Writer In Motion Week 4: Editor Feedback and Final Version

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime

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.

“We’re here!”

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

Writer In Motion Week 3: CP Edits

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

Welcome to Week 3 of Writer In Motion, CP (critique partner) edits! For previous posts regarding Writer In Motion, click here.

This week was the first time Ellie Doores and Laura Hazan who were both amazing to work with. Don’t forget to check out their WIM pieces, and all the other ones too.

Of course, that meant I had to critique their pieces too. I’ve been part of writing groups for over a year, so being a CP/beta reader isn’t anything new to me. My own personal critique style is that I read through and jot down any reactions or questions that occur to me, as well as highlight any typos I might spot. Then I’ll go through it again, sometimes questioning whether or not an issue is there or if I merely misread it. I also try to include what I liked and suggestions for improvements instead of nothing, but criticism.

There are two bad things about being a CP. Reading something so awesome that you have no suggestions and feel like an amateur in comparison, or reading something that makes you so angry due to the subpar writing or plot elements it’s hard to finish. Thankfully, my partners were neither. Both were well-written, but had room for improvement. Both made me think more critically of my own piece, and what weaknesses I could still improve on– which was before I even saw their notes on mine.

When it comes to going through CP and beta feedback on my own works, I prefer to let it sit for a day and then tackle it in one go. Reading feedback is always a roller coaster of emotions. I send it off thinking I polished it as much as possible, followed by a quick low of thinking it’s the worst thing ever. Then a few more ups and downs as I gradually come around to looking at the feedback and seeing it’s not as bad as I feared, and is helpful. The key to a good CP/beta relationship is finding one who can balance between pointing out your strengthens along with your weaknesses and doing so in a helpful way. A CP who does nothing but praise your writing can’t help you improve. A CP who does nothing but criticize your writing can kill your writing muse and motivation for good.

In this case, my CPs were definitely good ones. They didn’t tear the story to pieces, merely pointing out issues and giving advice for improvement. My concerns that the dialogue overpowered the piece were unfounded, but there were several bits of dialogue which could have flowed smoother (which some part of me already knew).

As always, there’s usually one piece of feedback that throws me for a loop and causes me to reflect on it. In this case it was regarding the age of Luce and Ray, and how they talk more like high school seniors than college seniors. Which upon rereading it with that view, I could see.

Ultimately (at least for the time being) I decided to leave their dialogue and age as is. While it might sound younger, their conversation is something I can easily picture myself and friends having today despite being out of high school for at least a decade. The whole ‘should I Google? I think I’m going to Google’ bit is something that occurs often with my husband when he decides to take a different route home after visiting family. In my professional life I talk and act different than how I do around my childhood friends and even my husband. So while the CP had a completely valid point, I decided to let it be because I know firsthand how who you’re around affects your speech and actions. Especially when you’re in a nostalgic mood with close loved ones you’ve known for years. Of course, that’s just me, so your own experience may vary.

But there were plenty of other valid points and suggestions I did take. Cutting words, rephrasing sentences, strengthening dialogue, clarifying information. I went line by line, paragraph by paragraph, editing my piece. Some were easy yeses and fixes. Others caused me to scratch my head a bit on how to address them, such as smoothing out the ending dialogue while still allowing Ray the last word. The majority though, I either agreed with or had no problem with changing.

After going back and forth between adding words and cutting them, I actually managed to reduce it by a whopping four words: 995. While it is stronger with CP feedback, I don’t know if I’m quite ready for next week’s editor feedback. I’ve never really worked with an editor on a piece before, so it’s a little scary handing my first piece over. What if they hate it? Think it’s amateurish? Have suggestions for rewriting every line? Spot all the embarrassing typos I thought I fixed? But I’ve made it this far. If want to get my WIP published someday, it means I’ll have to get used to working with editors. Might as well start now.

Here’s the final result:


The Magic Jar


“We’re lost, aren’t we? Maybe I should Google directions…”

“Relax Ray. I’ve rode with my parents a million times, I know where we’re going.”

“That’s not the same as driving Luce…” muttered Ray. A two-hour car trip had ballooned into three, and they still hadn’t reached the turn off. At the rate the day was going, her high hopes for the weekend were beginning to fade. “It’s really—”

“Trust me. I’ve got this.”

Holding tightly onto her drawstring backpack, Ray slumped against the tan faux-leather car seat. “Okay, but if we’re still not there after thirty minutes, I’m using Google.”

“You do that.” Dark sunglasses on, Ray’s best friend and driver glanced over. “So… how was your internship?”

“Boring,” shrugged Ray. “Analyzing data all day isn’t as exciting as spending two months in Spain. One time I spent ten minutes trying to text on my graphing calculator.”

“Nice. Can you believe we’ll be college seniors this fall? Next spring we’ll be actual adults with jobs and stuff.” An uneasy knot began to form in the pit of Ray’s stomach. “Look, there’s the turn. See? No Google required.”

Despite Luce’s confidence, Ray kept her phone in hand. 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.

“Luce! There’s no need to go so fast.” Arms clutching the backpack protectively, Ray closed her eyes to ignore the feeling of weightlessness as they bounced over small hills. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“No, just trying to get there faster. You were the one 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 last free summer weekend was the last thing Luce wanted. They were so close; she wasn’t going to let anything ruin their trip before parting ways for college. Even if it meant putting up with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride driving-style.

“We’re here!”

Relieved as the car came to a merciful stop, Ray allowed herself to glance at the structure outside. A two-story house with a balcony and wrap-around porch featuring sleek, modern windows and sturdy, wooden beams. 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 then. 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; nothing was going according to 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. That night we caught mostly skeeters. Remember?”

“Of course I remember, that’s why I wanted to come.” Snatching the jar back, Ray sighed heavily. 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. Yet to Ray, the old Magic Jar was as beautiful and wondrous as the day two little girls made it.

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.”

“It’s just… we barely hung out this summer, or the past year. We were last here when we were what, thirteen? 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 you know.” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “But you forget what we’d do after we caught them.”

Ray’s head bobbed up. “Huh?”

“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. 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?”

“Pinky promise,” agreed Ray, shaking it.

“Good, my butt is starting to stick to the seat. We might be a little tipsy on my new sangria recipe when we catch us some magic bugs tonight, but it’ll be like the old days… just with alcohol. 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. “You’re right. Maybe being actual adults won’t be all bad. If the magic bugs can come back, we can too. We’ve got this.”


That’s it for this week. Come back next week for the final edit.

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

Writer In Motion Week 2: Self-Edit

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

And it’s officially Week 2 of Writer in Motion and time for my self-edit! Confession time: I waited like a day after my first draft before starting. I just had so many thoughts and things I wanted to do. Especially as I began reading everybody else’s first drafts with some envy. They were so polished, dark, twisty, vivid, and more fantastical than my contemporary fluff piece and made me want to step up my game instantly. Seriously, if you haven’t checked any of the others out, please do so. If you are one of those brilliant writers, I tip my hat off to you.

To recap, here was my to do list from my first draft:

  • Fix typos
  • Shorten and rephrase dialogue
  • Include more details and descriptions so it’s not all diaogue
  • Rework ending
  • Make sure wordcount is under 1,000 words

The first item was simple enough by running it through spellcheck. Google, faux, and pinky still have angry red marks, and spellcheck didn’t catch all the mistakes (wrong word usage or tense for example), but it was a start.

Then a quick breeze-through to trim the obvious extra words. After that, it was time to really get down to business. Tightening dialogue. Avoiding repeating words. Adding more reactions and descriptions. Reducing word-count only to add more to make the most of the 1,000 limit. Reduce. Add. Reduce. Add. Final count: 997.

I tackled the meh ending as I was editing dialogue and reducing wordcount by playing around with a couple different lines, and their speaker. Giving the last word to Luce didn’t feel right, as it really wasn’t her story. It may have taken several passes, but it was only when I started writing details from Ray’s POV– her uneasy stomach at not just the bumpy journey but the thought of her weekend and friendship falling apart– did I realize that Ray had to have the last word to show her growth and acceptance. With that in mind I was finally able to write an ending I liked while tying it back to the beginning.

I’ve officially gotten to the point where I’ve edited this as much as possible. Fixed all the obvious mistakes and tweaked the small things. I still worry that it’s too dialogue heavy with not enough details or reactions, but the 1,000 word cap prevents me from expanding it. The wild turkey never made it past the outline. The details of the air conditioning cutting off, jamming to a roadtrip playlist, or them stepping out of the car and exploring the patch of land where the cabin used to be just couldn’t be squeezed in. Details are nice, but the story and characters are more important.

Next week I’ll be editing based on critique partner (CP) feedback which I’m looking forward to. Hopefully their fresh eyes can pick up on things I’m overlooking and give some valuable feedback and suggestions.

And here it is, the self-edit:


The Magic Jar

“We’re lost, aren’t we? Maybe I should Google directions…”

“Relax Ray. I’ve rode with my parents a million times, I know where we’re going.”

“But Luce—”

“But Ray! Trust me, I’ve got this.”

Holding tightly onto her drawstring backpack, Ray slumped against the tan faux-leather car seat. “Okay,” she mumbled, “but if we’re still not there after thirty minutes, I’m using Google.”

“You do that.” Dark sunglasses on, Luce glanced over at her passenger. “So… how was your internship?”

