Revising The Storm- Week 7

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Firmly in the second half of the story now! Now comes the image of two ships tethered together, fighting their way through the storm. Now is the long, hard tow that wears them down until they finally break and the truth comes out. Obviously I want every part of my story to be executed well, but this segment in particular has a great deal that it needs to accomplish, and I will be paying close attention to anywhere that it is lapsing.

The Tow)

Oscar eased back a little. He didn’t want to hit tension on the rope too quickly and snap it. He watched as the last feet of slack pulled out of the line, and then his vessel shuddered from stem to stern and its boom groaned ominously. Nothing broke, though, and the boom gave a counter-groan as it settled into place.

“Alright,” Oscar called into the mic. “I’m going to bear a little starboard here. You keep going straight at first and let the rope pull you into line.”

“I know, Oscar. I know.”

If you know so much, then why are you the only one out here with a crippled engine? Oscar thought bitterly. Sure, bad luck hit them all, but it seemed to hit Harry a suspicious amount more than any of the other sailors.

Oscar turned the wheel, swiveling his stern twenty degrees. The most efficient route back home would be to make a wide turn right, continue until they were past the cape, then right again and back to the docks.

Of course making this turn meant that Oscar’s boat was now at a slant to the waves, and they were thundering against his hull and drenching his deck with their foaming spray. Oscar looked back-and-to-the right to see where the Broken Horn lay, but anything further than three hundred yards was shrouded in murky black, as if they had been submerged in an ink bottle, alone in their own, thick darkness.

A reverberating whine came from behind and Oscar saw Harry’s boat sliding to starboard, failing to keep up with the turn and pulling the rope at an angle.

“I said stay straight!” Oscar shouted into the mic.

“I’m trying!” Harry’s panicked voice shrieked back. “It’s just my motor can’t keep up! It’s too much!” Oscar bit his wrinkled lip and spun the wheel back to port. They would have to try a shallower angle into the waves, one that Harry’s waterlogged boat could handle.

He brought their angle-of-attack from forty-five degrees to thirty, then checked over his shoulder. No good, the rope was still moving the wrong way, scraping across the corner of his deck.

So he reduced down to twenty-five degrees and checked again. Still no. The rope wasn’t slipping anymore, it continually wavered back and forth, never settling.

Twenty degrees and at last the rope moved back to center.

“We’ve got it! We’ve got it!” Harry’s voice was flush with relief. Oscar wasn’t relieved, though. Far from it. At this shallower angle it would take more than twice as long to get past the cape, meaning they’d be spending twice as long in the heart of the sea.

Twice as long in the ink. The murky green glow from beneath the waves had extinguished, and somewhere beyond the clouds the last remnants of the sun had expired. All was pitch black now, and the men could barely see each wave before they were already upon it. And those waves had progressed from small hills to sheer mountains. Each yawned high above the sailors, tipping their boats skyward, then breaking across their bows in a fury. Then came the rapid drop down the trough on the other side. The wind seemed to shriek around their wheelhouses in every direction at once, and the rain pelted them sideways.

Well, they had arrived…. This was the full height of the storm’s intensity and they would be locked within this fearful epicenter all the way back to shore.

Oscar gripped his wheel with white knuckles, locked his knees in place, and stared ahead with unblinking eyes. Each successive wave was a new trauma heaped upon the last like an extra brick on his back.

This kept the same vein of how it was before, though with a good deal of fiddling throughout. Most of the changes were in the last paragraphs when I described the storm around them. A major critique from my first draft was how the escalation of that storm wasn’t very clear, and behind the scenes I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to make a more intelligible progression out of it.

To that end I’ve decided that the storm is now at its strongest, and every point hereafter will be describing a different element or perspective of it. The escalation of danger now will be based upon their angle-of-attack and the damage to their boats. My hope is that by having a clear sense in my own head of what’s going on, that will come through in the written depiction of it.

Now I’m going to tackle a moment of introspection in Oscar, and this is one section I already know I want to make a few changes to.

