For those just joining me, this summer I participated in the Writer in Motion program.
In Week 0, we were given a prompt to reflect upon.
In Week 1, we posted our inital, rough, unedited drafts.
In Week 2, we posted our self-edited drafts.
In Week 3, we posted edited stories after receiving feedback from assigned critique partners also participating in the progam.
During Week 4, we received feedback from a professional editor. I was paired with Justin Manzano, who provided helpful feedback in both line edits and a short edit letter.
I cannot thank my critique partners and editor enough for their feedback in helping me clarify the story, and for correcting that spelling error and line edits.
Below is my final version of In the Country of Shadow.
In the Country of Shadow
[Removed for Submission Purposes]
What is Writer in Motion?
Week 3 we were assigned a small group of critique partners - other writers participating in Writer in Motion. We read and critique each other's stories. I was paired with Erin, Anthony, and Linda. Their stories were so much fun to read and their feedback helped me shape my story into more of a story, something more coherent, (and correct spellings!) and gave me a little bit of confidence that I was missing during this process.
There's still more...
My process with CP feedback is to usually receive it, read it, let it sit a few days, and then work through it. I received all my feedback with time to do all that, except my own time management and ability to wrangle tenses eluded my alloted time I'd reserved to work on it. The tenses are still giving me trouble, and I'll need to make sure I get quiet time to tame them for next week.
In the Country of Shadow
What is Writer in Motion? See my Week 0 post.
What did this story look like when I gave up and posted for Week 1 rough draft? You can read my initial draft at my week 1 post.
The Story So Far...
Normally, I'd leave a short story at least one week, often much longer, before re-reading it and doing some self-edits. Since it took me to the very last minute to finish my initial draft, and there are deadlines for posting, I didn't have that luxury for this story.
Another stumbling block I've encountered with this story has enlightened me on my writing habits. I often have stories that crop up in my brain and need to be told and I pour them onto the paper (or into the digital Word file as it were.) Sometimes, I use a prompt and it takes me a couple sentences or a minute of thinking, and then the story just flows. And while I don't usually know the end until 40% of the way into the story (which is also when I discover how long the story will be prior to revisions), I always know where the story was going.
Dear Reader, I did not know where this story was going. I never have had such a hard time writing a story. I mentioned last week I would never have bothered to "finish" the draft if I weren't signed up for Writer in Motion. When I looked at the image, I had ideas. I had so many ideas. And all those lovely ideas got me into trouble. Because I didn't let the story simmer long enough and/or I didn't have the appropriate length of time of a deadline. I often will give myself 10 minutes or 30 minutes to write a story based off a prompt. And the furiosity of that writing may lead to giving myself a little more time to finish it. Instead I spent the week trying things and really nothing worked.
What all that comes down to: I had a lot to self-edit.
Week 2: Self-Editing
I started with a 647 word story. I was trying to push to that 1000 word goal. Our stories are supposed to be under 1000 words at the end of this week, or as of this posting. That was clearly not my problem. However, I worried that having too short of a story would also be a problem. The pushing towards the required word count, rather than let the story be whatever word count it wanted, created problems. I kept trying to add in conflicting ideas. I had no clear goal. I kept changing the relationship of the two characters.
Going into edits, I planned to remove the chorus, focus the story, get to a point of conflict and resolution (that didn't exist before) and clean up the copy.
On the 20th, I felt I'd waited as long as I could or I wouldn't have any edits to put forth. I opened my doc, created a week 2 doc, read through, tried to remove the chorus and found the story lost the little bit I liked about it, put the chorus back in, and closed the doc.
I opened the document back up again yesterday. I deleted 279 words, bringing the story down to 367. There was even less story, but I liked it better. I had shaved off all the competing ideas. I worked hard to keep the line that got some positive feedback, scrapping the line about being made of photons, which hurt my scientist's heart.
A Single Thought
I self-edit all short stories with the single thought: what change does my protagonist go through, ie. a protagonist must change in order for it to be a short story. For this story, I actually want the problem my protagonist starts with to be the problem they end with, and the change needed to be that they now accepted themself with this problem. So the conflict became how do they go from wanting to change themselves to accepting this about themselves?
Self-Edited Draft: In the Country of Shadows
Read more stories
The prompt was revealed on July 9.
On July 10, I wrote 24 words: "I am made of smoke and dreams and things you don’t want to see in the mirror.I live in the country of shadow."
After a particularly frustrating day job work day, on July 14, I wrote more words, ending my evening with 487. I still wasn't sure my plot, but the repeating I miss you. I love you. Let me go. introduced itself.
Of course, once I called it for the night, I went to bed and immediately came up with more of the story. First thing the next morning, I wrote more, filling out a bit more.
I'm a circular writer. I write in spirals even though my stories are told in a line. At low enough word counts, and usually if I write the full thing in one sitting, I will write through and then my spirals can be reclassified as "filling out." But, filling out to me means to enhance something that exists, not create an entirely new arc, plot, or even interaction between characters. For me, filling out has often to make more for the reader, not for the story.
Today's draft is not a finished draft, and it is very, very rough. It is 654 words. It is both too short and too long.
Normally, I wait a week before editing shorts. I won't have that time. I have some tense issues. I already see things I wish to cut, the chorus for one. And I need to fill the story out quite a bit, to edge closer to the 1000 word limit and to round it out for the reader.
In the Country of Shadow
After posting, I edited to add the prompt image and some links.
Adding these more thoughts, just for transparency. I would never post or submit this story. In fact, this story fought me so much, if it weren't for this program, I would not have written it. The story feels too influenced from others, despite me trying not to read other people's responses to the prompt.
Links to Other Writer in Motion Stories
I learned about Writer in Motion from Erin Fulmer. Here's her unedited first draft.
Keir Alekseii livestreamed her writing, which is a cool idea. View the video and result here.
Mel Grebing was inspired by the prompt and posted their story as well.
Enjoying all these stories? View all the participants at Writer in Motion Week 1: The Messy First Draft.
Based on the enthusiasm author Erin Fulmer showed for the Writer in Motion project, I joined up during their registration period.
What is Writer in Motion? It's an opportunity to participate in short story creation and share your journey from draft to polished story via your writer's blog and the Writer in Motion forum. Additionally, the writer is matched up with critique partners (CP) and potentially a professional editor.
Updates will be given weekly per the Writer in Motion timeline.
July 9: Prompt Revealed
I have seven more stories to share with you this week. Enjoy!
A-B-A by Nicholas T. Brown is a long read at Lunch Ticket.
Lunch Ticket published The Fur of My Insecurities by Ursula Villarreal-Moura, a piece of flash.
Writer of spec fic.