You might have noticed last Friday that instead of continuing my revision of The Storm, I gave the monthly update on my novel, the reason being that I have made a slight modification to my posting schedule. From now on every Friday will be some entry in my new “Improving Technique” series. Most weeks that will mean doing the revisions on one of my short stories, but on the first Friday of the month it will be the update on my novel instead.
In any case, it feels good to get back to The Storm. Here is a link to my most recent draft if you want to compare changes, and now let’s get to today’s work.
Navigating the Storm)
“Alright,” Oscar said into the mic. “I’m going to bear a little to starboard now. You just follow the turn.”
“I know, Oscar. I know.”
If you know so much, then why are you out here with a crippled engine? Oscar thought bitterly. Yes, bad luck hit them all, but it seemed to hit Harry a suspicious amount more than any of the other sailors.
I changed the first word of the second sentence from “sure” to “yes.” I wanted to call it out because while that might not seem like an important change, I realized that I’m still relating Oscar’s inner thoughts and Oscar wouldn’t use the word “sure” like that. Maybe no reader would have ever noticed that, but for me it’s nice that I know my characters well enough to be able to make that change.
Oscar turned the wheel, swiveling the prow of his boat twenty degrees to starboard. The most efficient route back home would be to make a wide turn, cut across the cape where the eddies were weaker, finish turning the rest of the way around, and then make for the docks.
There was another paragraph right here about the waves pounding against the slanted boats and Oscar looking to see the cape but unable to find it. I removed these bits because neither of those details have any real bearing that this time. They were just empty calories.
And then, immediately after that excised paragraph there was a part about Oscar trying to make the turn, but Harry’s boat not being able to keep up, and them having to reduce the angle accordingly. But very similar events occur later in the journey, so I removed this one to avoid it becoming repetitive.
And after that I had a whole sequence about Oscar starting to despair and giving the reader some clues about his lost son. I still want to have that moment, but it kind of came out of the blue here, and I think will make sense to move that to later when Oscar has had more of a struggle. So, I removed that segment as well.
And now, looking to the paragraph below, it actually fits really well with the previous section of the story, like they already wanted to be put alongside each other anyway!
But trying to cut across the waves at a slant proved to be difficult. The angle meant that the port side of their boats were constantly being slammed by the onslaught of water, and as the waves rolled into their rudders they hauled against them like kites caught in a gale. Oscar grit his teeth together and hauled on his wheel the other direction, muttering encouragement to his boat.
“Hold steady, girl, hold on! I know it hurts, but just hold on!”
A particularly large wave barreled into the boat and suddenly the wheel went loose in his hands as a creaking whine rose from the back of the boat.
“No!” Oscar cried, relaxing his hold on the wheel for fear of causing more damage. The wave pushed his boat at its pleasure, turning it all the way to starboard, then passing by.
“Oscar, everything alright?” Harry called over the radio.
But Oscar didn’t reply. He needed both of his hands as he twitched the wheel back and forth, trying to feel out what had happened to his steering.
It seemed that the rudder arm had not snapped, that was a relief! The boat still responded to Oscar’s commands, though sluggishly, and not all the way up to its usual range. Probably the bolt connecting the hydraulic cylinder shaft to the rudder arm had been bent.
“My steering’s limited,” Oscar called into the mic. “I’m going to have to turn more slowly, and there’s no way I can keep holding against the waves at an angle. We’ll need to go head-on at them instead.”
“Well…I don’t think there’s enough time to turn that far.”
Oscar looked out the window to his left where the next wave was already hurtling towards them. Harry was right, there wasn’t enough time or space between each wave to make a full ninety-degree turn.
“Well…there’s going to be some tricky maneuvers coming up, Harry,” he replied, “but you just leave them to me, and you do what you can to keep up!”
I changed the above sequence pretty extensively. Previously Oscar’s boat wasn’t able to counter the onslaught of the waves, and was steadily pushed more and more to one side as he went. I felt like this was confusing, trying to communicate gradual turns and counter-turns. It also wasn’t the most exciting, and I figured it would be better to have the boats beginning to deteriorate under these severe conditions.
I like this approach a good deal more, and can now implement the compromised rudder throughout the rest of the story.
Oscar locked the mic button down and set it on the panel. He would need both hands on the wheel for this next part, but would also need to call out instructions as they went.
Of course, not cutting across the waves meant they would have to change the route for getting back home. Now they would ride up the the waves and push for as much distance as they could, then turn around and use the water’s momentum to slice through the eddies, hopefully pulling far enough to the side to get past the Broken Horn.
I reduced the above paragraph a great deal. Earlier I tried to explain the logistics in exhaustive, confusing detail, here I state things simply, and I think even readers who don’t have a perfect picture in their head will get enough of it to be satisfied.
Later, though, I realized that this paragraph shouldn’t even be here. I should move it a little further down in the story. It can now be found in next week’s entry of Revising The Storm.
I’m going to call that good for now, but I’ll be back next week with the next section. See you there!