The Writing Process (Part 2)

Better late than never, right?

So, if you haven’t read my first post about the writing process, I highly suggest you do that now! I talk about how I set up a story and come up with names, characters, and settings. For this post, I’ll be sharing my rough draft so you can then see my editing process!

Now, most of this post will just be the rough draft because it’s pretty long; it ended up being over 2,500 words! It took me about an hour to write because I just went for it. I didn’t stop to think too much, just kept writing wherever it took me.

That’s why this draft is far from perfect; it’s called “rough” for a reason, right? I’m sharing this with you because I want you to see how far your writing can go if you put thought and dedication into it. I’d call this rough draft pretty bad, but I know that once I spend some time overhauling it, it’ll be a pretty fun short story!

Don’t be turned off your own writing because it’s a little cringe the first time around. That’s okay. Books don’t just pop out instantly as masterpieces, you know!

So, without further ado, here’s my completely rough draft of this short story which is still untitled (more on that in the next post):

Stars glittered like a million different opportunities in the endless void of space. Ele was propped up on the console, heedless of the buttons he was mashing, just watching space drift past in peace. 

It had been too long since he’d had peace. 

“Computer,” he said softly, “can you confirm one more time?” 

He could have sworn he heard a release of air somewhere from the ship that sounded just like a sigh. “We are in Draco Odysseus.”

The thrill ran through Ele again; he never got tired of hearing that. After years of being trapped in the Perileos Nebula, he finally had a new start. 

He finally didn’t have to run. 

Ele finally got up and settled himself in a pilot’s seat that was made especially for his six limbs and lizard-like body. “Is there a…” He hardly dared to think it, let alone say it. “Is there a planet nearby?” 

“The closest planet is designated Tangeter, about three local hours away.” 

“Take us there,” said Ele in a rush. Just imagine: another planet. Having solid ground under his feet, scratching his claws into dirt. 

The ship’s pace gradually increased until they were going at max speed, but not hyperspace. The planet was too close for that. 

Ele sat back in his chair, feeling content. He pressed a button on the console that switched on a heated lamp overhead that pointed directly at him. So warmed, Ele leaned back and closed his eyes. 

Ele awoke to the slight jostling of the ship. He blinked as a huge surface of light brown lay before him. He jumped to his feet in his chair and grinned at the sight, gripping the console. 

“Do any people live here?” Ele asked, practically bouncing on his toes. 

“The dominant species are designated Mirne,” the ship said. How could it sound so emotionless when it was talking about a whole new planet, a whole new kind of people? “Here is an image—”

“No!” Ele covered his good eye. “I don’t want to see now. I want to be surprised!” 

The ship stayed silent, which, after so long living inside of it, Ele knew meant that it was aggravated. “Thanks for your help,” he added in a softer voice. “I just want to see them for myself. It’s been so long since I’ve met anyone new!” 

“Please strap yourself in for landing,” was the ship’s only response. 

Ele quickly slithered into his seat, pulling a few straps around him as the ship began to violently shake. A tint of red appeared around the viewport and Ele grinned at the surface drawing ever closer. 

“Landing in thirty seconds,” the ship announced. 

Ele gripped his seatbelts tightly in anticipation. Suddenly, the jostling ceased, and a dark planet lay before Ele’s eyes. 

“Wow,” he gasped. He’d never seen anything quite like it. It was almost as if the world was either completely flat or riddled with mountains and nothing in between. Soaring peaks contrasted with great flat brown plains that seemed to stretch for miles. 

“Landing in five, four, three, two, one.” 

With a gentle bump, the ship touched down on Tangeter. Ele immediately threw the straps off of him and jumped to his feet, his hand over the door control. 

“Checking atmosphere levels. Matching breathability to Nak species composition.” 

Ele lowered his hand and grinned up sheepishly at the ship. He’d completely forgotten to make sure he could actually breathe on this planet. 

“Air is breathable,” the ship announced after a moment. 