The Conversation)

“I can’t do this,” Oscar said hoarsely to himself. “I just don’t have it in me anymore.”

“I don’t think you have any choice in it anymore,” another side of him replied.

If at all possible, his weathered face grew even more wrinkly, his eyes shone with unshed saltwater.

“I should have quit after I lost James.”

“No,” his other side returned. “You should have quit before you lost your son.”

“I’m sorry,” his chest quivered and the tears finally dribbled down his cheeks. “I should never have trusted him to Harry.”

The original version of this conversation that Oscar has with himself was melodramatic and confusing. I felt it jumped from one statement to another with no obvious connection between them. I also felt it was obscure as tp who exactly “James” was.

But with this take on it there is a much clearer transition from not wanting to face great obstacles anymore to wishing he had quit before he lost his son. I had initially wondered about cutting the conversation entirely, but I think it is important to get across that Oscar’s son has died and that that loss is somehow connected to Harry, otherwise the later confession would come entirely out of the blue.

Next week I’ll be pulling the sailors even more through the wringer, come back as I try to maintain a clear line through it all!

Revising The Storm- Week 6

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In the heart of the storm and in the heart of the story! We’re right at the middle of my tale, where the protagonist is about to face his great trial. He must couple himself to the man he hates most, to resolve the unfinished business between them.

I don’t expect to change as much in this next section as the one prior, but I guess I’ll see as I go. Let’s get to it!

The Throw)

Oscar held firmly to the wheel, maintaining as straight of a line as possible to Harry. He tightened his grip, readying his nerves for the tumultuous waterscape ahead. They would need to maneuver with precision and speed, minimizing those treacherous moments when their boats would be in close proximity to one another, relying on the mercy of the unpredictable waves to not careen one of their boats into the other and leaving them both in mortal peril!

Oscar quickly glanced backwards to the beam at the center of his boat. He punched the release, dropping the net off of its line, then snapped his eyes back forward as he pulled a lever, letting the rope run out, unfurling on the deck behind him. He waited until there would be about fifty feet of line let loose, then locked the lever back into place.

“Alright now, Harry,” he called into the mic. “You ready?”

Harry didn’t respond, but when Oscar’s eyes slid over the other sailor’s ship he saw that the man was already out on his own deck, waving his arms.

“You’re still supposed to be keeping your boat straight!” Oscar said in anger, then turned the wheel to create an even wider berth between the two boats. Then he turned the throttle up, pushing to just a little ahead of Harry’s boat.

“Alright, alright,” Oscar told himself encouragingly, then cut the throttle and locked the wheel in place. As his boat slid backwards he ran back to the rope pooled out on the deck. With practiced skill he found its end and coiled it around his hand as he leapt to the port side. His boat came level with Oscar’s for just a moment and he gave a mighty fling, arcing the rope through the air and into Harry’s waiting arms. Harry pulled it to his chest for dear life, then sprinted towards the front of his trawler to ran it through his bow cleat. Meanwhile Oscar dashed back to his wheel and spun it rapidly to correct for drift. He wiped the back of his sleeve over his rain-soaked brow and tried to catch his breath.

This sequence plays out in much the same way as before, though I tidied and embellished it here and there. I specifically ramped up the sense of danger of two boats resting in close proximity during an unpredictable storm. I’ve also decided to play up the depiction of Harry as a more clueless seaman, which will of course come to play with his later revelation. I think it makes him a more distinctive character, but I’ll have to make sure I don’t overdo it. I don’t want him to be a caricature of buffoonery.

Now let’s move forward to the start of the sailors’ arduous journey to safety.

The Towing)

“Harry, are you ready yet?” Oscar spoke into the mic, but there was no response. He raised the throttle, moving ahead of Harry’s boat and giving a safer distance between them, but he was very careful to not pull the line out before Harry had it secured.

