M. B. Weston’s Writing Diary: 02/09/15

The second draft is always the draft that balloons out, for me anyway. Today I worked on finishing up the second draft of this steampunk superhero story I’m working on. I figured I would show a bit of what I’m doing here, just to show you an example of what I mean by ballooning.

[Note: It was only after I posted this that I realized that the transformation between my rough drafts and second drafts is actually a good example of “show, don’t tell.”]

Original (Telling):
I thought my hiding place was secure until someone yanked on my hair and pulled me out from behind the crates. I wouldn’t have tried to stow away on my uncle’s ship if my mother hadn’t died. I snuck out before they could put me in the orphanage. [Check the date.] I wouldn’t be caught there. I was only [pick a good age]. If I worked hard, maybe they would pay me. Or at least let me have some of the scraps from the table.

Now here I was, standing in front of the captain and my uncle. They towered over me. I remember thinking how bad they smelled, and I thought that was odd, especially when we were surrounded by water.

[conversation in which he gets to stay on the boat.]

They tasked me with scrubbing the deck.

And now you see why I say that my rough drafts are rough.

I went back through my introduction and reworked it. It still needs work, but I will get to the polish in draft three. This is draft 2, and it’s when I get all of the plot put together.

Second Draft
I thought my hiding place was secure until a pair of calloused hands yanked on my hair and pulled me out from behind the crates.

“What do you think you’re doing?” said a deep gruff voice that belonged to the hands. He flung me against the cold metal wall of the ship’s cabin. I fell to my knees and stared up at the man who had discovered my hiding place. He towered over me with huge shoulders and thick legs that didn’t fit well in his trousers. He was breathing so hard through his nose that the air was turning to fog. He looked like a dragon about to spit fire. I rubbed my shoulder, which ached. He had thrown me against that cabin pretty hard.

The ship’s captain hobbled up to us. At least, I figured he was the captain. He had a grizzly, roughened white beard and the kind of hat a ship’s captain always wears. He smoked a pipe made of carved ivory. I figured only a captain could afford such a pipe. [Look up pipes.] He blew smoke out of his mouth as he pondered me. I loved the smell of tobacco. I couldn’t wait until I would be old enough to smoke a pipe like a real grownup. “What seems to be the problem, John?”

John again picked me up by my hair. “This little mudlark was trying to stowaway.”

He guessed my profession correctly. I scavenged the banks of the Thames by day, looking for treasures that washed ashore in hopes of selling them. I looked down at my legs and feet, which I had neglected to wash before sneaking on board. I had from the Thames mud up to my legs, and on my arms. I stayed quiet. I had found that sharing too much information with people often made situations turn out worse.

The captain took another puff on his pipe. “Stowaway, eh?”

“Can I throw him over the side, Captain?”

Normally, I would assume that kind of question had a bit of jest attached to it, but this John chap had a bit of fire in his eyes that I didn’t entirely trust.

The captain laughed. “I don’t think that’s necessary.” He aimed a sour glance at me. “Yet.” I thought I saw a bit of a twinkle in his eye. Jest it was, then. This captain was a kind man. I could tell. I had spent my whole life trying to survive the streets in London. I knew what kindness looked like.

The captain knelt next to me. “So why have you stowed away on my ship?”

That question made me more scared that John did. I needed this opportunity. What if I answered wrong? “B-b-because I needed food.” It just slipped out. That was not what I wanted to say. I had blown it!

“You stowed away on my ship because you wanted food?” The captain looked flabbergasted. “Wouldn’t it be better to hide in a bakery and take your pick of what you liked?”

“I wanted to work for it.” I hung my head. What a silly thing to say, even if it was true. I had actually stolen a loaf of bread in the bakery once, back before my sister died of small pox [find a good disease]. Stolen bread tastes the same as other bread, but it doesn’t feel as good when you eat it. That’s why I chose to stowaway on a ship. They wouldn’t throw me off, and they wouldn’t turn around. They would have to make me work. Work was a gift so few of us in the ghettos of London had. I held back one vital piece of information on why I chose this particular ship, however. I didn’t want to get someone close t me in trouble.

“When was the last time you ate?”

I hesitated, unsure if the few scraps of spoiled meat I had pulled from behind a restaurant counted. “A week,” I said.

“Why aren’t you with your mother, helping her out in the house?”

“She died last week.” I tried not to cry. “I couldn’t find enough to sell to help her. [Figure out the disease.] They were going to take me to the orphanage. I don’t want to go there.”

The captain blew out a puff of smoke. “No, you want to work.”

“Yes please.”

He eyed John, who for the first time since had found me didn’t look mean. John gave me an impressed nod. “He’s too scrawny to shovel coal in the boilers.”

“Where’s your shoes?”

“I grew out of my old ones, and I haven’t found any in my size.” That was the truth. I had scoured the streets in the upper-class neighborhoods searching for some thrown away shoes.

“I have just one question for you—What’s your name?”

“Oliver, sir.”

“That’s captain,” said John.

“Oliver, Captain.”

He pointed to a mop and a bucket. “Scrub the deck and you can eat with the crew.”

I’m still missing a few things, like the year and little Oliver’s age. And John’s name isn’t John. I don’t know what it is. I just put it there to make it easier to read. I need to replace several of the simple words with better ones, but I also have to keep in mind that my 10-year-old character doesn’t have a high vocabulary. I also might eliminate some dialogue. This isn’t finished yet, but it is definitely a start, and you can see how the word count changed drastically…

How about you? What stage of writing do you add in all of your details?


About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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