Revision time! (Using losing a contest to your advantage)

I mentioned last week that one of the judges in a writing contest I entered liked my pitch, but I didn’t make the finals because my first page was not “exciting enough”.  As any good writer would do, I used this as a learning experience, and I tossed my first page and started over.  Now, I didn’t really CHANGE anything per se.  I just started with a blank page, and re-wrote EXACTLY THE SAME SCENE keeping in mind the comment that the first one didn’t seem exciting.

I resisted the temptation of looking back at my original while I was writing, by doing this at a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT computer, and I’m glad I did.  Several times I stopped, and wished I could look back at my original manuscript. If I did, I probably would have ended up with something very similar to the first opening.

What’s odd, is this is really the same thing.  It’s a fight being witnessed by a child, but  the tone is extremely different.  When I look at my original now, my brain says, “what was I thinking?”

I passed this by my writer’s group this weekend, and they seemed to like it.

I think I love it.  Hopefully, I am finally where I need to be!

Here’s my revision.  Hopefully, it makes you bite your nails a little, and draws you in without getting you lost in the commotion of the argument.

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A piece of spoiled fruit flew across the room and hit his father square across the jaw.  Magellan watched him wipe it away indifferently as the tall man started shouting at his father again.  The room erupted in shouts and jeers.

These people are insane, Magellan thought.

“Execute him, My Lord!” someone in the assembly yelled.

Execute him? Now I know they’re nuts.

His mother cringed, and held tightly to his crying siblings as they cowered around her.   The crowd screamed louder, nearly drowning out the roar of the rain on the huge windows surrounding the room.  She reached for him, and Magellan stepped back.  He had no desire to hide in her skirts.

He grasped onto a small black rock in his pocket, ready to throw it if he needed to as the people in the crowd took to their feet.   All Father did was say the moon orbiting planet Roria should be free.  Freedom is a good thing, isn’t it?What’s wrong with these people?

The tall man took a step toward his father, and leaned menacingly close to his face.  “Give me an example of one person on that moon that has asked for freedom.”

His father dropped his eyes.

“What are you doing, Father?” Magellan whispered to himself.  “Answer him.”  You’ve always taught us about how important freedom is.  Here’s your chance to speak your mind.  We’re at court.  Tell them.  Make them believe.  Explain to them that the High King is a tyrant!

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3 responses to “Revision time! (Using losing a contest to your advantage)

  1. Pingback: Lesson Three from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Action Action, where is the Action? « Jennifer M Eaton

  2. Ok, I’m going to approach this with fresh eyes.

    When I read the first line, the immediate vision I had was a food fight around a dinner table. It took me a few lines to realize the situation was severe. I think if you opened the book with “Execute him, my Lord!”, the tension would be there right from the start. I like the idea of the fruit throwing but I think that should come as a result of the older Talbot saying something blasphemous against the king, and then I think there should be more than one piece of fruit thrown. I think it would also be helpful for Magellan (‘G’) to see the smashed fruit/lettuce, etc. around his father’s feet and smashed and smeared fruit stuck to his father’s clothes and hair. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the thrown fruit ended up in G’s hair or clothes, too, as he is standing in close proximity of his father, he’s bound to get hit by the thrown fruits, too.

    There is a lot of internal dialogue that I think would be better utilized if spoken out loud. Something like, “Dad, why are they so mad at you?” Maybe even show Magellan’s feistiness. Have him step forward and yell, “Hey, you guys leave my dad alone!” We want to ‘see’ he has no desire to hide behind his mother’s skirts, not be ‘told’ he doesn’t want to hide behind them. I also think Magellan is too young to be thinking of the politics of what’s happening. His dad is standing before the High King about to have his life decided upon. I think he would be more fearful for his father than the politics of the planets and moons. Speaking of moons, I think we need to know it’s Talsoon that orbits the planet. I also think we need to see his dad grow some you know what’s and become a little more verbal. Give Magellan a reason to fear things will not turn out well for daddy.

    As for mommy ‘cringing’, I think this needs to be expanded. How does she cringe? does her face contort? does she gasp? does she look at her husband, panic spreading across her face? Get us into Magellan’s reactions.

    Also, at the end where the king asks daddy to give him an example of someone to Talsoon that wants freedom, I’d have Magellan speak up for dad when daddy remains quiet. Have Gellan tug on his dad’s hand and say something like “Tell him, Dad. Tell him how ‘Billy, bob and joe’ want freedom, too. They even said so at lunch yesterday, remember?”

    it’s so like a kid to tell on their parents. Now the king sees daddy as a troublemaker and the kid just spilled the beans. These little outbursts by Gellan will get the king’s attention even more. I keep thinking of Mowgli in Disney’s Junglebook. Remember how he’s so defiant against Baghera? That’s how I see Gellan. That ‘I’m not afraid of you’ attitude. And remember, kids are blatantly honest. They’ll repeat stuff you said at the least opportune times.

    I think you are on the right track with this. I like the tension you’ve created. I like the description you had of the sounds of the people in the room almost drowning out the rain. You have some great passages. I can’t wait to read more.

  3. This version is a lot better. Magellan now seems more YA-appropriate, and is more involved in the scene than he was the first time. Plus, the angry crowd is a lot more angry than I remember. Good revision.

    I’d suggest just a few things to improve it further. First, the scene starts wonderfully with a thrown piece of fruit… but the insult/threat/assault is largely ignored. Magellan’s father–a man I assume is rather important, since he’s standing regally in front of an angry mob with his whole family–ignores it. Wipes it from his face like it was an annoying childish prank and not a grave insult. So he’s either less important than I thought, or he doesn’t mind (or can’t prevent) having his authority undermined in front of the masses… which means he won’t be important for long.

    If either of the above is true, Magellan would be just a bit more terrified. He has a tiny rock in his pocket and he’s confidently planning to face down the mob with it. What does he FEEL when his father is attacked by the fruit? You do a good job telling me what he’s thinking, but mostly it feels very detached and logical. Ho hum. Father got pelted by some fruit. What savages. I hope they’ll be done with this shouting in time for dinner. 🙂

    He doesn’t even react emotionally when they call for his father’s execution–just shakes his head at the incomprehensible statements of crazy people.

    The last little bit also confused me. It demonstrates that Magellan doesn’t really have a grasp on the intricacies of politics. He has a naive belief that simply stating the truth will make everything better–but his thoughts don’t answer the question the tall man asked. The tall man asked if anyone wanted freedom, and Magellan wants his father to tell him that the High King is a tyrant. So? Does the one necessarily mean the other? Plenty of people ruled by a tyrant are overall content to be so ruled. They’d rather have the pains they know than the uncertainty of rebellion.

    Hope that helps! You’re absolutely moving in the right direction!

    (I completely rewrote my first page 5-6 times. It’s grueling!)