It was very difficult to try and hold steady in such rolling waves, but the true challenge would begin only after Harry had his end of the rope secured. Towing another boat was dangerous even in fair weather. One had to maintain constant tension or else something would break from the intermittent slacking and tightening of the line. One had to keep enough distance between the two boats so that Harry’s wouldn’t come careening into the back of Oscar’s. One had to account for the fact that Oscar’s boat would be riding up the crest of one wave while Harry’s was down in the valley of the previous and vice versa. One had to be careful to keep the line straight between them, not letting the wind blow one off to an angle from the other. If that happened one or both might be pulled sideways into the drink.

In short, there were many things that could go wrong, that probably would go wrong, and any of them could easily end in disaster. For any other fisherman in their small town Oscar would have faced those dangers gladly. But for Harry?… Well, evidently he would still face them, but there was nothing glad about it.

Oscar paused to ask himself why it had to be Harry? Of all the men that could have been caught out here, why did it have to be the one he could never forgive?

“Alright, I’m ready to go now,” Harry’s voice broke from the radio.

“I’ll pull forward until the line gets tight,” Oscar immediately returned to the matter at hand. “Then you throw your engine on and you give whatever you’ve got to keep us level. I’ll do the pulling and I’ll warn you for every turn, you just make sure you stay right behind me and maintain the tension.”

“Of course Oscar. And…thank you, I really didn’t think anyone was going to come for me.”

“Don’t mention it.” It wasn’t a polite deference, it was an order. Oscar pushed the throttle control forward and his engine hummed loudly, slowly edging the trawler forward.

I think this was one of my better-written sections already, and I changed very little of it this time around! We’ve got less than half of the story remaining, and I can’t to keep things churning along next week!

Revising The Storm- Week 5

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The Storm is a very short story, and yet it still maintains three distinct acts. Thus far we have made it through the first, in which Oscar learns of Harry’s dilemma and sets out to find him. Now we come into the second, where he meets Harry and they begin their hard journey back to port. This act should feel very full and weighty, and should also maintain a steady escalation in the threat of the storm. Keeping these in mind, let’s forge ahead!

Finding Harry)

The waves did not merely rock Oscar’s boat now. They were long and deep, shallow mountains and valleys that his vessel now had to scale and descend in turn. And the longer he stayed out here, those mountains and valleys would only become greater and more treacherous.

Holding the wheel steady in one hand he grabbed the mic and began calling out through the storm.

“This is the Last Horizon. Repeat, this is the Last Horizon. Does anybody read me?”

Nothing.

Oscar reached to the throttle and pressed it up to full. Never mind the fuel spent, he’d have the surf to help carry him back to the shore. For now all that mattered was that he finish his duty as quickly as possible. Find Harry, or have done his due diligence and surrendered him to the sea, and then get straight back home.

With the extra clip of speed his trawler distanced itself past the point of the Broken Horn, to the point that he now turn back slightly north, cutting across the front of the cape. As he went by he roved the shoals and the cliffs with his eyes, searching for any sign of a freshly broken boat.

But again, nothing. Everywhere he looked, his vessel was the only white speck between that black abyss of rock vaunting up into the sky and that black abyss of water spinning below.

“Last Horizon calling Broken Wing. Broken Wing, do you hear me?”

A gust of wind picked up and Oscar let go of the mic as he used both hands to wrestle his boat back into its line. Being even a little bit broadside to the waves was becoming treacherous, and he didn’t like how much his boat tilted against each new crest. The gale subsided for a moment and he roared his frustration into the mic.

HARRY! DO YOU EVEN HEAR ME?!

All at once the crackle of static gave way to a small voice, timid and broken.

“Yes, yes, this is Harry here! I see you Oscar, I see you! Starboard side.”

Oscar turned his head from the cape and looked to his right. There, in even deeper waters, he could barely make out the outline of a white boat through the outer mists of the storm.

“What’s your status, Harry?”

“Engine trouble. It’s barely turning at all. I can’t make it around the cape, Oscar, so I’ve just been tryin’ to hold her steady for as long as I could. I don’t mind telling you I was real scared, Oscar.”

