Last week, I bared to you my drafty firstborn, Joan. This week, I eagerly took that naked child to my revision wardrobe and draped her in words, bulking her up from 499 to a pudgy 967. Yikes! To give you an idea of how much I threw on, here’s a quick visual.
Whoa, look at all that padding, y’all!
Not too surprising though, since I’d underwritten my first draft. After my CPs Paulette and H.M. get through with their takes, I’m sure there’ll be bloodshed and clothing changes. A good thing too, because I might have gone a tad overboard, and Joan could use some trimming and tweaking to get closer to just right.
But for now, here she is, all dolled up! And after the parade, I’ll go into a little detail about my self-editing process.
The Second Draft (Self-edited)
He came to me on a midnight clear. An old man in a broken boat, rusted and screaming of tetanus. There was something odd about him—the way he seemed to light up from within, the way he floated across the splintered hull—as if he’d come from another time and place.
His crimson cloak fluttered in the salty breeze as he approached, silent like the moon, bare feet soft on the sand.
“Bonjour,” he said with perfect inflection. His voice was a pleasing accompaniment to the waves.
I scanned the shores for a glimpse of partying spring breakers, but all was deathly still. Never was a thing there when you needed it most. I flipped the neck of my book light back and aimed it up at him, my breathing erratic, my butt glued to the sand. He seemed harmless enough, but didn’t they all?
“Bonjour,” I replied, praying he wouldn’t carry on. Here in this New England beach town, French was a rarity found only in Madame Simone’s class, and a few more phrases would’ve exhausted my C average repertoire.
He didn’t, thank God. Instead, he stood staring at me with bottomless eyes—an unnatural gaze which should’ve creeped me out, raised the hairs on my skin. It was midnight on a deserted beach after all, and I had nothing but a cheap IKEA lamp and Jane Austen paperback for defense. Mum and Dad were snug in their Holiday Lettings bed, a sand dune away, too far to hear me scream.
But I was not afraid.
Fear cannot besiege the faithful. For through Him, I am protected.
I clutched the golden crucifix at my throat and looked the stranger clear in the eyes. I didn’t know this man. Yet somehow, I recognized him.
“You must go back, Joan,” he said.
I blinked at his peculiar accent, the familiar way he addressed me. “How do you know my name?”
The sudden beam of his smile pierced the dark. “You have always been Joan.”
Snapping my book shut, I stumbled to my feet, bare toes gripping the cool sand grains. I lifted my face into the dim circle of light and deepened my forehead wrinkles. “Go back where?”
“Là où tout a commencé,” he said, unaffected. “To where it all begins.” He reached a hand inside his cloak and pulled out a glowing sword, the silver of its blade so fluid, it lit up the night like twelve moons. Powerful grey wings burst forth from beneath heavy folds as he pointed the sword’s tip at me, and in that instant, I was bestowed with knowledge. Divine remembrance.
Centuries reeled before my eyes like credits at a movie’s end. All the lives of my past. The hundreds of strings of cause and effect.
And in each and every one, I was Joan. Jehanne d’Arc. A poor farmer’s daughter called to march an army to victory in a bloody centennial war. An innocent damned to rot in cells until the end of my days. But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. For if it was, the angel I knew then as Michael wouldn’t be here, summoning me to launch yet another sequence of events.
“Once more, you shall convince the Dauphin of France to grant you his army,” Michael said. “You shall liberate the city of Orlèans, chase the English from the Loire valley, and deliver Reims so that Charles may be crowned king.” His hand seized my shoulder. “But this time, when they capture you at Compiègne, you must not recant. You must burn in martyrdom and light France’s flames into victory. For without France, the new nation cannot rise.”
I staggered under the weight of his grasp, under the toll of his proclamation.
Yet how many more times must I relive death, my Lord? Yet how many more times must I wield the banner of war, watch the massacre of innocents, condone the tortures of men?
I clenched the book in my fist and swallowed hard, sliding my doubts down my throat. The answers were not for me to know. I was but the hand to do God’s will.
Yet still, my voice trembled. “And by what sin must I burn?”
