WIPpet Wednesday: The will-o’-the-wisp

After giving it some thought, I decided to do a page-one rewrite of my manuscript “Stolen by Magic.” And I’m glad I did. When I wrote the first draft, the writing was painful at times. I’m really enjoying this draft, though. Now that I know the basics of the plot, I’m concentrating on world-building and character development in this draft. And I’m excited to see where the story is heading and to watch my characters grow.

For those who aren’t familiar, WIPpet Wednesday, hosted by author K.L. Schwengel, offers writers a chance to share excerpts from their works in progress (WIPs). The only catch is that the snippet must have something to do with the day’s date. Click here to read more writers’ WIPpets.

Here’s an excerpt from the second draft of “Stolen by Magic”—11 paragraphs for today’s date. Laurel has just found herself drawn into what she suspects is the faerie realm. She sees a light shining in the middle of the forest.

Something caught my eye, a flicker of light, yellowish green in the deepening night. Darkness was falling quickly. Maybe I’d spotted the lantern of a traveler on the nearby path.

Cautiously I stepped onto the path and tiptoed toward the light, the soft earth blanketing my bare feet. I came around a turn, and there it was, shining ahead of me.

It was beautiful, a sphere of light, more enchanting than anything I’d ever seen. It began to move, and I instinctively followed. Now that I’d spotted it, all I knew was that I couldn’t let it disappear. I needed that light more than I’d ever needed anything.

The earth was a soft carpet for my naked feet. The orb moved with a gentle buzz like the movement of a hummingbird’s wings, through the wood, guiding me off the path. Vaguely, I wondered if straying from the path was a wise idea, but the thought vanished as quickly as it had come. I knew only one thing for certain: I couldn’t let that light, with its warm glow, out of my sight. Its steady hum was like the most beautiful music I’d ever heard, like a flute’s song, lovely and simple.

It led me deeper and deeper into the wood. I knew now I’d never find my way out, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was the light, calling to me with its brightness, vivid and clear and perfect. Nothing had ever been so perfect.

The trees grew more tightly together. Brambles clawed and clung to the denim of my jeans. One snagged a hole in my white t-shirt. I didn’t care about my clothes, or the rocks digging into my feet. Just as long as the light didn’t leave my side, I was safe. I could tolerate anything.

A smell reached my nostrils, something sulfuric like rotten eggs. The ground became soggy, the trees less majestic and more straggly. We were in a swamp. Some part of my mind wondered if it was safe, if I should be here, but I dismissed it immediately. The orb wouldn’t lead me someplace unsafe. There was no danger here.

It led me on a path through the swampy waters, colored a pea-soup green. The odor was awful, but I could tolerate anything with the light to guide me. A wide swath of mud covered the path, but there was no way around. I went straight through it.

My feet stuck, sucked into the mud. I tried to pull them out, but the harder I fought, the deeper I sunk. Soon I was mired in up to my ankles, and sinking quickly. I called out. Surely the light would—

Darkness fell. The light was gone.

“No!” the scream left my lips.

A midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 2,956 words in “Stolen by Magic.”

2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 2/4. Continued reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.

2.) Blog twice a week. On track to meet this goal.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 1/3.

2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. On track to meet this goal.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Do you enjoy writing second drafts? Have you ever struggled with a first draft of a story only to realize the story needs a page-one rewrite? Did you feel better while writing that second draft, or was it harder?

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29 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday: The will-o’-the-wisp

  1. Depends on the story.Sometimes it’s really easy and other times I want to hide the thing away from everyone. I try to fight it and make myself revise it, unless of course I am confident it’s a final draft. Not sure if I have ever reach that though. 🙂

    Man, the thought of trudging through a swamp because of magic orbs. Has me curious. Good job, Denise!

    • Honestly, I was ready to give up on this story, but my husband read it and said that he thought I was on to something. He was also honest about it needing work, but he saw promise in it, and his encouragement convinced me to give it another shot. I’m glad I did.

      Thanks, Cindy!

  2. With every “the light makes me safe” kind of passage, I felt the doom growing. You feel the unnaturalness of the thoughts and you built that passage wonderfully.

    Good work on your goals! You’re doing great this round.

  3. I love the eery tone of this as she treks deeper in. That last line–gah! You just had to stop it there, didn’t you? LOL

    I’m in the midst of rewrites on a manuscript which pretty much needed a page one do-over. But I’m starting to fall in love with the characters, and I discovered what was lacking the first time around. Best of luck to you!