“Yes!” Ele pumped a fist in the air and slammed his hand down on the door control. A ramp lowered from the middle of the small ship with a long hiss and Ele scrambled down immediately on all six of his limbs. 

The air shocked him. Quite literally. He felt his limbs instantly freeze up at the sudden onslaught of cold and he rushed back inside as quickly as he’d run out, immediately closing the ramp. He switched on his lamp at the pilot’s seat again and breathed out a long sigh as his limbs relaxed. 

“You didn’t tell me it was cold out there!” Ele complained. 

“It is standard procedure for the captain to check oxygen levels and temperature before they exit their ship,” the ship stated plainly. “There was no inquiry made.” 

Ele frowned dramatically at the ship, knowing it was trying to teach him a lesson again. But in a moment, his indignation faded, replaced by sorrow as he gazed at the great big world before him that he was destined not to touch. 

“Maybe I can wait until the sun comes out,” Ele murmured. “It’ll be warmer then.” 

“It will be seven days, sixteen hours, and twenty-two minutes until the sun appears on this side of the planet again,” the ship immediately contradicted him. “Then, temperatures will be twenty degrees warmer—still too cold for a young male Nak.” 

Ele crossed his arms and sank into the seat. “You don’t know anything,” he told the ship, knowing very well that it did, in fact, know everything. 

He rubbed his eyepatch as his good eye filled up with tears. “It’s not fair,” he muttered to himself. 

“I can chart a course to a new planet,” the ship said. 

“No,” Ele sighed. “I want to stay here for at least a little bit.” He curled up in his chair and closed his eyes. Soon, he drifted off to a place where he could roam around on the chilly planet as much as he wanted to. 

Knock knock knock. 

Ele was so startled by the sudden sound that he yelled something like, “Agh!” and fell completely out of his chair. 

Knock knock knock. “Hello?” The voice was nasally and female. 

Ele’s heart was in his throat. People? And moreover, people who spoke his language? He scrambled over to the closed ramp where the voice was coming from. “Hello?” 

“You’ll want to move your ship,” the voice said, muffled through the thick metal of the ship. “There’s a spout right underneath you.” 

“A spout?” Ele asked. 

“Yep. Don’t worry, just look out your viewport and I’ll guide you.”

Ele paused, brimming with so many questions, but he followed the order of the stranger and went to the console. Outside, a funny-looking creature was standing in front of the ship, gesturing to the right. 

“Ship, can you move a little to the right?” Ele asked. 

“It will waste fuel.” 

“Please?” Ele asked. He’d do it himself, but he had no idea what any of the many buttons and levers across the console did. 

A whine started up toward the back of the ship, growing steadily louder. After a moment, there was a slight jolt as the ship rose a fraction into the air. 

“That’s right,” Ele said, watching the creature’s movements. “Just a little more to the right. A little more. And stop, we’re good!” 

With a hiss and a bump, the ship landed on solid ground again. Ele went to the controls and pressed the button for the ramp. While he had no intention of going out there again, he figured he might as well invite someone else in. 

Even at the top of the ramp, Ele could feel the frigid air. He turned on another warming light overhead and crossed his arms over his chest. In a moment, the creature appeared at the bottom of the ramp. 

She was a very strange being, unlike anyone Ele had ever seen before. Thick brown fur coated her body, but her head looked almost like a bird’s with her small, beady black eyes and large bill. Her feet were webbed, and she stood on only two as she looked up at Ele. Her huge, flat tail thumped gently on the ground as if to display excitement. 

“May I come aboard?” she asked respectfully, folding her claws together. 

“Sure!” Ele said with a grin. “I don’t even know how you can stay out there; it’s too cold!” 

Ele’s new friend got down on all fours and made her way up the ramp. “I barely feel the cold,” she said. “You must come from a warm climate.” 

“I have to!” Ele pointed his thumbs at his scales. “Cold-blooded.” 

As the creature got inside the ship and stood on her hind legs again, she was quite a bit taller than Ele when he was standing. 

“I’m Terew,” she said, clapping her bill together. “I was making sure that everyone was clear of the spout this morning when I saw your ship right over it!”

