Thursday, June 16, 2011

First Draft vs. Polished

Man, I am so super embarrassed by the awfulness of my first draft. It is...terrible. I wrote Kings & Queens before reading books on craft, before knowing it would be YA, before having a great group of critters at my disposal. Wow. What pure awfulness that I never even saw in the beginning.

Originally, I had 5 scenes in chapter two, and these were scenes 3 and 5, but now they're combined to create 4 of 4. I ended up hacking it down to the best bits and it is soooo much better. What I had before makes me cringe, it's choppy, the dialogue is so painfully babyish and the narrative is crap. Not even craptastic. Just plain crap.

One of the things I decided to do at some point was eliminate as many be-verbs as possible. And it's amazing how a little change like that can bring so much more life and pizazz to the prose. And it's not even something readers notice on a conscious level. Yet, overall, it makes your work much more colorful and engrossing. I also infused more showing and decided to write with a closer Third Person narrative, so now each perspective reflects the voice of each POV character.

So, without further adieu, here are my two hacked and sacked scenes, if you care to read them and promise not to throw tomatoes, that I turned into one:

The next morning at first bell, Majesty shut her locker door and felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and said, “Hey, Alec.” His charming grin warmed her.

Fresh from the shower, his light brown hair was still damp, and he smelled deliciously like masculine soap. She inhaled deeply to take in more of his scent as if it could infuse her with strength.

He canted, “Way up in the sky, the big birdies fly; while down in the nest, the little ones rest.”

She tilted her head and muttered, “The sun comes up, the dew goes away. “Good morning, good morning,” the little ones say.”

“Why you so glum, Brown Eyes?”

She shrugged. “What do ya mean?”

“You’re not smiling and cheery like usual.”

“I’m smiling. See?” She exhibited a faux smile.

“, after the birdies pecked ya.” He flicked her nose. “You certainly don’t look like the manager of a winning team. You realize we won, right?”

“You know,” she said, rubbing the sting out of her tip, “my life doesn’t entirely revolve around baseball, ya know. Did it ever occur to you, I might have some personal problems?”

“Ohhh. Like that...The cotton pony thing?”

“Shut up!” She slapped his chest and rolled her eyes. “No, not that, you idiot! Just forget it. Saw you in the cage this morning. Troy’s suggestions have definitely made a difference.”

“Hopefully the adjustments stick.”

“They will. You’re amazing. I’m sure your little hitting slump is only temporary,” she said as they began moving towards the theater.

He huffed. “Yeah.”

Students streamed around Majesty and Alec. Thanks to the athletic director’s sensible decision to market paraphernalia, Colts shirts were plentiful, making Majesty feel less exposed wearing one of five she owned. Majesty cringed taking note of the guys. The smaller town of Megan’s Corner, which abutted Cedar Creek, didn’t have its own high school. Depending on zone, some kids came here, others attended a school in the city of Edgewood. According to the school records Majesty had looked up this morning after practice, males totaled 254. Finding them won’t be so easy. With more girls than guys, maybe Derek’s right. What are the chances they’ll find me?

“Hi, Majesty.”

“Oh hi, Hannah,” she answered as Hannah passed.

Majesty backhanded Alec’s shoulder. “She’s cute. Ask her out.”

“Heidi of the Alps? No way.” He scrunched his brow. “Bet she yodels and clog dances.”

“She does not. Cut it out…I know. I know. You gotta have a sports nut.”

“Just stop going all Aphrodite on me.”

She snickered. “Her son, Cupid’s the real romantic, ya know? Aphrodite enjoys causing havoc. If I went all Aphrodite on you, you’d be fawning at my feet, burning with desire, getting harder by the…”

“Okay! Gotcha!” The tan on his face was vanquished by pink, and his eye color, which teetered between blue and green and appeared to shift with emotional swells more reliably than any mood ring, yielded to green. “Quit matchmaking. Alright?…D’ya memorize all your lines?”

She beamed relishing her flair to beckon a blush. “Hope so, Red, but I had a hard time focusing last night.”

“That happens to me too,” he said carrying on as if she’d called him Alec. “Um, since we’re arguing, you could just storm off the stage and pretend that’s what you intended to do.”

She huffed and glanced at the Our Town poster on the bulletin board in the performing arts wing. “Sure. That’ll go over well. Mr. Hanson may renege and choose another Emily.”

“Doubt that. You’re perfect, ” he cleared his throat and added, “uh, for the part. Maybe we’ll be called on last and you can cram. We’ll figure something out…Come on, sweet goddess. Let’s get inside, or we’ll make a dramatic entrance if we’re late.”