    • Amy, the same thing is happening to me with this story. I wasn’t crazy about my main character the first go-around, but now that I’ve spent more time with her I’m really enjoying telling her story. She comes across much more clearly in this draft. I took about a month off from this manuscript to give myself some much-needed distance, and now I’m just enjoying the rewrite. Good luck with yours!

  4. I think you’re onto something, too..

    I especially like the contrast between her denim jeans and that otherworldly light that just dumps her in the middle of the swamp. I’m tempted to tell her what I learned about quicksand by watching The Weather Channel! =)

    I spent decades completely rewriting the same story in notebooks, so I’m not afraid of doing it now. I know that both I and my characters will have grown in the time away, and I know it’ll be better.

    Cheers to you!

    • Thanks, Shan Jeniah.

      One of my favorite parts about revisions/rewrites is how the story deepens over time. Our characters reveal themselves gradually, we learn new details about our world, each scene becomes a little more vivid as we’re grounded in the story. It’s truly an amazing process.

  5. “Something caught my eye, a flicker of light, yellowish green in the deepening night. Darkness was falling quickly. Maybe I’d spotted the lantern of a traveler on the nearby path.” – I have to admit, that line made me chuckle. Because I, naturally, have my own fairy book on the brain. And the yellowish green in my book is the pixie, who also does a will-o-the-wisp thing (fortunately not so disastrously), but the thing that really amused me was the mention of a traveler. And I can’t tell you why without spoilering >.>

    Back to YOUR book! *ahem* Love this, of course. I’m predisposed to love it (fairy book!), but I do really love it. I LOVE the way Laurel feels completely safe, even as I am cringing and going, “Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea…” And the last line…Meep! Awesome. Well, not so much for Laurel. Such profound disappointment. Well done!

  6. “Vaguely I wondered if straying from the path was a good idea . . . ” Aha! How the plot thickens from that point. I love how that one line prepares the reader for the disaster that follows . . . and who wouldn’t follow that orb into the woods, mysterious, beautiful, seductive? One possibility for tightening is to look again at the use of “it” which sometimes distracts as ‘it’ repeats.

    I too am deep into a ‘first page revision’ (never heard it called that), but I have a choppy first draft and am also enjoying reading, revising, and writing through the story I know well. I’m still a little undecided about the ending, though. Will the ending bring transformation at the end of the quest? Do you wonder how to end the story? What is true to the main character may not be true to the historical time (I write historical fiction) or true to reader or genre expectations. Anyway, great progress. I still admire how clearly you lay out that ROW80 progress..

    • Good point, Beth. I’ll keep that in mind as I continue to revise.

      I usually know where my characters end up; it’s how they get to that point that’s often a mystery to me. The main plot points in this story haven’t actually changed much from the first draft, but the characters are so much clearer and the world is much more vivid this time around. Now that I understand my characters better, I can make their actions more realistic. In the first draft I felt they were sort of being pulled along, but in this draft it feels more like they’re driving the action. Good luck with your revision!

  7. Note to self, do not strange lights.

    The Descendants is actually a page one revision of a story I started after going to medieval times my senior year of high school. So much has changed since that original first draft! It’s crazy!

    • It’s amazing to see how our stories evolve over various drafts. I have a couple stories that I’ve been working on, on and off, for a couple years, and they’ve definitely deepened and changed over time. Even this story, which I started in November of last year, as changed a lot in that time–for the better. Good luck with your revisions!

    • Thanks, Alison. Yes, finishing that first draft is the first step. Afterwards it’s all about deepening the story–adding layers to characters, to the world, smoothing out the plot and filling in any holes. Best of luck with your story, and thanks for commenting!

  8. I’m a bad one to ask about re-writes at the moment. *head, desk* *groans* Sometimes I enjoy them because I get to go back and fill in all my [fillintheblank] brackets. Sometimes…not so much.

    One nit in the excerpt. “We were in a swamp.” The ‘we’ here jarred me. I take it that meant her and the orb, but I think it’s the only place you use it, so I was suddenly wondering if she picked up a friend along the way and I missed it. Otherwise, nice bit of tension building.

    • There are times when rewrites are incredibly frustrating–when I know the problem with a scene but can’t figure out how to fix it–but there are other times when I can feel the story coming to life, and that makes the rewriting/revising process so much more fun.

      Good point. I could probably rewrite that sentence to say something like “The orb led me into a swamp” or something along those lines. Thanks!

  9. My first thought on the glow was “eeek” and it just grew from there… by the end I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end and I was thinking “no, turn back!” …So I’d say you do a downright brilliant job of pulling me in to the story right there! And what a place to leave it…!

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