Not quite to the final act of the story, but getting very near. Today’s effort ought to bring us to the moment just before the story’s climax, and then we’ll be well on our way to having this draft finished.
I’ve been expressing a lot of concern about the story’s pacing, trying to tighten things up and wondering if it’s still too weighed down. There is a very tricky balance I’m trying to strike, where the journey needs to feel long and exhausting, but not become a slog to read through. This will definitely be my central focus in the next readthrough.
But for now, it’s time to finish applying this current layer of polish. Here’s the link to the latest draft if you want to see how it compares to this current version.
To the Limit)
“Whatever fuel you’ve got left, burn it now!” Oscar ordered, turning his own throttle up to maximum. With new life his vessel churned forward…then came a jerking halt as the line ran taut and Harry’s vessel dragged Oscar’s back.
“I’m trying, I’m trying!” Harry exclaimed. “There we go!” he crowed as his engines came back to life. “Oh wait, no!” they cut out again after just a few seconds, causing the rope to snap taut again.
I removed another iteration of Harry’s engines working and then not working. The point is already made so it was just taking up unnecessary space.
Oscar ground his teeth together. This constant relaxing and tightening of the line would snap it in two. Much as he wanted to surge on ahead, he would just have to pace himself off of what Harry’s boat could handle.
“Is it steadier at lower speeds?” Oscar asked.
“Yes, the engine holds if I don’t throttle over twenty percent.”
“Alright. You keep it there. I’ll tug.”
Oscar slowed his boat down until both he and Harry were travelling at the same, slow speed. Then he accelerated, but very gradually this time. The line eased back to full tension, and the two boats began gaining speed as one. Eventually Oscar was back to full throttle, dragging Harry’s waterlogged hull through the waves. It was working…but they were less than half the speed that Oscar’s boat could have gone on its own.
“Come on, Harry,” Oscar willed the other man’s boat to spring to life. But it didn’t. It just hung there as an anchor, constantly weighing him back into the storm. And he found that he despised Harry for that. “How many sailors have to die under your hand before you’re through?” he muttered darkly.
Oscar turned his attention back to the front, still watching for any sign of the cliff-face or, better yet, of the lighthouse. He saw neither, but by looking so earnestly his mind was starting to play tricks on him, making him think he had caught a glimpse of one or the other out of the corner of his eye.
Was that a moving light?! No, just a reflection of sheet lightning on the rolling wave. Did a rock just spring out of the dark in front of him?! No, just one cloud moving past another.
Once again, I’m keeping the same scene as before, with Oscar looking for shapes in the dark, but I’m cutting it down to about half of its original length.
“Turn deeper, Harry. “Let’s bring it to forty degrees!”
“Alright…if you’re sure…”
“I’m not sure of anything anymore.” Oscar replied, but only to himself. He was surprised that they still hadn’t seen either the saving light or the damning rock. Had he become more turned around than he realized? Were they actually headed away from the shoreline?
“Forty-five degrees, Harry! Make it forty-five!”
The next wave came rolling up from behind the trawlers and tilted them so far that Oscar had to plant his foot against the side of the wheelhouse to keep his balance. They seemed to hold in this position for an eternity, and Oscar’s hands twitched on the helm, ready to throw it to starboard at the first sign of the floor rolling out from under him.
But it wasn’t his boat that started to roll first. Suddenly there came a sharp tug from behind as Harry’s started to fall onto its side, reeling the line in as it went!
By pure instinct Oscar threw his wheel the rest pf the way to port, swiveling his boat to be fully parallel with the wave. The torrent of water slammed against the side of the wheelhouse, flooding over his vessel and threatening to swamp him at any moment! But all that force against the side of Oscar’s trawler made it pull back sharply on the rope, like a kite on the end of a string, hauling Harry’s boat out of its roll and back onto its hull!
I took the description of two waves passing over the sailors and combined them in one. There was a lot of good material here…but it was, in fact, too much. I’ve got to match the pacing in this sequence with the rest of the story. I’ll also be cutting down the following paragraphs by half.
Oscar had gotten them through the moment, but the entire situation was quickly getting out of hand. There were now too many competing forces for him to keep up with: the mad sloshing of water down in his hold, the erratic swaying of Harry’s boat at the end of the line, and the sporadic buffeting of the screeching wind.
“Come on!” Oscar snarled, desperately fighting to take control of the situation. But the more his hands fumbled back and forth over the controls, the more his boat fell into over-correction and only added to the rolling chaos.
The next wave was nearly upon them, and Oscar gave up trying to find a clever maneuver to get back stability. His nerves were too worn down, and he surrendered everything, reverting back to holding the helm for dear life!
Honestly it’s very cathartic to cut long passages down, combining and simplifying them into something leaner and more fluid. Next week the story will enter its climax, where I expect to have less changes to make. Then we’ll be off to the conclusion!