The only good writing is rewriting. Or so they say. Astute observers will realize that this means that all good writing is rewriting, which does not mean that all rewriting is good writing. But at least it has a chance.
As you may have gathered, I finished that story I’ve been chipping away with for way too many weeks. As you may have also gathered, it still needs work. I find myself wanting to poke it with a long stick, which is my general reaction to many things I’m unsure about. But however I may feel about it, it’s definitely something to work with, so all in all I’d say it’s a win.
My little boy’s ragged wail split the walls, clawing its way above the howling blizzard and ripping me from my bed. He coughed and spluttered, choking on his own wet phlegm and mucus as I stumbled to his room. He didn’t stop crying when I pulled him into my arms, didn’t stop coughing when I tried to soothe him. His tiny chest heaved and fluttered with every breath.
Smells of sick and sweat swam in the air, stifling his room. The dim glow of his nightlight showed red on his flushed face. I put my hand to his forehead beneath his sticky hair and smoothed it away. He burned. His cheeks were dry and chapped, his eyes glazed and vacant as he whimpered and stared straight past me.
I managed to get him to sleep again with water and medicine and luck; he curled up his fitful little body and trembled beneath sweat-damp blankets, and I left the room. His father lay in bed where I left him, still snoring, still drooling, unmoved and oblivious. I had to shake him before he finally woke up enough for me to tell him his son was sick.
He mumbled half-witted excuses and rolled over. “He’ll feel better in the morning. Go to sleep.” He followed his own advice before I could argue and left me alone. I waited. The dark room tugged at my eyelids. I drowned in a silence broken only by the angry, thrashing wind.
A few moments passed before I let myself believe that maybe he was right. Maybe his fever would fade with the night and the storm. Maybe his pain would recede and creep away. Maybe he would stop hurting and wailing and shaking. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I slunk beneath the covers.
I closed my eyes, but I did not sleep. Ice and snow snarled just outside. The house creaked and whined. I heard my child’s howl every time the branches shrieked against the window.
The storm had blown in this afternoon, all low sky and whirling, bitter flurries. I should have noticed it sooner. I should have seen the clouds, the wind, the drenched thickness and the clinging mist. I should have heard and stopped and acted–
I told him. I told him not to take his son outside. I told him it was too cold, too wet. I told him the frozen air would be too much too soon. I told him, and he didn’t listen.
He smiled instead. He patronized. He kissed me to ignore every word I said. His son wanted to go outside; the rest didn’t matter. Just a little while. An hour, maybe two. Let him play. Let him smile. Let him live.
I let him go because I had no choice. Never mind the wind that tugged and twisted in the tops of the pines. Never mind the iron hues that colored the clouds. His little boy laughed when they pulled their coats and hats and mittens from the closet and threw them to the floor in a pile of hissing nylon.
When they finally finished, finally tromped back inside, they came in giggling, giddy at the edge of the storm. My little boy stopped to cough while he tried to tell me everything he’d just done with Daddy, but Daddy didn’t care. Daddy just encouraged him. Daddy laughed with him and told Mommy to make them both hot chocolate.
They drank it and they chattered. They wiped their runny noses on their sleeves or ignored it altogether. His cough grew wetter every moment. Wet, rough, messy, until his laughter broke and the smile fell off his rosy, flushing cheeks and his father finally noticed that his little buddy was in pain.
I said we should put him to bed. Let him sleep before his cough got worse and the sickness sank down to his lungs. Protect him so that–
He brushed off every word. He painted me villain, tyrant, panic-ridden fool. He pushed and cajoled. He chose just what he wanted and demanded that he get it and denied any kind of consequence. Bully. Selfish. Coward.
And now he’s lying next to me. Sleeping. Snoring. He’s got his body curled beneath the covers. His chest rises, falls with easy breaths. He’s not wheezing. Not coughing. Not hurting. His face is lineless, careless. He’s sleeping like a baby.