“Yeah, well I still am! Stay put, Harry.”

Oscar opened up the throttle and spun the wheel. For a moment his vessel rocked up and down without actually making any advancement, but then it built up enough momentum and lurched forward, pressing deeper into the storm.

The first layers of rain broke upon the windshield, large, heavy drops splotching across the glass. This heavy rain had a formed misty barrier around the edge of the storm, a wall to conceal its inner workings. But after a moment of clouding his vision the heavy rain subsided, and now that Oscar had pressed through those curtains, far darker forms were unveiled beyond!

It was a world of muddled black. Pitch skies hung low overhead, whipped by strong winds into long wisps, thin and fragile, but so numerous as to entirely crowd out the sun. Under that grim ceiling was a landscape of fomented waves, rolling in an endless agony. Oscar crested the outer ripples and saw leagues of the deep yawning wide. There was a great depression in the middle of that floor, pulling it down into a massive bowl some eight miles across. The water was the green-black of thick ink, the darkness of untold fathoms beneath. Seeing all at once the huge expanse of it and the under-weight of it was enough to make one agoraphobic and claustrophobic all at the same time! And across that rolling landscape several shocks of lightning bristled every second, each bolt immense but straight, efficiently shooting the immense energy above down into the darkness below. It was also the loudest storm Oscar had ever known. All about was the cacophonic din of sharp thunder mingled with crashing water mingled with screeching wind.

And there, caught within it all, was Harry’s vessel, twitching and swaying erratically, almost entirely at the mercy of the storm, but on occasion coming to life just enough to jerk back to a nearly perpendicular line to the rolling waves. The boat must be taking on water already, growing more sluggish every minute, growing ever more difficult for Oscar’s vessel to haul out of the foment.

Oscar’s heart fell, but he only allowed himself a moment’s dread before he grit his teeth and grabbed the mic. “You gotta hold it more windward, Harry! I can’t come up alongside just to have you swing into my hull!”

“Okay…” came the timid reply. “I’ll try, Oscar.”

Oscar spat and shook his head. It was a hard thing he was asking, even if it had been of a good shipman, but it was absolutely necessary. “Yeah, you gotta hold her straight. And I’m gonna come up on your starboard side and throw you a line as I pass. You be ready to catch it, and then run like anything to get it through your bow cleat.”

“Okay, Oscar. Okay. I’ll try.”

Apparently that was as good as Harry was going to give.

Almost all of today’s text was either completely new or heavily modified. If you would like to compare it to the original version you can do that here.

By far the greatest change has been how I have developed a sense of Oscar breaking through the outer layer and into the storm proper. I’ve been trying to stretch out the escalation of danger, with each act of the story presenting greater threats than the one before. In my original draft there was very little text between Oscar seeing Harry’s boat floundering in the storm, and then already being alongside of him, throwing out a line. With this second draft I’m really taking the time to describe how the stakes are being raised. This has the added benefit of making the reader feel the passage of time while Oscar closes the gap to the troubled vessel.

But given that I am writing so much new material, I wonder whether it will feel unpolished when laid alongside the earlier parts of the story. I also worry whether I have escalated the storm too quickly already, for I need things to get even more dire later on. So I’ll be very curious when I read the second draft as a whole to see whether these new parts already fit with the rest, or if I will need to polish them a fair bit more. I guess I’ll just have to see.

Revising The Storm- Week 3

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I have finished reviewing The Storm and have made note of the changes it requires. Now I will go through it piece-by-piece, correcting things as I go. I won’t take the time to detail every wayward comma and misspelling that I come across, but I will give a general description for the changes I am making.

To start off with, I had some problems right at the very beginning of the story. It contains a lot of details that are clunky and awkward, and I want to cut out a lot of these opening statements to focus instead on building atmosphere.

