Last week I shared my notes on The Storm: Draft Three. There were more structural changes necessary than I expected, but I was encouraged that I had immediate ideas for how to address each one of them.
Along with those notes, I also have some feedback from the writer’s group I attend. With both of these documents in hand I am going to do another pass on the story, and I am going to do it as quickly as I can. Rapid iterations help keep the memory of what I am trying to do fresh in my mind, whereas too small of efforts result in constantly spinning my wheels over the same areas. That doesn’t mean that I will be publishing larger posts here, just that my work will be a bit ahead of this blog.
Here is the previous draft if you want to compare it to this new one, and now let us proceed.
Oscar regarded the sea behind him. The gray of water below perfectly matched the gray of unbroken clouds above. Off in the distance was a similarly gray wall of rain, which bridged the gap between ocean and cloud, so that there seemed to be no separate bodies at all, only one massive volume of silver liquid. And at the fringes of that elevated sea Oscar and his trawler were currently scurrying forward, trying to make land before the wall of rain did. For that wall of rain was no trifling shower, but the face of a dark and violent storm.
The storm had not been expected until later that evening, so its early arrival had cut Oscar’s excursion short without so much as a minnow to show for his effort. There had been time and fuel spent, but nothing gained. Oscar wasn’t surprised by that, though. Most of the time the ocean yielded just enough for the sailors to pay their way, but from time-to-time it cut them short. “The ocean giveth and the ocean taketh,” one might say, but also “it taketh slightly more than it giveth,” so that a man grew a penny poorer each day he tried to live by it.
Though sometimes the cost was more than just a penny. Oscar knew better than most that in sudden, greedy moments the ocean took far more than it had any right to. More than could ever be excused.
“That you, Oscar?” the voice crackled over the boat’s radio.
“Yeah, Sam, it’s me.” Oscar raised his eyes to the red-and-white lighthouse in the distance, where Sam sat as their watchful guardian, never losing tally of each man’s going and coming back again.
“Sorry to hear that, Oscar.”
“It’s just how it goes. Everyone else in already?”
“All but Harry.”
Oscar sighed heavily, dropping his eyes from the lighthouse above to the long pier below, where each of the local sailors had their permanent station. On the far left was Oscar’s own berth, and as far away as possible to the right was Harry’s. The only empty spaces.
“Do you know which way he went?”
“Went for mackerel. Around the cape. Probably why I haven’t been able to raise him.”
“He woulda seen the storm coming even so.”
“And he shoulda made it far enough back now that we’d see him by now.”
Oscar’s radio crackled static, signifying that Sam had released the mic, signifying that Sam would say no more until Oscar did. Sam wasn’t the sort of person to tell people what they ought to do. He was the sort to let them figure it out for themselves.
And what if Oscar said no? What if he said Harry was a fool for having gone around the cape when there was any storm warning at all, and that if he was caught in a gale now that was his own affair?
Well, if Oscar said that, Sam probably wouldn’t even hold it against him. Sam would know as well as anyone that Oscar had reason enough for it. But then Sam would go out by himself, and he would be that much more delayed, that much more in danger of the storm.
Oscar swiveled his head around and surveyed the horizon. Not a single ship in sight.
“I suppose I better go after him,” Oscar rasped into the mic.
“If you think that’s best,” Sam approved. “I won’t blink an eye until the two of you get back.”
“I know you won’t, Sam.”
Minor corrections scattered throughout, but now we come to the first of my more substantial rewrites in this draft. I want to cut out all the parts about Oscar turning and over-correcting and realigning his course. I’m going to reduce it down to just one, simple turn. I also want to replace some of the repetitive visual descriptions of the sea with some details that speak to the other senses.
Oscar sighed, then slowly turned the wheel. There was that brief moment of delay between cause and effect, that moment where he was still pointed towards the safety of the docks, but then his entire world shifted. Pier, berth, and the road up to Lenny’s Tavern slid away and to the left, giving way to the long, low coast, the rising point of the cape, and finally the bleak, open sea stretching beyond. As Oscar settled against the waves his boat creaked mournfully.
“Sorry, girl,” he muttered. “I don’t like it either. We’ll get back home just as soon as we can.”
The sea seemed to protest his return also. The wind whistled around the wheelhouse in a forbidding moan, the rain lashed against the window with long tears, and a sudden chill rose out of the tumultuous depths, putting its ice into his veins. The whole vessel trembled as the lively waves struck against its side, trying to push Oscar back towards the shore, but Oscar stubborned his hands on the wheel and steeled his heart against all misgivings. He kept himself fixed on the most direct route to the cape, and the darkening gray that lay beyond it.
I’m liking these new paragraphs a great deal more than what I had before. Now I need to do a similar reduction on the turns Oscar makes to get around the Broken Horn. I’m also going to cut down on the many times I repeat how Harry must really be in trouble out here.
The Broken Horn was the name they had given to that cape, and it rose very quickly from the otherwise flat coastline, outstripping the grass and the trees so that its promontory cliff was nothing but black and jagged rock, broken in a thousand places by the brunt of the sea.
Oscar made his way to the shadow of that rock, then he turned his boat to give a wide berth as he went around its cliffs. There were treacherous shoals at the feet of the Broken Horn, and if one of those snagged him, he would be held like a fish on a spear until the endless flow of water overran his vessel. Or, if the waves managed to dislodge him, they would rush him past the shoals and into the jagged edges of the sheer rock face, tearing his body and boat to shreds in an instant! Had Harry come into difficulty anywhere else Oscar would have left him to run aground and wait out the storm on a rain-soaked beach, but here there was no “aground” to run into. A sailor caught in these waters with a compromised vessel could have things go wrong for them in quite a hurry. Of course, this wasn’t the first time things had gone wrong for Harry in a storm.
All in all, my opening act was pretty much where I wanted it to be, only requiring minor tweaks here and there. But at the end of today I’ve started into the section of the story that needs the most extensive changes, and I will be continuing with that work all of next week. See you then!