Ele fidgeted, his fingers tapping against each other as he looked at Terew and down at the floor again. He’d been excited to meet new people, but now with someone new actually in front of him, it was a little scary. 

“What…what is a spout?” he asked, finding his voice small. 

“A spout is a hole on the surface that fire comes through at regular times. We can tell by the position of the moon.” 

“Fire?” Ele looked up at Terew in wonder. “I’ve never heard of fire coming out of a planet before.” 

Terew couldn’t quite smile with her bill, but her eyes crinkled, which looked like a smile anyway. “I haven’t been to any other planets, but I’ve heard that it’s unique.” 

Suddenly, from outside, there came a loud whoosh and a wave of heat. Ele gasped and looked down the ramp. “Was that it?” 

Terew nodded. “It’s almost time. Do you want to come see it?” 

“I can’t,” Ele sighed. “It’s too cold for me out there.” 

“Not with the fire from the spout it’s not.” Her bill clacked together again, and Ele was beginning to wonder if that meant something among her people. “Do you have anyone looking after you?” she asked, her voice a little softer. 

“The ship!” Ele grinned up at the ceiling. “She’s been taking care of me for almost as long as I can remember.” 

The fur between Terew’s eyebrows wrinkled. “You’re from Perileos, aren’t you?” 

Ele nodded. “I had to stay there for way too long. These bad people were chasing me, but then we found hyperspace fuel and we got out of there! And now I’m here.” 

Terew opened her mouth slightly like she didn’t know what to say. Her eyes looked sad. 

“It’s okay,” Ele said. “I can stay warm in here. I like looking at your planet, anyway. It’s very beautiful.” 

“I really think you’d like it outside,” Terew said. “The fires from the spouts are huge, sometimes as tall as one of the mountains!” 

Ele remembered the mountains that he’d seen. “Well…maybe I can try it. Right, ship?” 

“Local temperatures are warming to habitable climates for Naks,” was all it said, though somehow Ele caught a hint of disapproval in the tone. 

“Okay!” Ele said, needing no more convincing. “I’ll go.” 

He followed Terew down the ramp. When he got to the bottom, Elle pressed a tab with his foot that made the ramp collapse and lift back up into the ship. 

Unlike last time, the cold didn’t make Ele instantly retreat. On the contrary, blissful warmth heated Ele’s skin and he closed his eyes to drink it in. 

“Look this way,” Terew said. 

Ele opened his eyes and followed Terew’s gaze. 

He gasped, feeling frozen, despite the warmth. 

Ele had never seen a fire like it. It rose at least one hundred feet into the air, controlled into a single, thin stream. The flames were blue at their core and red at the tips, moving and changing like a living thing. 

Again, Terew smiled at him. “You can come a little closer if you’d like, just be careful.” 

Ele nodded mutely, transfixed as he watched the massive column of fire. Warmth wrapped around him like a cosy blanket and he found his blinks becoming longer. Ship would tell him not to let down his guard, but he’d been on guard for so long. For once, he wanted to trust people. 

Ele lowered himself to the warm ground and closed his eyes. He remembered that Terew was there and blinked sleepily at her. 

“Thank you,” he said, and then fell asleep once more. 

Gentle music awoke Ele this time. He wiped his face clean with his tongue and sat up slowly, taking everything in. The fire was still going, but he was no longer alone with Terew. Several others like Terew were gathered around the fire at various distances, laughing, talking, singing, and eating. 

Ele sat up, instantly feeling energized by the cheerful scene. 

“You sure sleep soundly, don’t you?” 

Ele turned at Terew’s voice. She handed him a smooth, flat piece of stone that was piled with vegetation and small, white pieces of meat. 

“I’m not sure what you eat,” she explained, “but hopefully you’ll find something you like there.” 

Ele’s stomach grumbled at the sight of the food. He hadn’t eaten anything but dehydrated rations for so long! He dug into the food messily, shoving everything down together. He didn’t really get a chance to taste any of it, but to him, it was the best food he’d ever had. 