“Boring,” shrugged Ray. “Nothing but analyzing data all day. Not as exciting as spending two months in Spain.”

“Yeah, except for the end when English seemed like the foreign language.”

“Numbers aren’t much better. One day I spent ten minutes trying to text on my graphing calculator.”

“Nice,” chuckled Luce. “God, can you believe we’ll be college seniors this fall? Next spring we’ll be actual adults with jobs and stuff.” An uneasy knot began to form in the pit of Ray’s stomach. “Hey look, here’s the turn. See? No Google required.”

Despite Luce’s confidence, Ray kept her phone in hand. With a jerk, the car turned off the smooth asphalt road and onto one of gravel. Crunching the small rocks beneath its tires, the car tore down the narrow road sending clouds of white smoke billowing behind.

“Luce! There’s no need to go so fast.” Arms clutching the backpack protectively, Ray closed her eyes to ignore the blurred green images rushing by and the feeling of weightlessness as they bounced over small hills. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“No, just trying to get there faster. You’re the one 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. Unable to afford being car sick when they’d already been running late all day during one of the last weekends of summer, she swallowed it down. They were so close; she had to make this weekend count, even if it meant putting up with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride driving-style.

“We’re here!”

Relieved as the car came to a merciful stop, Ray allowed herself to glance at the structure outside. A two story house, with a balcony and wrap-around porch featuring sleek, modern windows and sturdy, wooden beams. A hand-carved wooden ‘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.”

Puzzled, Luce tilted her head to the side. “You mean the cabin from when we were kids? That place was barely standing before the erosion got so bad Grandpa had to tear it down and build the new one further in.”

“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 tightened as Ray’s firm grip on the long-awaited trip weakened. “It has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, made daisy chains, roasted s’mores at the fire-pit, and…” Opening the backpack, she peered inside. Quietly she said, “and caught magic bugs.”

Reaching over the tan 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? Ray, 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. That night we caught mostly skeeters. Remember?”

“Of course I remember, that’s why I wanted to come.”

Snatching the jar back, Ray sighed heavily. Nestled safely in her lap was a miniature stained-glass window; a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors. Frayed ribbon ends, close to losing their stolen Christmas decoration bells, dangled off the sides. Gold glitter was half-flaked off. Yet to Ray, the old Magic Jar was as beautiful and wondrous as the day two little girls made it.

Perching her sunglasses on top of head, Luce’s voice took on a serious tone. “Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

“It’s just… we barely spent hung out this summer, or the past year. We were last here when we were what, thirteen? Like you said, next spring we’ll be actual adults. What if this is our last change to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray…” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “But we didn’t catch them, not really.”

Her head bobbed up. “What?”

“We’d release them at the end of the night 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 for each other, no matter where. It doesn’t have to be at the cabin it could be a city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we could catch. Pinky promise?”

Ray considered her friend’s extended pinky finger, before shaking it with her own. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. My butt is starting to stick to the seat and you have to try my new favorite sangria recipe. We might be a little tipsy tonight when we catch us some magic bugs, but it’ll be like the old days… just with alcohol. Adulthood does have some perks and magic. Trust me.”

No swallowing was needed to keep Ray’s lunch in place or untangle the large knots; Luce’s earnest smile was enough. Returning it with her own, Ray squeezed Luce’s hand. “You’re right, we’ve got this.”


Better than the first draft, but still room for improvement. That’s all for now, and see you next week for the CP edit.

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

Writer In Motion Week 1: First Draft and Thoughts

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

After completing my first thoughts and outline, it was finally time to begin my first draft based on the above prompt picture. One of my initial fears was going over the 1,000 word limit a huge amount. Actually ended up with 1,078 words which I can work with.

The hardest part was resisting the urge to correct typos to show the first draft in all its raw glory. Like most of my first drafts there are numerous errors and places that need tightening and others that need more description. First drafts will also sometimes serve as a way for me to get the know characters better even if I have to cut large parts later on. The draft isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever written, but there’s a reason I typically don’t let others read anything until after I’ve self-edited several times.

I’m also not completely happy with the final line. Spent quite a bit going back and forth over what to actually write before ending up with the result to get something down, figuring I could always edit it next week.

Things on my to-do list for the self-edit:

  • Fix typos
  • Shorten and rephrase dialogue
  • Include more details and descriptions so it’s not all diaogue
  • Rework ending
  • Make sure wordcount is under 1,000 words

And finally, the first draft of The Magic Jar:


“We’re lost, aren’t we? I can try Googling it on my phone.”

“Calm down Ray, we’re not lost. I’ve rode with my parents like a million times, I know where we’re going.”

“But Luce—”

“But Ray! Trust me, I’ve got this.”

“Alright,” she mumbled sinking down into her seat. “But if we go another thirty minutes and we’re still not there, I’m using Google.”