Introduction)

Oscar regarded the endless sea behind him. The muted gray of the water below was almost perfectly matched to that of the unbroken clouds overhead, and these were further blended by the distant wall of rain that bridged the gap between. It created the illusion that there were no separate bodies, but one massive ocean, and Oscar and his trawler were at this moment scurrying from that raised ocean’s advance, seeking to make land before the rain-wall did.

The storm had not been expected until later that evening, and Oscar had had to cut his excursion short without so much as a minnow to show for his effort. Fuel and time spent, but nothing gained. Oscar wasn’t surprised by that, though. Not anymore. Some days just turned out that way.

Most of the time the ocean would yield 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 men grew a penny poorer each year for trying to live by it.

But also sometimes it was more than just a penny. Oscar knew better than most that in sudden, greedy moments the ocean took more than it ought. More than could ever be excused.

Oscar shook his head at the cold wall of gray and settled his focus back on the docks ahead. He was less than a quarter-mile out and he’d be moored and warming his boots in Lenny’s Tavern within the hour.

That is my new and improved opening. I’m not going to take up the space to copy-and-paste the original version here, but if you want to compare the two here is the link. You will notice that this new version in considerably shorter, 262 words compared to 390! Very little of substance was removed, though, I just tightened up the commentary about how the ocean exacted a slow toll out of the men.

And even with so much fewer words I was also able to add in some new content: that opening paragraph which paints the picture of the distant storm. In my original post the description was literally “the mounting storm” and nothing else!

I’m feeling quite pleased with this second draft. After I get through the whole thing I’ll read it all again and continue revising it, but for now I think I’m ready to move on. Next we have the conversation between Sam and Oscar, and the decision to go out and see what has happened to Harry.

The Conversation)

That you, Oscar?

Oscar fumbled for the mouthpiece of his radio. “Yeah, Sam, it’s me.” Oscar looked to the edge of the pier where the red-and-white lighthouse cast its broad light into the gray. Sam was their lighthouse keeper, their watchful guardian who never lost tally of each man’s going and coming.

Any catch?

“No catch.”

Sorry to hear that, Oscar.

“It’s just how it goes. Everyone else in already?”

All in but Harry.

Oscar’s radio crackled static, signifying that Sam had released the mic. Signifying that Sam would say nothing more until Oscar spoke first. Oscar sighed heavily, dropping his eyes from the lighthouse to the long pier where each of the local sailors had their permanent station. On the far left was his own berth, and as far away as possible on the right was Harry’s. Both empty. Oscar grabbed the mic.

“Do you know which way he went?”

Went for mackerel, around the cape, came the ready response. Probably why I haven’t been able to raise him.

“He woulda seen the storm coming even so.”

He woulda.

“He shoulda made it far by now that we’d see him.”

He shoulda.

Crackling static again.

Sam wouldn’t say it. He wasn’t the sort to try and tell people what they ought to do. He was the sort to let them decide it do it 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? 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 himself. And he would be that much more delayed, that much more imperiled by the storm.

Oscar swiveled his head around the spot and surveyed the horizon. No 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.”

I still like this exchange between Oscar and Sam a great deal and I changed very little about it. I tightened up the description of Sam and I inserted the bit about Oscar looking at the empty berths for him and Harry. It provided an awkward gap before he acknowledges the problem that Sam has brought up, and it also provides a symbolism of unfinished business remaining between the two men.

I also inserted the bit about how Sam would come out to find Harry if Oscar didn’t go. I felt it was awkward to switch from saying that Oscar had enough reasons to not check on Harry to suddenly him volunteering to do exactly that. Whatever happened to those reasons? I think this small addition provides a reason, though intentionally a weak one. It is enough to get Oscar out where I need him to be.

Come back next week as I’ll continue with the next section of the story, cleaning as I go.

Revising The Storm- Week 2

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I’m continuing to review my short story The Storm, making note of all the areas I wish to improve on as I go.

  • There is a line I just came across that has me utterly baffled.

