Writer In Motion Critique Partner Draft

c6c958_213260a29e1041698965f91dc9a15733_mv2-5

I am taking part in an initiative called #WriterInMotion where a group of writers show the development of their story from first draft to professional edits. You can read about it here. This week my story was critiqued by two fellow WiM writers (the wonderful and talented Ari and Dawn), as well as my normal critique partner and all-round super-star writer friend KD Kells.

Handing your writing off to others to be critiqued is a pretty scary thing. But over the years I’ve seen how much help it is to get fellow writers feedback on my work. So here is my newly edited story, as well as my explanation of how it changed through the critiquing process.

912f54_82356d34e17f4e6f96d25ef718d00abc_mv2_d_3756_4695_s_4_2-5

Gloves

by Belinda Grant

Another box of twenty gloves arrived.

I walk to Doveton to pick them up and suffer under Max’s suspicious gaze.

“What do you do with all these gloves?” He asks for the seventeenth time.

What was I supposed to say? I give a bland smile and flee holding the box to my chest. As if I could hide behind such a flimsy thing.

I should’ve avoided town today. After last night, the stares are worse than normal, and that’s saying something. No pretext of politeness, people stop mid-sentence as I come into view. I know what they’re saying. About the boat, and how weird things didn’t used to happen in their precious town. As I wait at the crossing for the lights to change, I feel their eyes on my Lizzie Bennett dress, the gloves, the hair piled up high. Dad’s idea to make the gloves appear part of an eccentric fashion statement, and not a precaution against disaster.

But the gloves aren’t why people stare. Not today.

Davison exits the butcher. I speed up to a trot, pretending I don’t hear his “Hannah” as I head down the street.

At least the box is light. The sun beats down as I lift my skirt to run between the shade pooled at the base of the ghost-gums. Doveton is beautiful if you only look with your eyes. Dad says there is no point in moving on, that everywhere will be hard at first. Make more of an effort, Hannah. He doesn’t feel the stares. I want to move to the hippy hills, where people believe that crystals help a cold and a taro-deck warns of your impending death. Where strange is a draw-card.

I arrive home and go straight to the glove room. I drop my box on top of another, this one with ‘four hours’ scrawled in red texta on the side.

Dinner’s quiet. Sadie takes turns glaring at me and Mum. Mum because she has to stay at the table and not use her phone. Me because of last night, and the way her friends pull back from her after an ‘incident’. One day of my life, one tea-spoon of my suffering, and she looks at me with daggers. Cow.

Father stirs his remaining peas around his plate, trailing gravy across the china.

“I’ve ordered two more replica vases.”

Mum puts down her wine. “I told you,I didn’t want us doing that anymore.”

“We need the money. What happens if this boat thing blows up? We’ll need savings until we find our feet somewhere new. Precautions.” No one looks at me.

“It’s dishonest.”

Father strikes the table with his fist and the peas jump.

“I don’t mind.” While my bare hands touch the vases, I press my forehead against them to see the life they could have lived. Peonies, gerberas, tulips and roses. Views of lounge rooms from the mantel, watching families growing up and growing old as they fade and age themselves.

And forged antiques make good money.

“We didn’t ask you, Hannah,” snaps Mum. Sadie chews on a carrot and smirks at me.

Maybe I should go without them. Quit school and find a job in the city. Save precious Sadie from all her suffering. And myself from Davison’s gaze.

I can’t sleep that night. I put on a four-hour pair of gloves. They’re yellowed and worn; they could be my Grandmothers’. I press a gloved finger to my forehead and I watch, as if on screen, what could have been. Debutante balls and costume parties. A life, rather than a few small hours protecting everything around me. I pull on my boots and head to the river.

The boat leans against the bank like it’s been there for years. So different from the day before. Why couldn’t have left it alone? There’d been something about that varnished wood glowing in the late afternoon sun. A stupid compulsion and it was twenty years older in an instant.

But today it’s deliberate. I pull off one glove and press my hand against the side. The wood is worn, and splinters dig into my skin.

“You should keep going. Just to be safe.”

How is it that Davison, who knows so little, can always guess where I’ll be? I rest my forehead against the hull to try to block out his presence and watch the life the boat should have had. Adventures down the river, beers on the deck.