“You do that Ray. So you never did say, but how was your internship.”

“Boring. Did nothing but crunch data all day. Not as exciting as spending two months in Spain.”

“Yeah, except by the end of it I was dreaming in Spainish and English seemed like the foreign language.”

“Numbers aren’t much better. One day I was so frazzled by a project I spent ten minutes trying to text on my graphing calculator.”

“Nice. God, can you believe we’ll be seniors in college this year? One more year and we’ll have to be actual adults with jobs and stuff.”

“Don’t forget paying off those student loans.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Oh look the turn is ahead.”

“Where?”

“Behind the tree.”

“Luce, there’s a bunch of— oh, I see it now.”

With a jerk, the car turned left off the smooth asphalt and onto a narrow gravel road. It crunched beneaht the tires and sent clouds of white somke blowing up in front of the windshielf. The car continued to tear tdown the road, flying over the small hills like they weren’t even there.

“Geez Luce, there’s no need to go so fast.” Slightly afraid, Ray clutched her bag a little tighter to her chest. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“No, just trying to get there faster. You’re the one who was complaining about not getting an early enough start.”

The jolting of the car was a bit much for Ray, who closed her eyes. She couldn’t afford to get car sick when she was finally so closed to her goal. As Luce had said, they’d been running late all day. Summer was coming to an end as well, so Ray had to make this weekend count. Even if meant putting up with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s wild ride driving-style and swallowing every few seconds to keep the greasy hamburger from lunch down.

“We’re here!”

Relieved at the stillness, Ray opened her eyes and glanced out the window. Sleek, glass modern windows. Sturdy, thick log beams, appearing like they were cut yesterday. Two stories, with a balcony and wrap-around porch. A handcarved wooden ‘Welcome’ sign hanging over the entry.

“Where the hell are we?”

“What are you talkking about Ray? We’re at the cabin.”

“This is not a cabin… this is… this is the cover of one of those flashy magazines you see in the checkout lane of the grocery store filled with unrealistic homes you can never afford to live at.”

“That’s awfully specific… and do you mean the cabin from when we were kids? Luce, that place was barely standing then, and that was before the rossion got bad. Grandpoa tore it down and built the new one. I told you baout it, remember?”

“You just said he was building a new cabin, not that he was tearing down the old noe.”

“I thought it was implied. And what’s the deal? You said 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 movie theater with a popcorn macahine and hot tub at back.”

“But it has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, and left the beaded bracelet on the porch post, seeing if it fit year after year. And there was the firepit overlooking the back where we’d make hot dogs and s’mores, and…” Loosening her hold on the package close to her chest, Ray opened the flap and peered inside. In a quiet voice she said, “and catch magic bugs.”

Reaching over the gray center console, Luce plucked out the small item Ray had been clutching protectively. “You still have this old thing?”

“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray, taking the item back. “It’s magical.”

“Magical? Ray, it’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper, glitter and ribbons in to catch fireflies in. Pretty sure we were more covered in glitter than the jar. Our moms told us to wash off in the lake before we’d be allow back inside, and that night we caught more skeeters than magic bugs. Remember that?”

“Of course I remember. That’s why I wanted to come back.” Nestled safely back in her lap, a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors looked like a minature stained glass window. The ribbons were fraying, close to losing the stolen Christmas bells tied to their ends. Glitter came away with each finger touch. Yet to Ray, their old Magic Jar was the more beatiful than a Faberige egg in all its glory.

“Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

“It’s just… we’ve barely spent any time together this summer, the last few summers actually. The last time we were here was like when, we were thirteen? Like you said, next year we’ll fully be actual adults… what if this is our last change to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray…” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “Do you remember what we’d do at the end of the night?”

“We’d release them.”

“Exactly! We’d release them because otherwise they’d die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they’d always come back. Just like we will. Trust me. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend for each other, no matter where we are. It doesn’t have to be at the cabin, it could be a city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we could catch. Promise?”

Ray stuck out her pinky finger in the crook of her friend’s. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. Now let’s get on inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat and you have to try my new sangria recipe. We might be a little tipsy tonight when we catch us some magic bugs, but it’ll be fun. Just like the old days… but with alcohol. Adulthood does have some perks, some magic. You just got to find it.

“Yeah, I guess it does.”


And that’s it for this week. Next week: The Self-Edit.

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

Writer in Motion Week 0: My Writing Process and Outline

I jumped around several plots and genres when trying to come up with a first draft. A post-apocalyptic world in which survivors are trying to make their way to a distant safe house. A sci-fi fantasy in which special secret agents are sent to apprehend a dangerous individual hiding out. A contemporary story in which the MC reflects on their childhood and coming home after a long estrangement. The MC following instructions to some remote cabin to fulfill the dying wish of somebody close to them. A roadtrip. A bedtime story. Digging up a time capsule.

