Writer in Motion: Week Three

Catch up on my prior Writer in Motion posts here:

Week one post: rough draft

Week two post: self-edited draft

Revising with Critique Partner feedback

Allow me to clarify…

Last week I wrote and posted my self-edited draft of “Rainey’s Painting” (working title). This week our Writer in Motion assignment was to edit based on critique partner feedback.

I had one critique partner this time, the fabulous Talynn Lynn. She read last week’s draft and offered exactly the feedback I needed at this point. She pointed out the spots that confused her and asked me some questions about what I meant to be happening in the story versus what she was getting from reading it. Oh, and she helped me with a little bit of grammar (always a plus!).

This week life had other plans besides a full day on this draft…or even a full evening. So I was forced to put last week’s goals aside and focus on the trouble spots Talynn identified. I’ll go over that in the breakdown. Let’s get to the draft:

Rainey’s Painting: Draft 4, Week Three

Amadeus, a fluffy orange cat, nestled into a blanket on the airship’s deck, his tiny nostrils flaring in the breeze, the perfect subject for Rainey’s cloud portrait.

“Finders, keepers,” Rainey had sung when the cloud painter’s wand had fallen from the sky. Now, she imagined herself a famous cloud painter. Diving into the depths below the ship, pulled back by the connecting bungee, steering and braking with a beautiful swath of red nylon.

Rainey’s parents’ airship wasn’t outfitted for cloud painting, and without the low hanging perch on the ship’s hull, she’d had to improvise. She sprinted toward the deck railing, swinging her broomstick out over the edge, an orange plume ejecting from the wand strapped to the end. Just as she leaned out, the bungee girding her waist to the ship’s door snapped her back, and she swept the broomstick in an arc, twirling backward, trailing orange mist behind her.

Being a cloud painter beat out her summer internship on the airship any day. Studying the ship’s systems and recording nano-steam pressure readings from the gauges was the worst.

Her mother wouldn’t understand, of course. “You’ll be the envy of your friends, traveling through the Undersphere for a season.”

Maybe Jaime would envy her, after a summer sweating in his father’s forge. Or Katria, whose fingers would be raw by summer’s end after ribbing corsets in her family’s shop. Still, the airship at the heart of her parents’ import-export business was a boredom factory. Until cloud painting.

She danced until her portrait of Amadeus was complete, the orange cloud-cat hovering in the sky near the ship, but dissipating far faster than Rainey expected, filling the sky with orange. She gaped at what she had done. Orange fog as far as the eye could see.

Her father poked his head out onto the lower deck. “Rainey! Bring the cat in. We’ve all been ordered to land. Visibility is too low for us all to hover up here safely.”

Rainey scrambled inside with Amadeus. If anyone found out she had done this, she’d be put off the ship in the port below. Her mother would have to escort her back to the Oversphere by land. Her father would have to hire a crew to replace them or bring back fewer wares to sell, and a bad year could ruin the family.

#

On the ground, throngs of people crowded around a towering wooden stage that overlooked the seaport. Tied to a chair in the middle was a cloud painter. Rainey recognized the aerodynamic red bodysuit, the swath of nylon for diving gathered up into a side cape, short hair peeking from behind her ears.

The Port Steward strode tall onto the stage, wrath trailing close behind. “Cardinal Sky willfully discharged her wand to create a smokescreen forcing the ships to land,” his voice boomed, “She must stand trial for her multiple crimes.”

“Multiple crimes?” Rainey whispered up to her father.

“With the sky shrouded in orange smoke, the city is vulnerable to attack. Calling up the Land Guard meant shutting down the market, so no one can trade today,” her father said, not taking his eyes off the stage. Her mother squeezed her hand.

Rainey shuddered. The multiple crimes were hers, not Cardinal Sky’s. But if she came forward, it would be worse than being put off the ship. She might not be allowed to go home. Even if she were, Jaime and Katria would be too embarrassed to talk to her. Their families would never allow her to make up her internship in the forge or the corset shop. Without trade experience, Rainey wouldn’t be able return to sixth grade. She would be a disgrace.

“What’s going to happen to her?” Rainey whispered. A look from Mother to Father, the slow shake of her other’s head. Her father’s silence.

“Wait!” Rainey yelped. But her voice was lost in the din of the crowd.

The Port Steward loomed over Cardinal Sky. “We now convict you of treason and sentence you—”

Rainey raised her wand into the air and squeezed. