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

6 thoughts on “Writer In Motion Week 2: Self-Edit

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