5 Reasons Why You Should Participate in Writer in Motion

Last year I participated in Writer in Motion and this year I’m working as a forum moderator. If you’ve never heard of Writer in Motion, I highly suggest first checking out their site followed by my Writer in Motion journey last year. The next round of Writer in Motion (WIM) is getting ready to open soon. Spots open for marginalized writers on June 25th, all writers on July 2nd, with the writing prompt (aka picture) released on July 9th. After that you have roughly a month to write a 1,000 word story based on the prompt documenting your journey from a rough first draft to a pretty finalized edited version. Along the way you get to know your fellow WIM participants, exchange beta reads, have an actual editor give feedback on your short story and be invited to a virtual taco party at the ending.

Okay, so you now have a brief overview of WIM, why you should you participate in it? Well…

1. Get Out of a Writing Slump

Last year WIM came at a time when I was making no progress on revisions. Like a lot of others, I experienced anxiety from COVID and didn’t feel like doing anything creative, let alone write. I spent my free time being addicted to Animal Crossing. But WIM forced me out of my funk. I had a set weekly schedule so I could start my self-edit to finish in time for the beta edit and editor edit. There’s really no consequences if you don’t, other than not being able to share your posts with the others, but having a schedule with a simple goal of getting through 1,000 words each work was more attainable than getting through a 100,000 story with no fixed timeline. It still took about a month after WIM to be able to throw myself back into revisions, but I did push through. It’s gone through a few more revisions and beta reads since then and I’m officially querying a year later.

If you at a similar point but your WIP seems too daunting, you don’t even know where to begin for a new WIP, or need to rediscover your love of writing, I’d suggest giving WIM a try. Start small, and build up your creativity and energy before tackling something big. Who knows, that 1,000 short story might turn into your next MS– several past WIM participants have gone on to turn their stories into full-fledged novels.

2. Try a New Genre

In my round there were several writers who tried out a different genre or POV, including myself. At the time I’d been writing fantasy for several years. In my initial brainstorming session after seeing the prompt picture for the first time, I jumped around between genres and tones. I’d thought I’d land on a more fantastical one but was drawn more to the little fluffy contemporary piece that reflected a certain point of my life. Writing something set in present day instead of a magical 18th century land was a shift, but it was also refreshing. A chance to flex my writing muscles.

If there’s ever been a genre you’ve wanted to write but didn’t have a full-fledged story idea or weren’t sure how, WIM is the perfect time to experiment. You only have to write a 1,000 word short story, not a long novel. Same goes if you want to try a new perspective. Curious about second-person? Tired of third-person past and ready for first-person present? This is the chance to break out of your comfort zone.

3. Challenge Yourself

It’s also a chance to challenge yourself if you’re an over-writer. The 1,000 word limit really only comes into play for the beta and editor feedback to keep it fair, so for your first draft and final you can go over. Personally I’d recommend trying to stay as close to that 1,000 word limit as possible. It forces you to make the most of every single word. Don’t say something in twenty words when you can say it in ten. Cut back on the info dumping and make sure the reader has the bare minimum information required to understand the story. Watch dialogue, make sure it’s natural for the character but isn’t too long-winded. Delete/replace overused words. All lessons that came in handy with my later revisions.

If you’re an underwriter it can be a different kind of challenge. Sure you can write something less than 1,000 and be fine, but why not flesh things out a bit and aim for the 1,000 word limit? Draw things for your protagonist, make them fight for the resolution. Delve a bit more into their backstory or really paint the scene. Crank up the tension and stakes.

4. Fight Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome basically means believing that everything your write is horrible and should never see the light of day when compared to other writers. In my experience it most commonly kicks in after getting into a writing slump, reading somebody else’s WIP, or having nothing but endless rejections/bad writing news. Because WIM involves chronicling the journey of initial idea to final, polished work you can follow along and see how those incredibly written stories that put yours to shame started out. While there might be a few great first drafts out there, the majority are messy. Run-on sentences, misspellings, grammar issues, pacing, inconstancies. Even the best works start out rough.

You also receive a variety of feedback on your writing be it from the WIM participants or an actual editor. You might think that what you wrote was mediocre, but then you read a lovely compliment about your writing. Maybe somebody pointed out some small detail you included on purpose and really love, or saw deeper meaning in a line that was a throw away (yes, you so meant that all along). Or just a few words of encouragement. It’s amazing how one comment can brighten your day or writing confidence.

5. Make Writing Friends

Finally, participating in WIM could lead to new friendships. If I could give my younger self writing advice it’d be, writing doesn’t have to be a solo journey. There are a variety of resources, groups, and Discord servers dedicated to helping writers on their journey. WIM is one of those resources. Last year there was a Twitter DM group for participants. You’ll be assigned partners to exchange stories with, and are free to interact/comment on one another’s edits each week.

If you’re new to the writing community, take advantage of the connections and meet new writing buddies. If you’re looking for a beta reader, in need of querying advice, or banging your head against the wall over a certain section, see if anybody is willing to help (there’s probably at least one).

You can keep to yourself and not engage with the other participants, and some do. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you don’t have to. And sometimes having writer friends can make the difference between whether or not you break out of that writing slump, feel confident at trying a new genre or challenging yourself, and fighting imposter syndrome.

Conclusion

There’s no monetary awards for participating in WIM or first place for best short story. That’s not WIM’s purpose. It’s purpose are some of the reasons laid out above. To bring writers together and show how much a piece of writing can change from initial concept to final result. If you’ve written less than a hundred words or more than a million, you can still get something out of it. Even if you don’t take the plunge yourself, you can always follow along with the participants. But you won’t know, unless you try. So go check it out: https://writerinmotion.com/

2021 Update

I’ve come to the conclusion that my blog/website works best when I truly have news or information to share. And really, after Writer in Motion last year, there wasn’t a whole lot to share. I dove back into editing my YA Fantasy. Had others read it. Restructured the third act/climax. Tweaked the beginning. Applied to several mentorship programs. Got requests, but ultimately did not win. Eventually (probably next year leading into them) I’ll write a few posts on that process.

Right now, I have a few things lined up for the summer. I enjoyed Writer in Motion so much last year, I signed up to be a volunteer this year moderating the forums. I’ve begun querying my YA Fantasy. Fingers crossed some agent will fall in love with it as much as me and I’ll be able to write a post detailing my agent story along with tips for querying writers. In the meantime, I finally nailed down the story/characters for the YA Contemporary STEM plot bunny that’s been bugging me for the past couple years. I’ve completed a rough outline and hope to start drafting next week. I still love fantasy and have plenty of stories to tell in that world (including rewriting the one I shelved) but while querying I need a break from the world. Plus, I’ve been wanting to dig into my engineering side for the longest time with a story, and work through some family drama issues.

That’s all for now. Hopefully next time I’ll actually have some exciting wisdom or news to share.

Thanks for reading,

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

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