Davison is like a spinning magnet, cycling round from repellent to attractive. Gloves back on, I sit beside him, and we wait. The boat lives out hundreds of years in minutes, crumpling to dust and settling into the river under the stars.

“It’s just a boat, Hannah, don’t feel bad. Your hands are amazing.” He reaches for one, and I let him take it, almost feeling his skin through the faded fabric.

“We could leave Doveton together.” Davison’s voice shakes.

He gets stared at too. Would it be so wrong? To have a friend who saw me as the heroine, not the witch?

A friend who knew what it was like to be a miracle and a curse.

Memories of a baby’s face flash over the handsome grown one. Choking and gasping for breath, his preemie lungs struggling against a simple cold. Too small and weak to fight it off. What else could I do? I’d whipped off a glove and placed it on his tiny chest. But I wasn’t quick enough.

“Hannah.” He reaches for my face and I let him take it, resting my forehead against his. I see the years I took. Baby Davison learning to walk. A giggling boy, jumping the waves. Ten-years-old, shooting hoops with his Dad.

Repellent again. I stand up and run.

“Hannah, wait!”

I don’t listen, I just run and run.

And the gloves on my hands crumble to dust.

How critiquing changed my draft

Here is a screen shot of my document with the combined edits.

screen-shot-2019-06-27-at-4.21.47-pm-1

They picked up all the typos that I somehow missed in all my passes as well as my double spaces (sorry KD!). They told me what worked, which is both helpful and encouraging.

They also had some good suggestions for tightening it, and noticed when my tenses or capitals were wrong, or where I repeated words. The format has improved and it makes much more sense.

Ari also pointed out that I hadn’t set the time period clear enough at the start, so the mention of mobile phones in the dinner scene came out of the blue. So I mentioned Hannah crossing at the lights in town, so we know, despite the Lizzy Bennet dress, that it’s set in modern times.

But the biggest help was having outside people to help me with my reveal.

You see, writing a story like mine, where the truth of what is going on only comes out at the end, is a delicate balance. You don’t want to annoy readers, or have them confused the whole time, or even have them get to the end with no clue of what was really going on.

My CPs were able to say where I lost them, and give hints of where being specific would be more helpful. So I reworded a few things, particularly in the scenes where Hannah ‘sees’ what life the items she touches might have lived.

Did I take it all on board? Not entirely. Everyone wanted me to make it clear in the paragraph about the Premie baby that it was Davison, and suggested I made it obvious at that point. But I still really like the deliberate confusion about Hannah saying “I wasn’t quick enough.” At first it seems like she wasn’t quick enough to save him, but actually she wasn’t quick enough in her touch, so instead of him ageing just enough to get well, he aged over a decade. I LOVE the surprise meaning of that sentence. It still might not be clear, it might even be a darling I need to kill. But I left it in for now.

My story has now been sent off to a professional editor. I am looking forward to seeing how that process improves the story.

Thanks for following along my Writer In Motion journey.

You can find the others taking part in #WriterInMotion here

Writer In Motion Self Edited Draft

c6c958_213260a29e1041698965f91dc9a15733_mv2-3I am taking part in Writer in Motion this month, bringing a short story from First draft to polished edits before your very eyes.  You can read more about it here

Here is the second draft, my self-edited version of my short story based on the photo below: Gloves

912f54_82356d34e17f4e6f96d25ef718d00abc_mv2_d_3756_4695_s_4_2-3

Gloves

by Belinda Grant

 

Another box of twenty gloves arrived.

I walk to Doveton to pick them up and suffer under Max’s suspicious gaze. “What do you do with all those gloves?” He asks for the seventeenth time.  What was I supposed to say? I give a bland smile and fled away, holding the box to my chest as if I could hide behind such a flimsy thing.

I should’ve avoided town today. After last night the stares are worse than normal, and that’s saying something. No pretext of politeness, people stop mid-sentence as I come into view. But I know what they’re saying. About the boat, and how weird things didn’t used to happen in their precious town. I feel their eyes on my Lizzie Bennett Dress, the gloves, the hair piled up high.  Dad’s idea to make the gloves seem part of an eccentric fashion statement, and not a precaution against disaster.

But the gloves aren’t why people stare.  Not today.

I see Davison exist the butchers and I speed up to a gentle run, pretending a I don’t hear his “Hannah” as I head down the street.

