with an editor for the first time at rest. She also mentioned what she loved about the piece such as the friendship between Ray and Luce, and how I threaded the knot/string bit throughout the story.
Thanks to some of the other WIM participants’ conversations, I discovered I no longer had to keep it to the 1,000 word limit. The limit was only in place so all WIM pieces were the roughly the same length for swapping with CPs and editors. After that, they could be as long as the writer wanted. Of course, I still tried to instill some sort of limit. First it was just an extra 50 words. Then 100. 200. By the end, my total count ended up being 1,206. Quite a change, but the extra two hundred words added to the story and Ray’s character.
Initially I was going to follow through on Carly’s advice to add some of the deleted banter into the beginning. But the more I got into Ray’s headspace, the more I realized that was not the direction to go in. She’s anxious, it’s been years since she and Luce have spent time together at the cabin, or more than a few hours with each other. Luce spent the majority of the summer on a different continent and with them graduating in the spring, there’s a serious chance their jobs will force them apart permanently. Because it’s been so long, there’s still the natural teasing between friends, but also a little bit of awkwardness. I also tried to show more of that anxiety and Ray being super focused on her plans. Towards the end, I expanded more on Ray’s reaction to Luce’s suggested promise, showing her hesitation and gradual acceptance by letting go of the phone she’s been holding the entire time.
Then, because Carly was so gracious, I sent her my changes for one more critique as I was unsure if I managed to pull off the changes she suggested or simply made it worse. Luckily it was the former, and she loved the changes I made, as do I.
My little fluff story about two friends learning and accepting that just because they have to grow up, doesn’t mean they have to grow apart has come along way since the rough outline from the beginning of the month. Here it is at last:
The Magic Jar
“Put. It. Down.”
“Googling directions will only take a minute, Luce.”
“I’ve rode with my parents a million times Ray… don’t you trust me?”
Ray trusted her oldest friend with a lot of things, but riding wasn’t the same as driving. It’d been eight years since they last summered at the cabin, and Luce had visited a handful of times since. The two-hour trip had already ballooned into three and there still was no sign of the turn-off. At the rate things were going, they probably wouldn’t get to the cabin until late when they’d be too tired to—
“Hey, did you hear me?”
Owlishly, Ray blinked then mumbled, “Yeah, I heard you.” Arms squeezing her drawstring backpack tightly, Ray fidgeted in the tan faux-leather seat while her right hand clutched her phone. “But if we’re not there after thirty minutes, I’m using Google.”
“Stop being such a worrywart Ray. I’ve got this.”
The words did little to relax Ray’s grip on her phone or arms around her backpack. “So… how was your internship? You haven’t really talked about it.”
“There’s not much to say,” shrugged Ray. “Analyzing data all day wasn’t as exciting as spending two months in Spain.” While Ray had enjoyed listening to the details of Luce’s vacation, she would’ve preferred being in the same time zone or continent for the summer. Then she could’ve listened in real time.
“True, but job experience looks better on a job resume and couldn’t they hire you after graduation? Graduation… can you believe we’ll be actual adults with jobs and stuff next spring?” An uneasy knot began to form in the pit of Ray’s stomach, preventing her from answering. “Oh look, there’s the turn. See? No Google required.”
Despite Luce’s confidence, Ray’s thumb didn’t move from the screen. Just in case. With a jerk, the car turned off the smooth asphalt and onto gravel. Crunching the small rocks beneath its tires, the car tore down the narrow road sending clouds of white smoke billowing behind. Arms still around the backpack protectively, Ray closed her eyes to ignore the feeling of weightlessness as they bounced over small hills. “There’s no need to go so fast.”
“You were complaining about not getting an early enough start.”
Each bump in the road tightened the knot, encouraging the greasy hamburger from lunch to come back up. Getting car sick during their only free summer weekend was the last thing Ray wanted; it’d taken forever to coordinate their schedules before parting ways in the fall for college. She wasn’t going to let anything ruin it, even if she had to deal with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride driving.