She laughed. “Ooooo, Alec, your corniness totally turns me on.”

His cheeks went flush again. “Yeah, mock me all you want, baby, but my groaner gave you your first gut-wrench of the day.”

She smiled but started losing grasp of it once Alec opened the theater door and ushered her in with a nudge to her back. She wished she possessed the capability to enfold herself in the cozy humor like it was a thick quilt, but the wispy organza of delight blew away with a gust of anxiety.

As soon as they sat on the maroon, velvet cushions, joining about thirty fellow students, Maj felt the heat of eyes on her neck. She looked over her left shoulder to see if she was indeed being watched and found Preston Reilly staring at her. He smiled. She sneered and faced forward again. She crinkled her left cheek. That’s weird. Why would he look at me like that or pay any attention to me? He never has before. No guy does. She glanced over her shoulder again, but this time, he was so close, his golden hair feathered her cheek when she turned. She jolted.

“D’ya find the invitation to my party?” he whispered in her ear.

She nodded.

“Hope you come. Won’t be as fun without you.”

Some concern, jerk! Then why is this my first invite?
She watched him sit back and cross his arms looking satisfied and pretty darn cute too. If you weren’t such an egomaniac, you might actually be hot.

“What’d he want?” Alec muttered.

“He actually invited me to his party this time,” she said in his ear.

“Yeah. Derek and I found his junk mail in our lockers this morning.”

“Ya goin’?”

He coughed and shook his head. “Not a chance.”

“Well, then I don’t want to go, but Derek’ll want to for sure, and you know how easily I cave.”

He gawked at her like she was crazy. Yeah, it was dumb to follow Derek around like a tagalong puppy, but it was better than nothing.
“I’d ask you why you torture yourself, but I already know why.” He kissed her forehead and swept her hair out of her eyes tucking it behind her ear. “Can’t help it cause you’re madly in love with him. Want me to beat the crap out of him, or some sense into him, I should say?”

“No,” she moaned. She slumped her head on his shoulder and sighed.

“He’s been so detached and serious lately. He rarely laughs anymore.”

“Maybe your jokes just suck.”

“You know what I mean. I don’t know where his mind is.”

I do, she thought as she slouched in her chair.

After school, Majesty waited for an opportunity to use the payphone in town. When no one was in the vicinity, she ran to it and called the police.

“Police Department,” a male said. “We’re recording.”

She peered around, then hunched and shielded her mouth with her hand. “Hi, um…I was jogging in the woods last night around six-thirty and overheard two teens, who I believe attend Cedar Creek High, talking about some plan involving a church. They didn’t name any specific one, but they mentioned bullets and shooting up the place. That’s all I heard before they chased me away. I just wanted to let you know so you could warn the churches. Bye.”

“Wait a minute! Miss...”

She shivered as she hung up. I hope I did the right thing, but now I’m petrified. What if they find out I ratted? And figure out who I am? While her hand was still on the receiver, the phone rang making her jolt and shriek. Gosh! They traced it? Stupid caller ID. She gasped and did a double-take when glancing over her shoulder. "Oh no! The gas station cameras!" Cops will know who I am in five minutes. It's fine! Stop overacting. Be cool. “He-hello.”

“Tell anyone else, anything, even the fact that we found you, and someone you love will die,” said an electronically-altered voice. “No one can stop us…least of all, you.” In the midst of his freaky, warbled laugh, she slammed down the phone.

Panic overwhelmed her. How did they find out it‘s me? Her eyes grew wide as she scanned the area. Aside from Smitty, who was changing gas prices on his sign, no one else was in eyeshot. They have to be watching me now. They must’ve followed me. She was terrified as she ran home, the long way. “Oh my gosh!” Are they going to kill me? I can’t think. I just need to find out who they are before they hurt me or anyone else. But how? Who on earth could they be?

And here's the scene tightened up, beefed up, with me keeping just the necessary parts or conversation pieces I liked. In chapter 1, Majesty saves Jase from jumping off a building, so the scene opens up with her response to that.

Jase’s brown eyes, dull as mud, turned Majesty into organza when she said hi. Well, if he wanted more friends, he should try, um, returning gazes or replying when spoken to. She felt no itch to sweat it.

Unlike him, she didn’t mind skirting under the radar, not with killers-in-the-making on the hunt. Her neck ached from the protective slouch she’d lugged around all day.

