Welcome back, friends! It’s the second week of Writer In Motion, where we dive in and polish up our first drafts.
Much to my pleasant surprise last week, my draft came out in verse like a Bob Ross happy accident! Now let me start by saying I’m no expert in this style of writing, and I probably broke a whole bunch of rules, but it’s fun and it’s fine! So I’m gonna give this thing a creative WIM license and just go with it =)
When it comes to revisions, the first thing I do is make sure the story has all the main plot elements. Since this is a super short piece, I’m going to stick to the big three:
- The inciting incident (Narrator loses his loved one and sets off on a search)
- The dark journey and climax (He wanders the streets and meets the antagonistic force in the woods)
- The resolution (He survives the fight and finds his loved one again)
Luckily, I managed to hit all of that in the first draft, so the next things to consider are:
For a 500-word piece, I think I did okay here. I may expand in the next round of revisions if my critique partner (CP) feels it could use more, but for now, I’m pretty happy with it.
Finally, I look at the grammatical and aesthetic details. Although I really enjoyed free handing the first draft, I wanted to mold it into a more meaningful structure after seeing how it appeared on the screen. So the next thing I did was color-code and count the following elements in each “stanza”:
- rhyming words (paired in yellow and pink highlights)
- sound repetitions (in blue highlights)
- syllable counts (in red brackets)
Then I studied the stanzas to see if any patterns emerged from the color coding. Here’s what I found:
- At least one pair of rhymes (or close enough) in each
- Alliteration scattered throughout
- Syllable count in the “body” ranging from 55 – 66, with an average of 61. Wow, that actually came out closer than I thought!
I’m not too concerned about the rhymes matching up perfectly in this piece because I wanted to retain a little of the freestyle spirit (while stealthily adding structure, hah!). As for the alliteration, I absolutely loved it and wanted to add more sound repetitions. And finally, since I’m kind of a number-obsessed geek, I wanted to make the syllable count mean something, so here’s what I decided to do:
- Use the syllable count of each “header” line to convey the narrator’s emotional state (Decrease the count as we approach the climax. Then expand again as we reach the ending)
- Form each stanza “body” with exactly 61 syllables
Then I fiddled with my syllable counts and traded words in and out until I got the word flow and numbers on target. Ready to see what all that wrangling looks like? Brace yourself, it’s a little crazy!
Obviously, I’ve never done this type of revision before, but in my attempt to visually show my process, this is what I came up with lol! So sorry, friends, if you found that confusing. But here I present to you the more readable self-edited version, clocking in at 497 words.
They took you from me that day.
You left me behind and said your goodbyes, but the tears in your eyes told me it was never your choice to leave. Your face pressed against the car window, desperately calling out my name, seared into my brain like a map leaving a trail for me to follow.
I ran away that night.
When all was dark and quiet and no one suspected a thing, I left behind what was ours to bring you back again. But where do I start? Where do I go? All I had was that memory of you in my head leading me along like an unraveled string.
I took to the roads.
Miles and miles of shiny black asphalt teeming with cars going far too fast for this old boy—I must admit it frightened me plenty. But I didn’t go back. I braved the seas and carried on, hugging the fragile yellow line that marked the shoulder to safety.
I saw the turn.
Something deep in my gut twisted sideways, and I knew without a doubt that’s where they’d taken you. The woods are dense with evil, but for you I’d go, so I veered from steady lights and headed into darkness, wondering if I’d make it out alive again.
They found me.
They hunted me down no matter how carefully I stepped, for hungry beasts under moonlight sense fear like prey. Though I am old and weary, my stubborn resolve trumped their strength, and I survived their wicked teeth, their whetted claws. But they left me barely standing.
I crawled through the mud and the muck and the uprooted trees to the stream I could hear bubbling nearby like salvation. I drank from its bank to relieve my parched throat, but there’s no relief for the gash in my side gushing blood, hot as lava. Was this the end?
I saw light.
The light everyone talks about when the time comes after a long life well lived, do you know it? It came for me from behind the trees atop the knoll like a beacon of hope, but I fought it like mad for I wasn’t yet ready. Not ’til I found you first.
I heard your voice.
It was your voice that came from that light, a lulling ebb and flow that sang to me like a lullaby I recognized from years ago. I followed your song to the top of that hill until my last ounce of strength gave out, and I fell limp at your glowing door.
I heard you running.
It’s really you behind the door, crying in disbelief, the tears pouring down your face like a rushing waterfall. You wrap your tiny arms around my filthy matted fur and whisper words of love that mend every wound on my tired broken body.
Then you tuck me in
Like the end of a string,
Making our reel whole again,
And with you, I’m finally home.
That does it for my self-edited draft—I hope you enjoyed it! Next week, I’ll post my second round of revisions based on CP feedback. In the meantime, please check out the Writer In Motion official blog and Forum to see how other writers revised their first drafts, all born from the same picture prompt!