    This put him at a slant to the waves, and now they were beating like Poseidon’s drum against his hull

    I honestly have no idea how I came up with the expression “beating like Poseidon’s drum.” I am not familiar of any legend that associates Poseidon with the instrument, and a quick Google search cannot find any either. It seems very irregular that I would have made it up out of nothing, but I don’t know what other conclusion to make. I’ll certainly be cutting that out.
  • There’s also a disorienting bit when Oscar starts having a conversation with himself. Its too melodramatic and the references to his tragedy are too obscure. They’ll most likely just confuse the reader. I’ll cut this out as well.
  • Let’s call out something positive, though. I don’t remember where I got the idea to have two boats tethered together, pushing their way through a storm, but it presents a very striking visual, one that I’m not aware of in any other story, and it is an excellent symbolism for the drama between my characters. I think this is the single strongest element of my entire story.
  • Another bit I feel quite positive about is Harry’s confession. His admission reads well and I like how it is interspersed with scenes of Oscar losing control of the wheel. There is some tidy-up to do, but this is a very promising scene. Given that it is the climax of the entire tale its a good thing that it works so well.
    I think that I could lean into it a bit better, though. I want to add a small piece to the plot right before. The storm will be beating down hard and the two men will stop making progress forward. It will be a hopeless situation, which will finally bring Harry to make his confession. He is divulging the truth to try and convince Oscar to just let him go and save himself.
  • I currently have things so that Oscar unconsciously puts his hand over the controls, as if to drop the line to Harry’s boat, and he is surprised when he sees it there. I want to rework that part so it isn’t just a subconscious accident. I want him to fully contemplate disconnecting the other sailor, heavily weighing the option, frozen by the choice until he is saved by the beam of the lighthouse falling on his vessel.
  • I need to fill out the final homestretch a little bit. The story needs more about how they rush the rest of the way to the beach. And then I need to add some more after that, too. I like the idea of the men going off to talk to Sam at the end, unsure of what the future holds but heading that way together. Right now, though, I’m reaching that conclusion too abruptly, and I need to provide some space for it to breathe.

And that brings us to the end of my read-through! To tell you the truth, when I first selected this story I didn’t think there would be much to change in it. I had very fond memories of writing it and felt it was already pretty close to its ideal form. I am now considerably humbled to see how many parts of it I actually have a problem with!

But I do feel that there is still a very good story to be found inside of there. It’s been compromised by awkward phrases, uneven pacing, and silly typos, but it is in there nonetheless. I caught glimpses of it as I read along and I’m excited to bring it out fully. Let me see if I can give a general description of what that ideal story looks like, and the main points that need to be changed to realize it.

This is a story about two men dealing with incredible loss and anger. The setting and the occupation are meant to reflect how they have been weathered down and turned salty over the years. They might appear slow-going on the surface, but there are many layers of dramatic depth beneath, all of which are going to force their way out in the eye of a violent storm.

It is a story that should be full of rich imagery. I need to practice the art of capturing a complex visual in a few, well-chosen words. It should be a story that transports the reader right onto the windswept deck, and I want the audience to feel as exhausted at the end as my characters are. I could see the ideal story being quite a bit longer than its current form, or at the very least feeling quite a bit longer. I want to hone in on that sense of gripping at the wheel for hours, holding on for dear life.

But having a great deal of rich imagery is not the same as an excess of poorly-written drivel! There are a lot of bits where I am trying to explain the way things are when you’re an old sea dog, something that I know absolutely nothing about! This is an allegory, not an actual job description and I should keep my focus where it belongs.

There is very little that I feel need to change from a structural point of view, though. All the main story beats should remain the same, just with each moment being enhanced or trimmed as mentioned above, all of its splintered edges sanded down and polished to an even shine.

And that is what I will start working on one week from now. Come back then to see how it goes!

Revising The Storm- Week 1

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Here we are at the first post of my new series: The Editor’s Bench! Here I will select one of my short stories and take it from its first draft stage to something worthy of commercial publication. I will be focusing exclusively on the short stories that are my favorite, the ones that I feel showed the greatest potential, and I will be working on them for as long as the process requires. I may be overhauling a piece for a very long while if I feel that that is what is needed for it.