The thing is, I’m great at coming up with ideas. I have half a dozen floating through my mind at any moment. Some I know I’ll never get to I’ve added to the Plot Exchange (please feel free to use or leave your own plots) for other writers. However I have three basic requirements before I actually begin writing:

  1. It has to Have an Ending

One thing I’ve learned about my writing process over the years is that it’s very similar to taking a road trip. Before I get into my car I have to know where I’m going, and use a GPS to get me there. My bags are packed with whatever I might need, and while pit stops are allowed, I will try my best to stick with the best route available. For writing, I need an end goal to work towards, a rough outline, and resources such as research and background on the world and characters to help me meet the goal. I’m free to come up with random bits of character insight or side plots along the way, as long as it helps me reach the ending.

All those ideas listed at the beginning? Not an ending among them. The one I ended up choosing? Had the ending and the rest of the story fell into place.

2. It has to Have a Message/Theme Setting it Apart

Sometimes my story ideas can be very similar to one another. So I ask myself, what makes this one unique? What point am I hoping to accomplish or convey to readers? What lesson could be learned by it? Is there some overarching theme tying everything together?

Usually in the process of answering those questions, I’ll get my lightbulb moment, the instant where everything clicks, the story falls into place, and I have my motivation for writing it down. My moment for this one which cemented it as THE IDEA was one word: fireflies.

3. It has to Have Heart

Whether they’re heroes or villains I have to connect and be able to care about the characters and the story. If I don’t care, how can I expect readers to care about what happens to them, and share in their joys and sorrows? Giving characters heart changes them from shapeless bland blobs to actual people I can be emotionally invested in. It helps me with understanding how they think, their motivations, and desires. Giving the story heart transforms mere words on a page (or screen) to something relatable, that sticks with myself and readers.

I give the characters and story heart by incorporating some bit of myself or somebody I closely know. It can be a personality type, strange quirk, personal experience that shaped me, a hope or dream, and even a fear or obstacle that had to be overcome. It can be one tiny detail, several, or a huge part of my life.

In this case, the heart comes from the times when I was right on the cusp of full adulthood. Afraid of what was to come, of losing touch with my childhood friends, and trying my best to cling tightly onto my childhood one last time.

And that wraps up the brief insight into the beginning of my writing process. Below is the result, my rough outline which includes placeholders and and notes. Expect the first draft in the next few days.

Outline:

Two MCs are traveling in car, arguing over directions. “You don’t know where you’re going. Want me to use Google?” “Relax, it’s fine.” “But–” “Like I said fine. There’s the turn.” “What turn? All I see is a tree.” “It’s behind the tree.” “Behind the tree, how can it be behind– oh, it’s behind the tree.”

Car turns off onto gravel dusty road, loud, will need a wash later on. Wild turkey crosses path. Flying up and down the hills, one mentions speed, but other is unconcerned. MC1 is super obsessive (passenger) and has packed several bags of stuff, MC2 carries. Along the way they discuss plans for fall, reminiscence about old days, childhood and memories at cabin. Reveals it’s been years since last visit.

Finally reach top of hill and discovers nothing. MC1 freaks out, it has to be here. MC2 finds signs but reveals it’s long gone, was more like a crumbling shack back in the day, not surprised it’s not around. Cabin belongs to MC2’s family and they built a new one, and MC1 didn’t realize that meant tearing down the old one. MC1 splutters, this isn’t right, we were supposed to do XYZ. MC2 insists everything is fine (sidenote: I use that word a lot) and it doesn’t have to be the same. MC1 is still bothered, and MC2 asks what’s wrong. MC1 reveals worry over losing touch once the summer ends, going separate ways with college, barely spending any time together like they used to, afraid they’re going to drift away forever and just wanted one last night like when they were kids.

MC2 admits same fears, but reassures MC1. Things will change, everything changes, but change can be good. Like now, without parents or siblings can do stuff on their own. Make promise no matter how crazy things may get, will set aside one weekend each summer to catch up at cabin or somewhere else. They never really liked the outdoors anyway, could go to a beach or the city. MC1 is relieved, and ends on hopeful note.

Notes:

FIREFLIES! Work in catching fireflies in jar as children to capturing memories and moments, but MC2 points out they always released them otherwise they’d die, but they’d always be back the next year. Could work as title. The Firefly’s Journey. Like Fireflies. Summer Fireflies. Pinpricks of Light. Pinpricks of Magic. Summer Magic. Capturing Magic. Releasing Magic. The Magic Jar. Flickering Summer Magic. Fleeting Summer Magic. Those Summer Nights. Summertime Magic. Magical Days of Summer.

