Welcome to the final draft of my middle grade fantasy opening snapshot . This week I was lucky to share my words with a professional.
Working with an editor is like baking a cake with your best friend. And, by baking, I mean they do the dishes.
This week, Carly Hayward lathers up and scours my #WriterInMotion story. As with any dirty pan, some bits scrub off easily while other unwanted bits hang on for dear life. In the end, no matter how much you work at it, there’s always something you wish you’d handled differently.
Sticking with my metaphor, I might have used a different brand of soap, a tougher sponge, or let the pan soak a bit longer.
What I would not have changed is who volunteered to take on my grimy story with barnacle-encrusted plot bunnies and caked-on adjectives that belong in another genre.
Here’s a quick glance at Carly’s work:
Fortunately, it was preceded by a lovely email:
"I love this story, first of all. It is so funny!"
That did not entirely ease the pain at ALL THE RED.
I may have whined a bit. Cried. Screamed. Threatened to give up. But I persisted. I even asked for help from the WIM group. Too many cooks might spoil the soup, but you can’t ever have too much help at clean up time
After four drafts, here’s my final rinse at Carly Saves the Kelp Kingdom.
All I want’s a little adventure, and the Knotty Jib is perfect for one. It’s zippy engine and slender form cut the water like diamonds through glass. Dad says so.
He isn’t out here with us tonight, but if twelve’s old enough to babysit my annoying sister Jeni, it’s old enough to take his sweet KJ out for moonlight water donuts. Our neighbor takes his family boat out, and he’s eleven.
Boats bob and creak against their slips as the KJ sputters from the harbor and the moon glimmers across tiny ripples until vanishing within the salty mist. Not old enough to drive, pfft.
I ease around the dock smoother than Captain Jack Sparrow. Jeni’s seated at the bow, wrapped in her Sponge Bob fleece blanket, the one Mom told her to ditch so kids wouldn’t tease her. I cut a square from it and stuffed it in her backpack.
“Hang tight, Jen.” I press the throttle. Full on three-sixty, baby. “Feel that? That’s the salty sea in your face, wind in your hair. Yo ho, yo ho--”
“Slow down, Carly,” Jeni screams. “Dad’ll take away your phone if you hurt his boat.”
Maybe this wasn’t the smartest idea, but that’s what a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon, liter of Mountain Dew, and handfuls of cheeseballs does to a girl.
If only I wasn’t responsible for the little monster while our parents have a date night. Gross.
“I’m hungry,” Jeni says, seated on the bow’s bench.
I toss a baggie of cheeseballs at her.
“Yuck, no.” She empties the snacks into the water.
“Hey, that was our only food,” I say, but as I return forward, an object looms straight ahead. I yank the wheel right, and water splashes into the KJ, while I nearly sideswipe the bobbing buoy.
“Carrrr-lyyy! You got me wet.” Jeni shakes out her curls and flaps her blanket in the air.
“Worried your hair’s gonna frizz?” I say but puff my chest at my boating skills and push my straggly straight bangs from my eyes. I also make a mental note to check the KJ for dings when we return to the harbor.
I can always blame it on the cheeseballs.
“Slow down or I’ll tell Dad,” Jeni whines, twisting a curl around her finger.
“You mean after I tell him you drew hearts all over his sketches?” I press the throttle, and another wave of water sprays my face. I know what’s coming next.
“Carly!” My sister races up to me, and grabs my leg. “Too. Fast.”
“Fine. I’ll slooowww dooowwwnnn?” I say in my Patrick slo-mo voice.
When we get home, I’m asking for a raise.
“S-s-sea monster.” Jeni points into the darkness, still clutching my leg.
“That’s a buoy.” I pry her fingers from behind my knee.
She sets her hand on mine as I grip the wheel and says, “I don’t like this ride.”
When I slow, a thick tube crests through the boat’s lapping waves. My heart races as we pass an undulating form glittering in the water. Iridescent scales catch the moon and stars. I catch my breath.
The shape vanishes as a rolling mist encases us, turning the sea black.
“Umm, J-Jeni, better sit down.”
My sister staggers to the back of the boat, dragging her blanket, sucking her thumb.
The KJ shudders to a stop, jerking me headfirst into the dash. Hazy blackness fills my vision before everything goes dark.
The next minute, water’s licking my toes, and I’m spitting sand. I press my hands into the earth and unwrap a coil of seaweed from my ankles.
Since when is there a sandbar near the harbor?
Standing, I blink away the blurriness and rub the small lump blooming on my forehead. I tiptoe over seaweed landmines to examine the KJ’s splintered bow. Even if I can push the boat back into the water, it’ll sink. It’s grounded, like I’ll be when this is over.
“Jeni,” I shout, ignoring the thought slithering like a serpent inside me: Dad’s gonna kill me. When he gets home and discovers I’m not there…
The boat isn’t there…
Jeni isn’t there…
I blame the cheeseballs.
I search my hoodie pockets for my phone. Nothing but sand and shells. No buoy lights blink in the distance. In fact, nothing blinks in the distance. Last summer, we went whale watching, and it took an hour before we couldn’t see land.
“Jeni!” I shout again. Her Sponge Bob blanket clings to the boat’s bow as waves lap against its side.
Please be hiding.
“Come out or your hair’s gonna be a frizz monster.” I hug myself against the cold night air and scan the tangle of seaweed that litters the shore. Correction, the moving seaweed.
“The Ghost of the Sea took her.” A deep voice cuts through the night, and a mess of kelp rises on slimy seaweed-wrapped legs. “You did want an adventure, Carly, isn’t that right?”
“I buhduh…” I back away from the boat.
The creature waves a ribbon of kelp against the KJ, and her open wound closes.
“How did you…?” I stop because…because I’m talking to seaweed.
“Your small boat is the perfect vessel, and you are the perfect size to help us.”
“Us?” I ask, barely above a whisper.
That’s when I notice the army of kelp rising from the water.
I’ll be back next week with a deeper reflection on this journey. I welcome your comments or insights about drafting, revising, or working with editors.
Thanks for stopping by!