These are the steps that I intend to take in my revising process, but I will likely modify them as I gain more experience at it:

  1. Read through the current story. Summarize what it would look like in its ideal form and how it differs from that now.
  2. Cut, refactor, and add scenes until the story is generally in the desired shape.
  3. Make multiple passes to correct misspellings, grammar mistakes, and awkward phrases.
  4. Repeat the above three steps until the story is in its ideal form.

I have decided to do the first of these revisions on my short story The Storm. I have chosen it because it is a shorter, simpler piece, one that I hope will let me gently ease into this editor’s role.

So without further ado, here are my notes from reading through the story.

  • The first thing that stood out to me was the awkwardness of my story’s introduction. I mention my main character Oscar, give a very slight description of his setting, go off on the philosophy of the old seamen in this hamlet, and finally pull everything back to the present moment when I introduce the story’s central problem. I believe that my intention was to reflect Oscar’s free-associative mind and how it drifts from one thought to the next. Actually reading through it, though, is a bit disorienting. I’ll want to revise this beginning to be a bit more structured, and to make sure than any transitions from one topic to another are clear.
  • Another element that is standing out to me is the ways that I am trying to add flavor to the story, such as when I talk about how the sea slowly wears down the lives of those that live by it, how the gains and the losses even out in time, and how the lighthouse keeper is sustained by a portion of all the sailors’ profits. Some of these details do contribute to the overall atmosphere, but others feel a bit forced. I’ll lean into the ones that work well and cut the ones that don’t.
  • I do want to call out one thing that I think works really well, though. I really like this exchange between Oscar and Sam:

    “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.”
    He woulda.
    “He shoulda made it back far enough already that we’d see him now.”
    He shoulda.


    There is a lot implied by those two-word agreements from Sam. He never tells Oscar that he ought to go out and search of his fellow seaman, but the way he emphasizes the “would” and “should” makes clear that he feels something is wrong and ought to be looked into.
  • I also like the occasional one-liners that keep signaling to the reader that there is some history between Oscar and Harry, a history that is going to be unveiled in due time. You see that in lines such as these:

    It wasn’t the first time things had gone wrong in a storm for Harry.
  • One thing that I’ve been noticing even since the beginning is how I need to lean into my description of the sea itself. This, admittedly, is a weak area of mine. I usually skirt around set descriptions, rushing headlong into dialogue and action instead. Before I may have had the excuse of a tight deadline, but now it’s time to get down to business and dress this piece up properly!
  • I’m also noticing that I ought to reference the storm in gentler terms at the start of the story. It feels like it’s already pretty heavy as Oscar goes around the cape for the first time, which lessens the sense of escalation as the story progresses. I’ve got to improve that sense of gradual, rising tension.
  • I’m also going to make note of the fact that I have a fair number of awkward phrases and basic typos to correct. As I’ve tried to wax lyrical with my prose I’ve run into some silly, unnecessary descriptions, such as:

    All at once the crackle of static changed to a small voice, timid and broken, yet tinged now with fresh hope.

    “Yet tinged now with fresh hope” tacked onto the end like that doesn’t flow very well, now does it?
  • I’ve just reached the point where Oscar throws Harry the line and the description of that event is unnecessarily complex. Relating the details of physical events can quickly become unwieldy, better to find a couple short sentences that give the reader the gist of what happens and they can work out the rest for themselves.
  • Here’s an example of how I extended myself too far and made a phrase worse for it:

    “Don’t mention it.” It wasn’t a polite deference. It was an order, and Oscar surprised himself at how much of a growl it came out with.

    It’s almost a good line, but I dragged it out for one statement too many. Drop the “and Oscar surprised himself at how much of a growl it came out with” and it becomes much better. A classic example of less being more.

Alright, I’m going to call it good there. Next week I’ll give my analysis of the second half, and then we’ll actually start making some changes. See you then!