Names for characters: Rachel (call Ray and Luce for short, ray of light names)

Final thoughts: MCs still need physical descriptions. Can I get this under 1,000 words? First draft I’ll try not to worry about wordcount and address in self-edit.

Next: First Draft

All Writer in Motion posts:

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

Take Two

So… it’s been a while. Not that anybody probably noticed other than spammers. And not just a little while, but a full year in which I haven’t posted anything. Part of which was due to studying for several professional exams, followed by the holidays, and then a family vacation and wedding. Just when I was finally getting ready to back to this blog, COVID-19 struck.

Up until March, COVID seemed like a far away thing. Sure I was aware of it when I flew in February, but it was confined to incoming travelers from Europe and other places so I wasn’t too concerned. Then March came in and things got crazy.

As stay at home and quarantine orders started to roll out, I remember going to the store and waiting 20 minutes in line to check out as people were stocking up on food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes, and more. The atmosphere reminded me of a bad winter storm approaching and everybody panicking and trying to stock up on supplies. It was eerie, and will stick with me. On St. Patrick’s Day, I was sent to work from home and have been doing so ever since.

The weeks that followed I didn’t have much interest or passion for writing. I was still on edge and nervous. Every time I coughed I wondered if it was a symptom of something else. Every time I heard new numbers on the news, I thought of my dad who has to take medication to live, but lowers his immune system, putting him at risk. I even started trying to cut back my snacking just in case there was a food shortage.

Then George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter exploded and all I could do was watch as history continued to unfold. My WIP seemed so insignificant to the world around me. Make no mistake, 2020 will go down in history as a year of change and be studied and analyzed for decades to come.

In the meantime I worked on creating a craft/sewing space in a spare bedroom, got addicted to Animal Crossing New Horizons, and started on my Master’s. Gradually I adjusted to the new normal and got my writing groove back. I joined Camp RevPit (go hedgehogs!) and got an editor spot for Writer In Motion. I also started the Plot Exchange which is a Google spreadsheet full of plot ideas for writers and has a form allowing writers to submit any plots they don’t have the background, time, etc. to write.

For the remainder of this year, I want this blog to focus on three areas important to me: writing, engineering, and sewing/quilting. Each one has a different goal:

Writing: Gear up and complete Writer In Motion.

Engineering: Post PE studying guide.

Sewing/Quilting: Blog as I make my mom’s quilt Christmas present.

And finish editing my WIP so I can move onto betas and writing contests in the spring. That’s it for now. May the remaining months of 2020 be better than the rest, and stay safe.

Kay S. Beckett

Why You Should Include a Holiday in Your Novel

December is here, which means spiced pumpkin flavored goods have been exchanged for hot cocoa and peppermint. The days are growing shorter and darker, and traffic is becoming more chaotic as everyone tries to squeeze in their last minute holiday shopping. As crazy as it may be at times, December is also a time for family, friends, to say goodbye to the old year and hello to a new, and hopefully better year.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, no holiday, or a different one completely, if you’re having plot issues with your novel you should consider adding a holiday to it. You can go beyond the traditional holidays found in December, writing about Easter, Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, April Fool’s Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, or whatever holiday is close to either you or the characters in your novel. Below are a list of some of the reasons why you should include a holiday, and how you can incorporate into your story.

Holidays Can Provide Background on the World

If you’re writing a fantasy or science fiction novel, than odds are you’ve had to do some serious world-building. You need to convey certain information to the reader so they can better understand the world and plot, but have to do so in a way that avoids having large amounts of exposition or info dumping. Holidays provide a great way to do that.

No matter the holiday, certain traditions are always involved or associated with that holiday. Things like food, colors, symbols, activities, and even religious practices. By showing how the characters observe a holiday, a reader can learn more about their culture, beliefs, value system, and even more about the character themselves. Character A could be really excited about the holiday, while Character B doesn’t really care— and they might have their own reasons, which could be foreshadowing a bigger event.

Think of the Hunger Games which opens with the reaping. It might not be a holiday by our normal definition, but it is an annual event that is observed by everybody in Panem, with major implications. By reading about how Katniss goes about her day and what happens during the reaping, the reader learns about the world’s history and what’s at stake for the characters without it being a complete info dump.

Holidays Can Help With Character Growth

Usually people spend holidays with family, sometimes only seeing them at a certain holiday which can lead to interesting situations and reveals. How a person relates to their family, whether they’re close and looking eager to the reunion or wants to avoid it, can be interesting subplots to explore, and possibly explain a character’s actions so far, or foreshadow how they’ll react to future events.

They could also stumble upon some long hidden family secret or receive a gift that will come in handy later (think Hagrid’s flute or Harry’s invisibility cloak, both of which were received as Christmas presents).

