I have an idea for a new weekly posting!
Every Monday, I’ll share a bit of what I’ve written and then show you how I munch on it to make it better…you know, like a paper wasp. Okay, maybe not that angry. Hopefully.
“That night, the stormy girl from the argument earlier in the day returned to stand before Gilda’s cage. She had a plate of greens and fruit that made Gilda climb stiffly to her feet. At this movement, the girl stepped back.
“Don’t get close to the door,” she said.
Gilda moved herself to the farthest corner.
This is the first part of Chapter six. I wrote it months ago when I was getting the first draft down on paper, and haven’t touched it since. My method of writing requires I get the skeleton of the story down before I edit. Otherwise, I won’t ever finish the draft. I’ll end up spinning my creative wheels, making a muddy rut. I finished all but the end of the first draft, and then started the second draft so I can orchestrate the ending.
I’m going chapter by chapter adding detail to the way each culture’s magic functions, a name for the boy, Wilgnu, as well as his emotional hook/subplot, and developed Gilda and Majidah’s character arcs. I’ve also added more people, more description, etc. World-building, basically (which is super fun, but can be a trap in time consumption).
One of the things I learned at MisCon was to ask, “Why this character” when writing a scene. What makes them tick? Why do we care? What unique emotional motivation or skill makes them the star?
So, bearing these things in mind, here’s what I wrote for the 2nd draft:
“That night, the man’s daughter returned. She looked over her shoulder as she entered the room, as if worried she’d been followed. Gilda had sneaked out enough to recognize the girl was engaged in the same activity. She was no longer wearing the yellow shirt, but had exchanged it for a black one with a heavy jacket edged in silver thread. The plate of greens and fruit in her hands made Gilda climb stiffly to her feet. She was hungry. It had been over a day since she’d eaten. She hoped it was only hunger and not the polluted air of the city causing her weakness. At her approach, the girl stepped back.
“Get away from the door,” she said.
Gilda moved to the farthest corner, although her bound wrists made walking awkward. Even if she could get past the girl and door, she couldn’t run while shackled. Wilgnu didn’t move, and Gilda worried he’d died in his sleep.
It’s longer! That’s always a plus. I’m aiming for 4k a chapter, but seem to be hitting 3k instead. That’s fine. I may go back on the 3rd edit and wrestle more words in, or I might decide it is the length it needs to be and declare victory.
I took out “stormy girl” because it was awful. I rewrote this sentence four different ways before choosing the simplest version. Then, I grounded the reader with emotion, non-verbal action, and description while reminding the reader of Gilda’s recent sneakiness (which matters for her character arc).
I added emotional context and danger for pacing. It’s important the reader feel pulled along by Gilda’s situation. I showed Majidah’s caution which matters because later Gilda is going to use it to manipulate those shackles off. I mention Wilgnu and his immediate danger. This is important, because he’s about to be the catalyst for a big scene.
I removed any extraneous “that” “so” “just” and any words disconnecting the reader such as “felt” “heard” “noticed”.
See? Much better! It’ll get a third edit pass on the next round, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!
As always, please respect my creative content and copyright. Thank you!