I’m still lying wide awake. I’m still listening to the howling, rushing ice and snow. I’m still waiting for my baby’s voice to pierce the night again because he would never hear it. There’s too much wind and howling. Too much shrieking, scratching crying. The panes and casings tremble in the gusts. How could he hear a child above the roar?
As sudden roar hurls the storm against the house. Everything creaks. The branches shriek and scream. A chill finds a crack and breaks inside. A shred of moonlight cuts the clouds and pierces the room. I stare–and while I stare the bed beside me moves. I roll over–the man is gone. The wind goes quiet. I hear a baby-wail for just a moment, and then that quiets too.
I originally wrote this story back in 2012, but I recently rediscovered it and was actually pretty happy with it– so here it is! Enjoy and let me know what you think!
As you may have gathered from the fact that a post didn’t go with me shouting my victory from the rooftops, I didn’t manage to finish the current Tanner and Miranda story this past weekend. That would be the bad news. The good news would be that I did almost double it in size, and I like where it’s going, particularly for a first run-through for this particular story, and I shouldn’t have any trouble actually finishing it this weekend, giving me a clear horizon to start on the rest of the stories going into the whole novel and hopefully keeping me on the path to finishing the darn thing this year, so definitely keep an eye out for more posted snippets.
Also! I was going through some old stories this past week and found one that I’d been proud of back in the day and was, wonder of wonders, still happy with now. It’s definitely not what I normally tend to write (read: sci-fi and/or fantasy), but I like it. I like it enough to post it here, so check back in this Wednesday for an actual piece of fiction!
With any luck, I’ll have a draft of a new chapter/short story completed for the Tanner and Miranda Chronicles by the end of the weekend. It’s currently sitting at about two thousand words, and the rest of it is at least roughly outlined. In the meantime, enjoy a snippet from right before our heroes manage to get themselves into all sorts of trouble. As they tend to do.
They’d chosen a good place to stop us. There might not have been anything understated about the method they’d chosen, but that wasn’t to say it wasn’t effective. The barrier crossed the entirety of the road, and with a cliff wall on one side and a steep dropoff on the other, we didn’t have a lot of options.
We could try diplomacy, of course. That was Tanner’s first choice, even if I hoped he was just using it to slow down the inevitable escalation. I’d have been more worried if he’d pulled his hand away from his rifle.
“Is there something we can do to help you folks?”
“You could drop Miss Loesan there off with us. I think we might even be able to move this thing off the road for you before we get started on our conversation with her.” The leader gave an ugly sort of sneer. “Think you could work with that? Looks like you’ve got cargo you’re moving, and it would be a shame if it never made it to where it’s supposed to go.”
That line might have worked on a different freelancer. Probably would have, actually; we were outnumbered two to one, and they were the ones with better cover. But it was the sort of thing that just made Tanner mad. Our chances of getting out without a scuffle dwindled before my eyes, and I started calculating how many shots I could get off before we’d have to make a run for it. I didn’t care for the odds.
“I think we both know that’s not going to happen,” said Tanner. “You got a better suggestion?”
Now he was definitely stalling, and I had seconds to come up with a better plan.
As any writer will tell you, we all find certain things easier to write than others. For me, I usually prefer to write fancy, flowery descriptions than action scenes, mostly because I find the former way easier than the latter. At the same time, I can only write so many descriptions before I get really, really bored. And, I suspect, anyone reading it feels the same way. Mostly because fancy descriptions aren’t great at moving a plot forward. And if the plot doesn’t move, it’s not much of a story*.
All of this is to say, I’ve hit that point in my current Tanner and Miranda story where I have to make something happen, and, as it always does, I’m getting caught in a slog. Because writing action and adventure scenes, while fun and ultimately the most rewarding when they work out, requires me to have a lot more figured out than just a description. It’s a bit like the difference between a still frame and a short film segment; there’s a whole lot of still frames that go into making just a few seconds of movie, and because I’ve practiced basic descriptions a lot more than I have action sequences, all the extra thought work I have to do to get the action scene to make sense and be clear to the audience is hard.
