Only a few weeks until I’m done with this, the fourth draft of The Storm. I’m now coming into the climax of the story, which I’ve generally considered to be one of the stronger parts of the story and I have only made smaller changes to it. Here’s hoping that continues to be the case today.
As always, here is the link to the latest draft, and now for today’s segment.
The next wave passed them by, and Oscar rotated the wheel with a deep exhale. His steering was still sluggish, so they had to make the turn in parts, but presently the two sailors had their backs to the rolling tide and were pointed towards the coast.
I simplified the above paragraph. All it’s really saying is that they make their turn without event, and I was using way too many words to explain that.
“But keep a pull to port as well!” Oscar instructed. And so, at the low point between each wave, the men would pull their boats to the left, pump the throttle forward, and then straighten back out and slow down when the next wave caught up to them. Hopefully it would be enough to get them on the other side of the Broken Horn and its eddies.
“And keep your eyes open wide!” Oscar shouted into the mic as he peered intently through his own window. “If you so much as wonder whether you’ve seen the cape, you call it out!” He reached up and turned off his overhead light and covered the blinking LED on the radio, casting himself into complete darkness, the better to see through the storm outside.
Of course, they might not be able to see the cape, even if it was right before them. The storm-mist that pressed in on every side was so black and so thick that it might be indistinguishable from rock face. One long minute slid by after another, and as they went Oscar wondered how many could pass them by before they would be upon a stone-hard reckoning.
I combined and simplified the last two paragraphs. I’ve been noticing that revising my work primarily means diluting my previous work into its best moments.
“Further to port!” Oscar commanded.
He spun the wheel ten more degrees to the left, and he did not straighten it back out when the next wave came upon them. This would take them to the other side of the cape more quickly, but it also resulted in them being tilted to starboard as they glided up the wave, then rolled back to port as it left them in its wake. The boats sloshed threateningly back and forth, but fortunately did not roll onto their sides.
“Whatever fuel you’ve got left, burn it now!” Oscar ordered, pushing his own throttle to full. With new life his vessel churned forward…then almost immediately came a jerking halt as the line hauled backward on Oscar’s boat!
“I’m trying, I’m trying!” Harry exclaimed. “There we go!” His engines came back to life. “Oh wait, no!” They cut out again after just a few seconds, causing the rope to snap taut once more.
Oscar ground his teeth together. This constant relaxing and tightening of the line would quickly break 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 reduced power 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 like an anchor, weighing him back into the storm. And 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 that he had caught a glimpse of one or the other out of the corner of his eye.
Was that a moving light?! No, it was a reflection of sheet lightning upon the waves. Did a rock just emerge in front of them?! No, it was one cloud moving past another.
“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 weren’t seeing either the saving light or the damning rock. Had they become more turned around than he realized? Were they aimlessly driving further out to sea?
The next wave came rolling up from behind the trawlers and tilted their boats so far to starboard that Oscar had to plant his foot against the side of the wheelhouse to keep from falling over. They seemed to hold this position for an eternity, and Oscar’s hands twitched on the helm, ready to spin it at the first sign of the floor rolling out from under him. But just when he thought the boat was about to fall over the top of the wave rolled underneath them and the boats snapped wildly back to port.
“Easy! Easy! Easy!” Oscar shouted, spinning the wheel in a mad effort to straighten out.
But it wasn’t his boat that he needed to worry about. The sudden swing to port, combined with the pull of gravity, had proven too much for Harry. Oscar felt the sudden tug as Harry’s boat started to fall onto its side, reeling the line in as it went, pulling him down to his doom as well!
By pure instinct Oscar threw his wheel the rest of the way to starboard, swiveling his boat to be inverted from Harry’s. This also put him broadside to the rolling tide, and the water slammed against the wide face of his hull, flooded over the vessel, and threatened to swamp him at any moment! But all that force against the side of Oscar’s trawler also 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 to its upright position!
“Ohhhh!” Oscar moaned, then turned his face and retched on the floor of his beloved companion.
I’ve been making little changes here or there, but a flurry of them in these past paragraphs of heightened action. I also like the detail I added about Oscar being sick at the end of this maneuver. It is him literally not having the stomach for this work, which should lead well into him giving up the fight.
And with that, I’m going to call things good for now. Next week I’ll be giving an update on my novel, but then the Friday after that we’ll be back to revising The Storm.