At least the box is light.  The sun beats down as I lift my dress to run between the shade pooled at the base of the ghost-gums.  Doveton is beautiful if you only look with your eyes.  Dad says there is no point in moving on, that everywhere will be hard at first. Make more of an effort Hannah. He doesn’t feel the stares.   I want to move to the hippy Hills, where people believe that crystals help a cold and cards will warn of your impending death. Where strange is a draw card.

I arrive home and go straight to the glove room.  I drop my box on top of another, this one with ‘four hours’ scrawled in red texta on the side.

Dinner’s quiet. Sadie takes turns glaring at me and Mum.  Mum because she has to stay at the table and not use her phone.  Me because of last night, and the way her friends pull back from her after an ‘incident’. One day of my life, one tea-spoon of my suffering, and she looks at me with daggers. Cow.

Father stirs his remaining peas around his plate, trailing gravy across the plate.

“I’ve ordered two more replica vases.”

Mum puts down her wine. “I told you I didn’t want us doing that anymore.”

“We need the money. What happens if this boat thing blows up? We’ll need savings until we find our feet somewhere new. Precautions.” No one looks at me.

“It’s dishonest.”

Father strikes the table with his fist and the peas jump.

“I don’t mind.” I lay my forehead on the vases, and I see the lives they could have lived.  Peonies, Gerberas, tulips and roses. Views of lounge rooms from the mantel, as the Vase watches down on families growing up and growing old.

And forged antiques make good money.

“We didn’t ask you Hannah.” Snaps Mum, and Sadie chews on a carrot and smirks at me.

Maybe I should go without them.  Quit school and find a job in the city. Save precious Sadie from all her suffering. And myself from Davison’s gaze.

I can’t sleep that night.  I put on a four-hour pair of gloves. They’re yellowed and worn, they could be my Grandmothers.  I press a gloved finger to my forehead and I watch, as if on screen, what could have been. Debutant balls and costume parties.  A life, rather than a few small hours protecting everything around me as I pull on my boots and head to the creek.

The boat sits, leaning against the bank like it’s been there for years. So different from the day before.  Why couldn’t I leave it alone? But there was something about that varnished wood glowing in the late afternoon sun.  A stupid compulsion and it was twenty years older in an instant.

But today it’s deliberate.  I pull off one glove and press my hand against the side.  The wood is worn, and splinters dig into my skin.

“You should keep going. Just to be safe.” How is it that Davison, who knows so little, can always guess where I’ll be?  I rest my forehead against the hull to try to block out his presence and watch the life the boat should have had.  Adventures down the river, beers on the deck.

Davison is like a spinning magnet, cycling round from repellent to attractive.  I sit beside him, and we wait.  The boat lives out hundreds of years in minutes, crumpling to dust and settling into the river under the stars.

“It’s just a boat Hannah, don’t feel bad.  Your hands are amazing.” He reaches for one, and I let him take it, almost feeling his skin through the faded fabric.

“We could leave Doveton together.”

He gets stared at too.  Would it be so wrong? To have a friend, who saw me as the heroine not the witch?

A friend who knew what it was like to be a miracle and a curse.

A baby’s face flashes over the handsome grown one. Choking and gasping for breath, his preemie lungs struggling against a simple cold.  Too small and weak to fight it off. What else could I do? I whipped off a glove and placed it on his tiny chest.  But I wasn’t quick enough.

“Hannah.” He reaches for my face and I let him take it, resting my forehead against his. And I see the years I took. Baby Davison learning to walk, then giggling boy, jumping the waves.  Then ten, shooting hoops with this Dad.

Repellent again. I stand up and run.

“Hannah, wait!”

I don’t listen, I just run and run.

And the gloves on my hands crumple to dust.

 

Self Editing

So what did Self-Editing involve?

-Giving it a 48 hours of space to get some distance

-Proof reading for typos, tense mistakes, and sentences that didn’t make sense.

-Clearing up things that I knew were issues with clarity, like making more obvious Davison’s back story.

-Cutting words to get it below the 1K (I cut about 100 words I believe)

-Reading through it around ten times, tinkering with every go.

-And I settled on the title “Gloves.” Might change, but I tend to prefer simple titles that don’t give away too much.