Or maybe their lack of celebrating or returning home can be an opportunity for growth as well. Maybe it’s revealed that they have no family (by situation or choice) to celebrate with, so they either stick to themselves or spend time with friends, who they consider family. Perhaps they got stuck working, or just don’t celebrate the holiday period. Holidays don’t have to be spent in the traditional way, and could still serve as an opportunity for growth.

Holidays Can Kick Off the Plot

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to start your novel, consider adding a holiday. The beginning could be a catalyst for events, or just serve as a background for the rest of the novel. Character A could be expecting a fancy meal or engagement on Valentine’s Day, only to break-up and start on a journey of self-discovery. Character B could return home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, only thanks to a drunken relative discover they’re not really family at all, or an equally unknown, but devastating family secret.

This could also double up with the world-building example. When does the reaping first appear in the Hunger Games? Towards the beginning, not only providing readers with context and background knowledge on the world, but kicking off the plot as well.

Holidays Can Provide a Lull

Sometimes after a big reveal or action scene you need a breather and holidays can certainly provide that. They’re typically times of relaxation, spent in locations where one feels safe and with people one loves. If a character has just gone through some major change or action, they might need a break (as well as the reader) from the plot and having a holiday is a natural excuse for doing just that.

Of course, you could always pull a bait and switch. Just as your characters and the readers think things are calming down, BAM! Unexpected twist or action. Dear old sweet granny isn’t as sweet as you think, or just when your characters think they’re safe, the plot shows up at the front door, not even bothering to knock politely, but kicking it down instead.

Holidays Can Set Up the Climax

The novel could also be working or leading to a major event as well, which also doubles as a backdrop for the climax. Throughout the novel, preparations have begun, decorations must be bought or put up, but it’s in the background and seems minor. Then as the plot begins to accelerate, the holiday suddenly takes center stage. Some holidays involve large public gatherings (parades, New Year Eve Countdown, Easter and Christmas mass) which would be the perfect target for an evil doer up to no good, and the heroes must stop them and save the event. Or perhaps they’re using the event as a distraction for their true plot, using a mob of people as the perfect getaway, or Santa’s sack to make off with their ill-gotten goods.

You can make it obvious that the big holiday or festival event is the setting of your big climax, or try your best to conceal your plot (but don’t forget to include a few bits of foreshadowing so it won’t seem like it’s coming out of nowhere). Either way, using a holiday as your climax could be an interesting ending for your novel.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for my next post which will focus on creating your own holiday for a fantasy or science fiction story.

— Kay S. Beckett

Writer In Motion Week 5: Final Thoughts

brown concrete house on green grass field near mountain during daytime
Writer in Motion Prompt August 2020, available here: https://unsplash.com/photos/CDrP01O2n-w

And Writer In Motion is finally over. Two months ago when I saw Writer In Motion blowing up my Twitter feed, I was hesitant. As an introvert, I’m really not that outgoing on social media (July was the most I ever posted as part of the WIMGames), nor like to share my writing until it’s been refined quite a bit. But I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and decided to take a chance by signing up.

Now a month later, after turning my rough outline into a polished piece of work with the help of two CPs and editor I’m glad took the chance. In the past month I’ve met some great fellow writers, have improved my writing, and even got to work with an editor for the first time, and would definitely recommend if you’re on the fence about trying it.

While a lot of the other writers took a darker and twistier approach with their fantastic pieces, I’ve come to love my little fluff ball and Ray and Luce. Luce’s dialogue was really fun to write, while on a personal level I can relate more to Ray. So much of her anxiety and fears came from my own pero

The hardest parts were settling on an idea once the prompt went live and working through Carly’s suggestion. I jumped around between ideas at the beginning before settling on one. Carly’s critique was helpful, but involved some deep developmental edits at the beginning and ending.

My other gripe is dealing with WordPress. It formatted my paragraphs weird when I copied and pasted my piece in, forcing me to edit it by hand. I’ve also lost count of the times it’s told me I’m not allowed to edit my posts as I’m typing them in draft form. Thank goodness it gives me the option to restore automatically saved back-ups. There’s also the weird thing WordPress does when I add hyperlink to past posts by turning them into comments I have to approve.

I also may have put my WIP on the backburner for part of the month so I could focus on my WIM piece. But they’re all minor things when compared to the positive. Next year if possible, I’ll probably do it again.

First Draft


The Magic Jar

“We’re lost, aren’t we? I can try Googling it on my phone.”

“Calm down Ray, we’re not lost. I’ve rode with my parents like a million times, I know where we’re going.”

“But Luce—”

“But Ray! Trust me, I’ve got this.”

“Alright,” she mumbled sinking down into her seat. “But if we go another thirty minutes and we’re still not there, I’m using Google.”

“You do that Ray. So you never did say, but how was your internship.”