Which basically just means that I should practice more!
* There are, of course, exceptions. But that’s not what this post is about.
It’s kinda funny, but after averaging well over a thousand words a day in November, having just over seven hundred words doesn’t seem like it would be such a big deal. But it feels like it– and I think it is. Because while the first draft (though maybe that’s a… generous term for the manuscript I currently have) is a decent start, this second draft is already shaping up decently, and I’m really excited. I don’t know that I’ll finish it by the end of the month like I’d hoped (I’ll still try, Dad! I promise!) but it’s definitely got forward momentum, and right now that’s enough.
It’s not happening quickly, but I think the Tanner and Miranda stories are slowly coalescing into something with the vague form of a novel. There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve got decent outlines for almost all the stories I want to include in the “collection” masquerading as a full-length book, and that’s a great feeling. Now I just have to turn those outlines into a real story, and we’ll be good to go!
For today, here’s a snippet I wrote this week that I was particularly happy with. Enjoy!
“‘Adventure. Lots of it.’ Those were your exact words.”
I sat on the back of the rented hovermule, kicking my feet in the air and gnawing on the hard protein bar I’d grabbed as a sorry sort of breakfast. Off to the east, the sun rose up above the Badlands, casting long shadows and painting the planet a dusty yellow for miles around.
From his spot next to me Tanner grinned. “That sounds like something I’d say.”
“I feel so lied to.”
“We got attacked by the local wildlife within forty-eight hours of your arrival,” said Tanner, still grinning. “What more do you want?”
“So much,” I said. “So very much.”
This month has seen a bit more behind-the-scenes work with the structuring of the Tanner and Miranda stories… which makes it feel like I’m not getting as much done as I was last month–which is true, all things considered, but also okay. But, if I do it right, it’ll also make it a whole lot easier to get the whole thing out there and ready to be edited into a worthwhile second draft and beyond. So, while I work on that, enjoy the first paragraph of one of the stories that is currently getting figured out.
It was never a good sign when our room started looking more like an infirmary than just a place to sleep and keep our things. Despite appearances– the crutches leaned against the wall, the bandaging implements tossed on the table and over the back of the chair, the bottle of pain-killers on the nightstand– we did know what we were doing. We’d just had a hard run of it lately between me still being new to the planet and a bit of genuinely bad luck. What we really needed was something easy. A nice, simple job to get us back on our feet. Something that involved a little pay and even less getting shot at, and the more boring the better.
After the mayhem of NaNo, it’s sometimes (read: usually) easy for the slower pace that takes over in December to feel distressingly unproductive. And certainly, when it comes to word output and time committed to writing, the last three weeks have seen a definite drop-off. Yet, while I might be loathe to admit it at times, that’s not always a bad thing.
For one thing, having the time to guiltlessly devote to friendships, everyday chores, and all the other things that make up day-to-day life, while being good in and of itself, is also the sort of thing that can help improve one’s writing. They say to write what you know, and if you have a good working knowledge of the way life seems to tick, that’s going to show in your writing.
But the slower pace means I have time to start the restructuring and editing process. Which is terrifying. And a lot of work. And weird, because for the first time in my life, I’m writing out of order. I recently got my hands on Scrivener for the first time, and now I understand what all the hype is about. Consider me sold. Being able to drag chapters and scenes around and divide them up into more thought sized chunks is already invaluable. And it makes it so much easier to write what’s coming to mind right at the moment without worrying about how I’ll move it to where it belongs later. I think it’s going to help speed up the entire editing/rewriting process in the long run, which is good because my dad has sent another bag of chocolate covered espresso beans with the understanding that I finish a revised draft sometime in the near future– preferably the end of January. With the espresso beans, it just might happen!
I love advent. The waiting. The knowing that something wonderful is coming but isn’t here yet. It’s a season that recognizes that not all is well with the world, but knows that it will not remain that way forever. Christ is coming, but he’s not here yet. The world isn’t right… yet.
So let all mortal flesh keep silence. Darkness will be cleared away.