Here is a screen shot of my track changes, to give you a sense of how much the story changes from first draft to self-edited second draft.

screen-shot-2019-06-21-at-7.32.52-am

I’m looking forward to the next round, where fellow writers go through my piece and give me feedback.  This has been so helpful with my novel writing, I can’t wait to see how it tightens and improves Hannah’s story.

 

WiM Week 2 (Part 2) From Prompt to First Draft or Finding the Weird

c6c958_213260a29e1041698965f91dc9a15733_mv2-2

So, I am taking part in #WriterInMotion (Read about it here), showing the drafting process of a short story from rough draft to professionally edited polish.  By Saturday I will self-edit my story and post it up here, but I also thought it might be worth showing how I went about getting from prompt to the my first draft of my WiM story (which you can read here)

So, before I decided to do #WriterInMotion, I was feeling quite a bit of FOMO as various twitter people were taking part and it sounded like a wonderful exercise.  But it was already a week in and it seemed too late.  Until I realised I had over 55 hours to get it done.

Long time readers of this blog will know that I am a #SuperFan of the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction competition (you can find out all about it here).  So for the last seventeen months, I have been writing a 500 word short story based on criteria circulated at the start of the weekend.  It might be a word you need to use, or a first sentence, or an item that must be visible in the story.  Twice it has been a photo prompt.  So I had plenty of experience of writing quickly and decided to I sign up. But now I had to find the weird.

You see, one thing I’d realised over seventeen short stories is that I like weird. I am a speculative fiction writer, and I like taking everyday things and turning them strange.  The picture for our prompt was beautiful and evocative.  What weird could I find in that broken boat?

912f54_82356d34e17f4e6f96d25ef718d00abc_mv2_d_3756_4695_s_4_2-2

It leant itself to something spooky.  I wondered if my protagonist could sense something evil or malevolent about the boat? Somewhere the idea struck that maybe there was something in that spot that aged things.  But then that quickly flipped to a protagonist who aged everything she touched with her fingers and that was what happened to the boat.  She would need to wear gloves to protect the world.  But then wouldn’t the gloves themselves age? She would need so many!

And as I thought about the practicality of endlessly ageing gloves, I was there. I’d found my weird.

After that I just started writing.  Hannah became Hannah because that’s what Davison yelled out to her across the street. Davison was always the boys name.

I wrote little bits and pieces but it wasn’t really a story yet, I had a scene in town and Hannah and Davison at the boat and the image of Hannah saving the preemie baby, but I couldn’t work out what went in the middle.

So I opened a new document and started again.  This is my technique when I get stuck.  Something about the fresh start helps it all to come together.  And after I wrote a new version of the trip from town I realised what I needed in the middle.  A family dinner.  An easy way to show how Hannah’s gift affected those around her and an opportunity for tension and characterisation.

I probably spent a day and a half thinking about the story, an hour or so on my thrown away version, and an hour on the first draft.  I did a quick proof read for spelling (I couldn’t resist), but other than that I posted about fifteen minutes after I finished it.

So that’s how I went from a writing prompt to a first draft.  I have really enjoyed hearing how others wrote their stories, and you can find links to the other participants here.

And for my other fellow writers, and Furious Fiction friends, I’d love to hear from you. How do you go from a prompt/criteria or idea, to the first draft of a story?

 

Writer in Motion- Week 2 (Part 1)

c6c958_213260a29e1041698965f91dc9a15733_mv2-1

I am taking part in #WriterInMotion this month.  You can read more about it in my first blog post here

Below is the first draft of a story prompted by the following photo.  I finished the story two minutes ago.  I read through for typos and that is all the editing I did.  Over the next few weeks you’ll get to observe the editing process as I polish up this story.

(This is so nerve-racking!)

912f54_82356d34e17f4e6f96d25ef718d00abc_mv2_d_3756_4695_s_4_2-1

(CURRENTLY UNTITLED)

Another box of gloves arrived.

I missed the post-man, so had to go into Doveton to pick it up, and suffer under Max’s suspicious gaze. “What do you do with all those gloves?” He asked for the seventeenth time.  What was I supposed to say? I gave a bland smile and fled away, holding the box to my chest as if I could hide behind such a flimsy thing.