The car came to a merciful stop and Ray allowed herself to glance outside. A two-story house with a balcony and wrap-around porch featuring sleek, modern windows and sturdy, wooden beams stood out against a familiar wooded background. A hand-carved ‘Welcome’ sign hung over the double entry doors.
The knot grew larger at the wrongness.
“Where are we?”
“At the cabin, duh.”
“That’s not the cabin,” gestured Ray wildly, “That’s the cover of some fancy home magazine.”
With a puzzled look, Luce tilted her head to the side. “You mean the cabin from when we were kids? That place was barely standing. Grandpa tore it down when he built the new one.”
“You just said he built a new cabin, not that the old one was gone.”
“I thought it was implied. You wanted to spend a weekend together at the summer cabin; who cares if it’s not the old one? The new one has a Jacuzzi, Ray. A Jacuzzi.”
“But… but…” The knot was now a giant tangled ball squeezing her chest; Ray hadn’t factored the possibility of the cabin no longer being around in her carefully crafted plan. “It has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, made daisy chains, roasted s’mores, and…” Opening the backpack, she peered inside. “And caught magic bugs.”
Reaching over the center console, Luce plucked out a small item from the top of the bag. “You still have this old thing?”
“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray. “It’s magic.”
“Magic? It’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper and glitter for catching fireflies. We were so covered in glitter our moms told us to wash off in the lake before stepping inside. Remember?”
“Of course I remember, that’s why I wanted to come.” Snatching the jar back with her free hand, Ray frowned at Luce’s unimpressed reaction. Nestled safely in her lap was a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors. Frayed ribbon ends, close to losing their stolen Christmas decoration bells, dangled off the sides. Gold and silver glitter half-flaked off. To Ray, it was as beautiful and wondrous as the day two little girls made it. Even if one of them could no longer see the magic.
Perching her sunglasses on top of her head, Luce’s voice took on a serious tone. “Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”
She didn’t think she’d been that obvious, but she must’ve for Luce to be concerned enough to use her full name. Taking a deep breath, she pondered her response. Talking about feelings was always more of Luce’s thing. “It’s just… we barely hung out this summer, or the past year. Like you said, next spring we’ll be actual adults. What if this is our last chance to be together? To catch magic bugs?”
“Oh Ray… you’re not the only one worried about our future.” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “But don’t you remember what we’d do after we caught them?”
Ray’s head bobbed up questioningly.
“We’d release them so they wouldn’t die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they always came back. Just like we will. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend to get together.” A promise to return. Hesitant— for promises could always be made with the best intentions, but broken later— Ray didn’t say anything. Luce continued, “It doesn’t have to be at the cabin. There’s the city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we can catch.” Extending her pinky finger she asked, “Pinky promise?”
Luce’s pinky wavered in the air. Promises could be broken, but they could be kept too. And hadn’t two little glitter-covered girls once made a promise to be friends forever? Ray’s phone fell softly with a thump onto her lap as she shook Luce’s pinky. “Pinky promise.”
“Good. Let’s go inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat. Tonight will be just like the good old days, except we might be a little tipsy on my new sangria recipe when we catch us some magic bugs. Adulthood does have some perks and magic. Trust me.”
The tightly knotted lump in Ray’s chest went limp, unraveling at her friend’s earnest smile. Returning it with her own, she squeezed Luce’s hand. “Maybe being actual adults won’t be all bad. If the magic bugs can come back, we can too. We’ve got this.”
And it’s done! Come back next week when I post my Writer In Motion wrap-up. Also check out my previous posts on my Writer In Motion journey including my earlier drafts to see how far the story has come:
All Writer in Motion posts:
Writer in Motion Post #1: Initial Thoughts on Prompt Reveal
Writer in Motion Post #2: Insight to Writing Process and Outline
Writer in Motion Post #3: First Draft
Writer in Motion Post #4: Self-Edit
Writer in Motion Post #5: CP Edit
Writer in Motion Post #6: Editor Feedback and Final Version
Writer in Motion Post #7: Final Thoughts