“Boring. Did nothing but crunch data all day. Not as exciting as spending two months in Spain.”

“Yeah, except by the end of it I was dreaming in Spainish and English seemed like the foreign language.”

“Numbers aren’t much better. One day I was so frazzled by a project I spent ten minutes trying to text on my graphing calculator.”

“Nice. God, can you believe we’ll be seniors in college this year? One more year and we’ll have to be actual adults with jobs and stuff.”

“Don’t forget paying off those student loans.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Oh look the turn is ahead.”

“Where?”

“Behind the tree.”

“Luce, there’s a bunch of— oh, I see it now.”

With a jerk, the car turned left off the smooth asphalt and onto a narrow gravel road. It crunched beneaht the tires and sent clouds of white somke blowing up in front of the windshielf. The car continued to tear tdown the road, flying over the small hills like they weren’t even there.

“Geez Luce, there’s no need to go so fast.” Slightly afraid, Ray clutched her bag a little tighter to her chest. “Are you trying to kill us?”

“No, just trying to get there faster. You’re the one who was complaining about not getting an early enough start.”

The jolting of the car was a bit much for Ray, who closed her eyes. She couldn’t afford to get car sick when she was finally so closed to her goal. As Luce had said, they’d been running late all day. Summer was coming to an end as well, so Ray had to make this weekend count. Even if meant putting up with Luce’s Mr. Toad’s wild ride driving-style and swallowing every few seconds to keep the greasy hamburger from lunch down.

“We’re here!”

Relieved at the stillness, Ray opened her eyes and glanced out the window. Sleek, glass modern windows. Sturdy, thick log beams, appearing like they were cut yesterday. Two stories, with a balcony and wrap-around porch. A handcarved wooden ‘Welcome’ sign hanging over the entry.

“Where the hell are we?”

“What are you talkking about Ray? We’re at the cabin.”

“This is not a cabin… this is… this is the cover of one of those flashy magazines you see in the checkout lane of the grocery store filled with unrealistic homes you can never afford to live at.”

“That’s awfully specific… and do you mean the cabin from when we were kids? Luce, that place was barely standing then, and that was before the rossion got bad. Grandpoa tore it down and built the new one. I told you baout it, remember?”

“You just said he was building a new cabin, not that he was tearing down the old noe.”

“I thought it was implied. And what’s the deal? You said 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 movie theater with a popcorn macahine and hot tub at back.”

“But it has to be the old one! That’s where we measured our heights on the back door, and left the beaded bracelet on the porch post, seeing if it fit year after year. And there was the firepit overlooking the back where we’d make hot dogs and s’mores, and…” Loosening her hold on the package close to her chest, Ray opened the flap and peered inside. In a quiet voice she said, “and catch magic bugs.”

Reaching over the gray center console, Luce plucked out the small item Ray had been clutching protectively. “You still have this old thing?”

“Be careful with that!” snapped Ray, taking the item back. “It’s magical.”

“Magical? Ray, it’s an old mason jar we drowned in glue, tissue paper, glitter and ribbons in to catch fireflies in. Pretty sure we were more covered in glitter than the jar. Our moms told us to wash off in the lake before we’d be allow back inside, and that night we caught more skeeters than magic bugs. Remember that?”

“Of course I remember. That’s why I wanted to come back.” Nestled safely back in her lap, a chaotic rainbow of mismatched shapes and colors looked like a minature stained glass window. The ribbons were fraying, close to losing the stolen Christmas bells tied to their ends. Glitter came away with each finger touch. Yet to Ray, their old Magic Jar was the more beatiful than a Faberige egg in all its glory.

“Rachel, what’s really going on? You’ve been on edge all day.”

“It’s just… we’ve barely spent any time together this summer, the last few summers actually. The last time we were here was like when, we were thirteen? Like you said, next year we’ll fully be actual adults… what if this is our last change to be together? To catch magic bugs?”

“Oh Ray…” Cold glass was replaced by a warm hand giving a gentle squeeze. “Do you remember what we’d do at the end of the night?”

“We’d release them.”

“Exactly! We’d release them because otherwise they’d die. But they always came back. The next night, the next year… they’d always come back. Just like we will. Trust me. How about we make a promise? Each summer we set aside one weekend for each other, no matter where we are. It doesn’t have to be at the cabin, it could be a city, the beach— they all have magic bugs we could catch. Promise?”

Ray stuck out her pinky finger in the crook of her friend’s. “Pinky promise.”

“Good. Now let’s get on inside, my butt is starting to stick to the seat and you have to try my new sangria recipe. We might be a little tipsy tonight when we catch us some magic bugs, but it’ll be fun. Just like the old days… but with alcohol. Adulthood does have some perks, some magic. You just got to find it.

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

Final Version


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.

“We’re here!”

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.”


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