I should have avoided town today. After last night the stares are worse than normal, and that’s saying something. There isn’t even a pretext of politeness, people stop talking the moment they see me approach. But I know what they are saying. About the boat, and how weird things didn’t used to happen in their precious town. I feel their eyes taking in my frame, the Lizzie Benett Dress, the gloves, the hair piled up high.  Dad’s idea to make the gloves seem part of an eccentric fashion statement, and not a precaution against disaster.

But the gloves aren’t why people stare.  Not today.

I see Davison exit the butchers and I speed up to a gentle run, pretending a I don’t hear his “Hannah” as I head off down the street.

At least a box of twenty gloves is light.  The sun beats down as I run between the shade gathered at the base of the ghost gums.  Doveton is beautiful if you only look with your eyes.  Dad says there is no point in moving on, that everywhere will be hard at first, if only I made more of an effort. But he doesn’t feel the stares. I want to move to the hippy hills, where people believe that crystals can take away a cold and that cards will warn of your impending death. Where weird is kitsch, and strange is a draw card.

I yank open the fly wire and walk through the house straight to the glove room.  I drop my box on top of another, this one with ‘four hours’ scrawled in red texta on the side.

Dinner is quiet. Sadie takes turns glaring at me and Mum.  Mum because she has to stay at the table and not use her phone.  Me because of what I did last night, and the way her friends pull back from her whenever there is an ‘incidents’. One day of my life, one tea-spoon of my suffering, and she looks at me with daggers. Cow.

Father stirs his remaining peas around his plate, making little trails of gravy across the plate.

“I’ve ordered two more replica vases.”

Mum puts down her wine. “I told you I didn’t want us doing that anymore.”

“We have to.  We need the money. What happens if this boat thing blows up and we need to leave? At least we’ll have money in the bank until we find our feet in some new place.  We need to take precautions.” No one looks at me.

“It’s dishonest.”

Father strikes the table with his fist and the peas jump.

“I don’t mind.” I like contributing. I lay my forehead on the vases, and I see the life they might have lived.  Peonies, Gerbras, tulips and roses. Views of lounge rooms from the mantle piece, as the Vase watches down on families growing up and growing old.

“We didn’t ask you.” snaps Mum, and Sadie chews on a carrot and smirks at me.

Maybe I should go without them.  Quit school and find a job in the city. Save precious Sadie from all her terrible suffering. And save myself from Davison’s gaze.

I can’t sleep that night.  I put on a four-hour pair of gloves. They are yellowed and worn, they could be my Grandmothers.  I press a gloved finger to my forehead and I watch, as if on screen, what could have been. Debutant balls and costume parties.  A life, rather than a few small hours protecting everything around me as I put on my boots and head to the creek.

The boat sits, leaning against the bank like it has been there for years. So different from the day before.  Why couldn’t I leave it alone? But there was something about that vanished surface, the bright wood glowing in the late afternoon heat.  A stupid compulsion and there were the consquences.

But now it’s deliberate.  I pull off one glove and press my hand against the side, destroying the evidence with a touch.  The wood is worn and wet, and splinters dig into my skin.

“You should keep going. Just to be safe.” How is it that Davison knows so little about everything but always seems to know what I will do and where I will be?  I put my forehead against the hull to try to block out his presence, and watch like a movie the life the boat should have had.  Adventure down the river, beers on the deck.

Davison is like a spinning magnet, cycling round from repellent to attractive.  So I sit beside him and we wait.  We watch as the boat live out his final years in minutes, crumpling to pieces and settling into the river under the stars.

“It’s just a boat Hannah. You don’t have to feel bad.  Your hands are amazing.” He reaches for one, and I let him take it, almost feeling his skin through the faded fabric.

“We could leave together you know. Get out of Doveton forever.” He faces the stares too.  Would it be so wrong to have a friend, a friend who saw me as the heroine not the witch.

A friend who knew what it was like to be a miracle and a curse.

Another face flashes over the handsome grown one.  A baby, choking and gasping for breath as his preemie lungs fought against a simple cold.  Too small and weak to fight it off. What could I do? I whipped off a glove and placed it on his chest.  But I wasn’t quick enough.

“Hannah.” He reaches for my face and I let him take it, resting my forehead against his. And I see it.  I see the years I took. The baby learning to walk, the giggling boy, jumping the waves.  The twelve year old shooting hoops with this Dad.

