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

Writer In Motion Prompt Reveal

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

The Writer in Motion prompt was just revealed ten minutes ago (as I’m writing this) and I wanted to jot down my initial thoughts and ideas before I start working on the first draft which is due August 8th.

Initial thoughts:

An unexpected find in the middle of nowhere. It’s uphill, almost like somebody has been walking for a while to finally see their destination or a complete surprise. They’re not alone out here.

Who does it belong to? Is it abandoned? Occupied? A house or some kind of other structure? Is it truly that tiny or are there hidden depths and floors? Where does the electricity come from? What’s behind it? More wilderness or a city nestled in a valley in between?

So far my ideas are revolving on a more literal interpretation of the prompt. Maybe the character has been on a long journey to the location, or encounters an unknown obstacle. Or maybe relieved to come home after a long day of work. Or perhaps returning to a place they’ve tried to forget, and are hesitant on entering.

Several ideas that I get to work through the next few days and see where they take me. What characters and story they inspire, and if I can develop a good story under 1,000 words.

Those are my initial thoughts for now. For more information on Writer in Motion please check out their site: https://writerinmotion.com/2020/08/01/writer-in-motion-kickoff-the-prompt/

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