Michael released me to sheath his sword, a rueful twitch at the corner of his mouth. “Cross dressing.”
“Cross dressing?” I laughed nervously at the ridiculous sin prosecuted still to this day. To die as a woman shamed for putting on a man’s clothes—that was to be my fate! But who was I to question His design? Perhaps my sacrifice would somehow produce a string to challenge that notion, allow its acceptance in the new nation to rise.
“Man will find reason to suit his agenda, however ludicrous,” Michael said, as matter of fact.
The sad truth, if my past was any indication. I stared at the black waters crashing against the rusty boat that would take me back through time to the banks of the River Vienne and ruminated on my inevitable roasting at the stake. Maybe for the last time.
I released my breath until the last drop depleted from my lungs, and unto Him I gave my soul.
“Then let His will be mine.”
The angel folded his wings and vanished into heaven’s stars, leaving me alone with old Tetanus. I laid my book upon the sand and set my light atop its cover. I could not take these items where I was going. I could take nothing but my faith and conviction. Yet already I longed to return to this idyllic beach, where I could finish a quiet life beyond nineteen and be allowed to rest in peace.
If it were God’s will.
Until then, I refuse to be afraid. I am Jehanne d’Arc. I was born to do this.
The Editing Process
For this draft, I wanted to focus on characterization, so I attempted to dive into Joan’s fearless 17-year-old mind by asking myself the 5Ws (and bonus H):
- Who is she at her core?
- What drives her?
- When, if ever, does she falter?
- Where does her courage stem from?
- Why does she believe what she does?
- How does her faith shape her actions?
Luckily for me, Joan was a real person, and the things she said and did could easily be uncovered with a few key taps and mouse clicks…hey, gotta love technology! So I did what any writer would do and stalked her until likely answers revealed themselves, and an impression of who she was flickered through my mind like an Instagram story.
Next, I went through the draft and inserted snippets of thoughts and things I imagined she might’ve said given the alternate modern-day situation I had tossed her in. This part came surprisingly easy—too easy—and I found myself butting up against that wicked word limit again until I heard Gamemaster Jeni’s voice in my head saying “no more than 1000!” Alas, that was my cue to stop.
Finally, I went back through the whole thing again a few times and checked for easy pickings like misspellings, repetition, and deviant adverbs. This, my friends, was new ground for me! This last step used to be my first step, and now I’m proud to announce Restraint has kept me from wasting time correcting stuff that could end up deleted. Restraint, I’m finding, is that loyal friend who (annoyingly) always seems to know what’s best.
And that pretty much sums up the gist of how I fattened up my short. Now I can’t wait for my CPs to rip it apart to shreds so I can put it all back together again for the better! Yay! Because, ya know, editing is a masochist activity, and writers are story engineers.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll be back next week to find out how Joan fares!
Stay up to date with WiM postings!
Check out more self-edits from the talented writers on the sidebar and get all the latest on Gamemaster Jeni’s blog
Excuse me, I’ll just be over here crying in the corner that my draft will never be this imaginative! Oh Thuy, I love it! Your additions have really brought the piece to life. You are very talented. Your word choices and cadence are lovely and suit the piece perfectly. The only bump for me was the cross-dressing line. This seemed out of sorts with the lyrical tone of the rest. I think I preferred the way you had it in your original draft. But a small nit. Just lovely!!
Thank you so much for your kind words and feedback! I couldn’t resist tossing that bit in there when I discovered that cross-dressing, and not heresy, was the actual crime for which she was burned at the stake. Fascinating! But I see what you mean and will have to reconsider. Much appreciated, Sheri!!
Love your process! Can’t wait to get into it.
Love love love the ambient mood woven throughout this piece. And I adore the questions you line up for her character. Such a beautiful tale that makes me think of a historical piece threaded with timeline jumps. <3
I love the contrast between the historical and religious past and the modern life!
I love seeing what you did with your self edits. Plus, the research you did to learn why she was sentenced to death. I think you could change the word crossdressing, but other than that I really liked what you did with it. 👍