Repellent again. I stand up and run.

“Hannah, wait!”

I don’t listen, I just run and run.

And the gloves on my hands crumple to dust.

 

So that is the first draft of my story.  My next post will look at how I went about writing the draft.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

file-1

 

 

Writer in Motion- Week 1

 

c6c958_213260a29e1041698965f91dc9a15733_mv2

Does this sound familiar to you?

You sit down and you begin to write a short story or a novel.  The words are flowing and you’re excited about the little world growing under your finger-tips. You put it aside and  pick up a book.  It’s good. In fact it’s excellent.  The characters sing, the story compels you forward onto the next page, and every word is where it should be.  Then you turn back to your first draft.  How did you ever think it was good? It is a pile of steaming garbage and you never want to look at it again. You just can’t write. Nothing you do will ever be as good as the published book in your hand.

It sounds familiar to me, because for many years it was the story of my writing life. I believed the lie that good writers are born and not made. I believed that a bad first draft meant a bad book.  I was easily discouraged, both by quality writing that I read, and by my own writing weaknesses

But over time I began to realise just how much of writing is in rewriting and editing.  How different a first draft can be from the finished document.  That by the time a book hits the shelf it has been heavily edited by the writer, it’s usually been critiqued by other writing friends, and then a professional editor has done their work.

But often writers when they start out don’t realise the steps involved in getting books as good as we see them on the shelf.

It is this kind of experience that lead to the creation of a new writing initiative I have become involved in called Writer-in-Motion.  The idea is over the month of June, writers will put on their blog a short story at different levels of completion.  First the unedited first draft (gulp). Then a self-edited version. A version edited by CPs (critique partners). And finally a professional editor will give their own thoughts to the piece. This means writers can have a glimpse at how writing changes as it is edited, and the writers involved will see the different ways other writers go about editing their work.

file

The short story will grow out of the following photo prompt:

912f54_82356d34e17f4e6f96d25ef718d00abc_mv2_d_3756_4695_s_4_2(Isn’t it gorgeous!)

So, on Sunday Australian time, I’ll be posting my Short story. My unedited pile of steaming rubbish first draft.

And hopefully my humiliation will help others to see that writers are made, not born.

 

Here is the official blog for the initiative:

Writer in Motion Blog

And here is you can find a list of editors and writers involved.

 

 

The tale of Daddy’s Secret Toilet

male and female signage on wall

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Once upon a time there was a Daddy who lived in a two bedroom unit with three kids and a wife.  And though it was squishy, it was home and he loved it. But there was one aspect of his living arrangement which was less than optimal. He shared a toilet with the rest of his house. With toilet training twins who were still learning to lift the seat. With a wife who was petrified of waking kids in that tiny apartment, so had a habit in the night of letting it mellow.

So when baby number four was on the way, and it was time to move to a bigger house, he had a modest goal.  Not too far from work, space for a trampoline.  And a secret toilet of his very own.

It worked so well for the first six months in the house.  Mummy was sympathetic, and the cry would often be heard, “No, that’s Daddy’s secret toilet.” But after Miss Three joined the toilet training crew and there was a baby on the scene Mummy decided she too deserved the best toilet in the house. Which was Daddy’s secret toilet.  At least until the mouse plague of ’18 when Mum spotted a black blur there in the middle of the night. Then it was back to the ‘Kids toilet’ for her.

Meanwhile, two little boys were growing up.  Growing up and admiring their big, tall Daddy.  Mummy would catch them in the adjacent bathroom. “What are you doing?” “Using Daddy’s secret toilet.”  They loved him so much, of course they wanted to be just like him, to lift the seat (mostly) that he too lifted.

And then when Summer hit, tragedy struck. The fly wire in the Kids toilet got a hole in it, and throughout the night it filled with all manner of moths.  Now Miss Three refused to use it. “I don’t want to go to the Bug toilet, I want to go to Daddy’s secret toilet.”

And once again, Daddy was sharing his toilet with the whole family.

Well almost.

You see, summer ended, and the moths went away. And the toilet known as the Bug toilet, now contained neither bugs, nor young children who occasionally missed the seat or forgot to flush.

And now that toilet is all mine. Mummy’s toilet.

But don’t tell anyone.  It’s a secret.