Remembering his manners in the middle of it all, Ele paused, swallowed his last big bite, and raised himself up to look at Terew’s amused expression.

“Thanks!” he said, before turning back to his feast. 

Ele joined in with the dancing that followed the food, and none of the Mirne seemed to notice that he was any different from them. Eventually, he noticed that the fire turned completely red and got much shorter. 

“Terew,” he asked after several hours of fun, “how much longer with the fire be here?” 

“Not much longer, I’m afraid.” 

Ele’s spirits sank in a moment. “Maybe…I can stay inside the ship and wait until the next spout fire. Then I can come out again with you!” He grinned at the idea. 

Terew chuckled. “You would spend most of your time in your ship, then. The spout fire only comes once a week, and even then, sometimes weeks are skipped.” She suddenly looked much less cheerful. Ele felt his hopes and dreams falling to his feet, one by one. 

“You can’t stay here, Ele. It’s not the right place for you.” 

Ele looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet. Tears stung his eye. 

“But I’m sure that the right place is out there.” 

Ele met Terew’s eyes and saw that she was smiling again. “There are a million different planets out there; ours is just one. Somewhere, there’s a warm planet that will be home to you one day. I’m sure of it.” 

Ele sniffed and wiped his eye. “But I want my home to be here.” 

“Me, too. I like you a lot, Ele, but you wouldn’t be happy cooped up in your ship all of the time, would you?” 

Ele thought about it, then shook his head. He’d come to a new galaxy just so that he wouldn’t need to stay inside the ship. 

“And it doesn’t mean you can’t come and visit. Just have your ship save these coordinates. I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.” 

It did seem reasonable. Ele knew he needed a place where he could be outside, and as much as he wanted this planet to be it, it simply wasn’t—but it didn’t mean he couldn’t come back.

Ele grinned and leaped onto Terew in a hug. “Okay! I’ll be back really soon, and I’ll tell you all about my new home.” 

Terew froze, almost like she’d never had a hug before. Ele dropped back onto the ground. “It was really nice to meet you, but I’d better get looking for my home. I’ll be back soon! Bye Terew!” 

And, filled with the prospects of a new place to enjoy the sun, Ele waved to all of his new friends and sped back to his ship. Once inside, the first thing he did was ask the ship to save the coordinates of Tangeter. 

“Now,” he said, turning on his lamp and leaning back in his seat, “it’s time to find home!” 

You’ll notice a lot of things that are different from my original plan, which is what happens to me a lot as a pantser!

Firstly, Ele became a lot younger. I didn’t make this decision consciously, it just happened as the story flowed out of me. So, there’s a lot of childlike wonder and naïveté in this story.

You’ll also see that I now have a theme to the story which wasn’t there when I planned it. Essentially, it’s that we may set our hopes on something that might not be right for us. It’s disappointing when this happens, but you have to keep moving on until you find what’s right for you. This isn’t giving up, but knowing that you’ll fit better somewhere else. It’s a little rushed in this draft, as I discovered it while writing, but it’s something I want to sprinkle throughout the story more in the final product.

Speaking of that, where do we go from here? Well, for stories under 5,000 words, I tend to have just a rough draft and then a finished product, as for me, they’re too short to go through multiple drafts.

So my next step is actually to wait. I won’t touch the story for a few days and I’ll work on other things. Then, I’ll come back to it and read it over again. I already made a few comments for myself as I was writing about things I want to do in the edit. Here are just a handful:

  • Hint at theme throughout story
  • Pin down Ele’s voice
  • Make it obvious from the beginning that Ele lost his other eye
  • Make a name for the ship (his mom’s name?)
  • More descriptions of the Mirne (platypus)
  • Flesh out ending
  • Pin down Terew’s voice and mannerisms

So now I’m off to relax before I take another look at this story! Next week, you’ll see the descriptions of the steps I took following this draft, and then the final draft. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

One thought on “The Writing Process (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: The Writing Process (Part 4) | E.J. Robison

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