The Second NaNo 2018 Progress Report (With Signs of Hope, Thoughts on Process, and Short Excerpts)

The rewrite idea is working both for and against me, but if the good days overcome the bad ones, I might still squeak out a win. I’m still way in the negative, but I have more words than I am behind.

Rather than rehashing the ups and downs beyond posting my daily stats at the end, I wanted to share something fun and interesting that happened yesterday. As a quick reminder, I’m rewriting an older book where the story was solid but the writing less skillful than I should be able to manage now. I’ve ended up making more tweaks to the actual story than I was expecting, but they’ve been small world building changes I couldn’t have conceived of when I first wrote the book. I didn’t know the answer until writing book two, I believe, or late in book one. Going back to the skill question, I didn’t edit to add depth back then but just to clean up the text.

Anyway, as I was listening to the read aloud of the original scene (that process change is really working for me), I made a quick note of a simple change and moved on. It wasn’t until I applied that note to the new version that I realized the layers of complexity beneath it. I’d completely missed them the first time, which goes a long way to validating this techniques for the remaining 25, or more, older manuscripts. I’m going to quote the text below because this is not a spoiler and I think it’s a clear demonstration of what I’m doing.

Here is an excerpt from the original scene between Sara and her sister talking about being chosen to become a flyer:

Sara shook off the touch. “What do you know? You’re always trying to convince me I won’t be chosen. I will be. I’m sure of it. You just don’t want me to be chosen.” She glared at her sister, not caring that Patria only wanted to help.

Patria bit her lower lip, looking hurt for a moment before deep lines appeared between her eyebrows. “Why are you so sure? Why do you want this so much? Don’t you realize what you risk? Do you have to put Da through it all over again?”

Sara threw her arms up, almost grazing her sister. “It’s not about Da, or about you. I belong with them; I feel–” She stuttered to a stop, realizing what she’d almost said.

Her sister paled for a moment, then shook her head slightly and continued. “Sara, there’s no way to tell, no answer, until you face the power stone. Either you change it or not. No one, not even the rockminder, knows before the test. And every single one of those tested think they’ll make it change, every one.” Patria blew at the wisps of hair surrounding her face, her hands firmly planted on her hips.

“I will change it. You’ll see.” Sara sounded a lot less sure this time even to herself.

The key phrase is “And every single one of those tested think they’ll make it change, every one.” In the original version, Sara is too self-absorbed in her fit of temper to hear the implications behind it.

This is the new scene, or rather a portion of it because a lot changed. Do remember this is now raw rough draft, please:

She pulled Sara back against her, but Sara shook off the touch, her attempt at patience failing.

“The council kept you here instead of sending you off to Silverrush, so you can keep Da company. You’re always trying to convince me I won’t become a flyer, but what do you know? I will be. I’m sure of it. You just don’t want me to be chosen.” Sara glared at her sister, no longer caring Patria spoke out of love. “You want me here for you, for Da, but never for me.”

Patria bit her lower lip, hurt shadowing her eyes before deep lines cut between her eyebrows. “Why are you so sure? Why do you want this so much? Don’t you realize what you risk? Do you have to put Da through it all over again?”

Sara threw her arms up, almost grazing her sister and sending a scatter of water drops over both of them from the mug she’d forgotten she still held.

“It’s not about Da,” she said after an awkward moment. “It’s not about you either. I belong with them. I feel–” She stuttered to a stop when she realized the words pressing against her tongue.

Her sister paled as though she heard them as well. “There is no way to tell. No answer until you face the power stone no matter what you think you feel. Either you change it or not. No one, not even the rockminder, knows before the test.”

The moment when Sara thought the rockminder sought her out rose crystal-clear in her memory, distracting her from Patria’s words.

“…every single one of those tested think they’ll make it change. Every one.” Patria blew at the wisps of hair surrounding her face, wearing an odd expression.

The look, and Patria’s words, shocked Sara when she finally put them together. “You wanted to be a flyer. For all your telling me no, you wanted to be chosen as much as I do.”

Both hands on her hips, Patria frowned at Sara. “And you see how well my testing went. Most are disappointed. Not some. Most.”

For all her sister tried to return to the previous conversation, the idea of her sister ever longing for the sky would not be sent away. “Why? I thought you loved the weaving.”

A sigh shuddered through Patria’s slender frame, her sister more a match to Da than Sara would ever be. The need to give her sister the hug Sara had pulled away from made her step closer, but Patria turned away as though she could not bear to let Sara see her pain.

“I thought if I became a flyer, I could go find Muther. I could bring her back and Da would be happy again. I didn’t want her dead any more than Da.”

The answer came out on a whisper, faint enough Sara could pretend not to have heard if she wanted to. The wisdom it held, though, stunned Sara into silence. She longed to become her mother. Patria wanted to save her just as she tried to save Sara.

Before the quiet could grow too deep, Sara forced her voice into a cheerful tone as she said, “So the council chose weaving? You seem to find such joy in it.”

One of the reasons I thought the rewrite would be easy is I lived in this world, and with these characters, for years. Surely I knew everything there was to know about them. As the above change proves, the answer is not exactly.

It might seem like a simple change, a moment where the past reflects on the present, but there is a little more significance than you might realize. The echoes of this moment will play out in later scenes and books.

Their mother was lost when Sara was almost too young to remember her. Patria has been both older sister and mother through most of Sara’s childhood. It isn’t until this moment that Sara sees her sister as a person in her own right.

The scene went from a simple confrontation between a whiny preteen and her mother figure to a revelation. Sara recognizes Patria as someone who exists outside their relationship as much as within. She never imagined her sister had faced the same situation with similar hopes and dreams of being chosen and yet every child goes through this transition to adulthood. Still, Patria’s reasons had nothing to do with what drew Sara to the flyers.

If you go back to the original scene, Patria said as much from the start, but in the old draft, Sara (read me) didn’t even notice. This is one of the reasons I decided to redo this from scratch rather than just putting the book through another edit pass. The writer I was and the writer I am are different, and I’m better at seeing those kinds of gifts than I used to be. It was a lovely insight and one, I believe, that makes the book stronger and validates the decision to handle it this way.

Here are the promised stats up to yesterday. As you can see, there have been a couple of very good days, which is where the hope comes in. As of yesterday, I’m running 6,566 words behind.

Day New Words Running Total
1 356 356
2 1379 1735
3 1538 3273
4 435 3708
5 204 3912
6 2247 6159
7 5 6164
8 1547 7711
9 442 8153
10 2049 10202
11 981 11183
12 2255 13438
This entry was posted in Challenges, Excerpts, NaNoWriMo, News, Writing Process and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Second NaNo 2018 Progress Report (With Signs of Hope, Thoughts on Process, and Short Excerpts)

  1. It’s good to see you (1) writing and (2) feeling good about it. It’s a view of the old Margaret. Don’t let anything hold you back whether you make the arbitrary goal or not. This book needs to see the light. Mom

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      Well, old Margaret would be heading into her second 50k by now, but it is quite nice to be writing again :).

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