Though her victory shirt, one of five Colts shirt she owned, screamed flamboyance with its sparkly MJ on back, she figured not wearing it would’ve beamed brighter to whomever the deadly sickos were. But thanks to the Athletic Director’s good sense to market paraphernalia, Colts shirts flooded in plenty, making her feel less self-conscious. Still,
she feared she held some other exposing tell.

According to records, males totaled 254, which included invaders from Megan’s Corner. Finding ’em won’t be easy. With more girls, what are the chances they’ll find me?

The dismissal bell rang. Finally.

Leaning against the lockers, Alec adjusted his Red Sox cap and squinted at her.

Majesty was about to snap, “What!” when a passerby said hi. “Oh, hi, Hannah.” She backhanded Alec’s chest. “She’s cute. Ask her out.”

“Heidi of the Alps? No way. Bet she yodels and clog dances.”

“She does not. Cut it out . . . I know. I know. Gotta have a sports nut.”

“Stop going all Aphrodite on me.”

“Actually, her son Cupid’s the real romantic. She enjoys causing havoc. If I went all Aphrodite on you, you’d be fawning at my feet, burning with desire, getting harder by the—”

“Kay. Gotcha.” Pink conquered the tan on his face, and his irises, which volleyed between blue and green, fell to the hue of colder oceans. “Quit matchmaking, all right?”

“For now,” she laughed. Being able to floor this rock among mere men sparked a thirst for even greater stun power. “Hey. I got my first invite to a Preston smash-n-bash today.”

“Yeah. Derek and I found his junk mail this morning. I’m not buying.”

“Then I don’t wanna go, but Derek might, and you know he kinda sorta weakens my will.”

He swept strands of her hair off her face and tucked them behind her ear. “Lovesickness. Tackles the best of us. Want me to beat some sense into him, Brown Eyes?”

“No,” she moaned.

He removed his cap and wiggled it onto her head. “Cuter on you.” He smoothed his golden brown hair but missed some wisps on top. “He’s beh…” She took care of ’em. “…um…been so detached and serious lately, rarely laughs anymore.”

“Maybe your jokes just suck.”

“You know what I mean. Don’t know where his mind is these days.”

“I do. Think fake boobs . . . Gotta go. Bye.” She one-shouldered her backpack, stuffed with books and letters of warning for every church within fifty miles.

“I can give you a lift,” Alec said, reaching for it.

She recoiled. “No! I’m good. I’ll walk. It’s gorgeous.”

“What the heck? Rob a bank?”

“No. I . . . have lots of locker crap . . . cleaned it out. It’s not heavy.”

He sneered at her and said, “Okaaay. You cool or what? You’ve been weird all day. Kinda jumpy and quiet actually. And you, quiet? With the title recapture a couple of wins away? Not like you at all.”

“I’m fine. Just tired. Need fresh air. See ya.” As she turned, faces warped like deranged clowns in a fun house mirror. She clenched her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Though her vision reset, anxiety stuck. Her pulse raced as she jogged to the Don’t-Blink Zone.

With no one near the payphone, she darted there, kissed her Carlton Fisk keychain for luck and called police.

“Cedar Creek Police Department. Recording.”

Peering around, she hunched and shielded her mouth. “Hi. Uh, I was jogging in the woods last night around seven-thirty. I overheard two guys, who I believe go to Cedar Creek High, talking about some plan involving a church. They didn’t specify, but they mentioned guns and shooting. That’s all I heard. Just wanted you to know. Bye.”

“Wait a minute! Miss—”

She hung up and gnashed her teeth. Load off me now. But what if they learn I ratted, figure out who I am? The phone rang, making her jolt. Stupid caller ID. Casting a glance over her shoulder, she gasped and did a double-take. “Oh no. Gas station cameras.” Cops’ll know in five. It’s fine. Be cool. She jerked Alec’s cap down on her brow. “He-hello?”

“Tell anyone else, anything, even the fact that we found you, and someone you love will die,” said an electronic voice. “No one can stop us . . . least of all, you.”

During a diabolical laugh, she slammed the phone down. Aside from Smitty changing gas prices on his sign, no one appeared in eyeshot. The letters, now affixed with a death sentence, suddenly weighed like lead.

Majesty couldn’t stop shaking, as she ran home, the long way.

I know that first one was super long, so imagine if that were still in my book? Yuck. I'm so glad I learned how to spot what was most important, SHOW more than tell and kill my darlings. Have you done any major gutting like I have and seen your stuff for the horror it really is?

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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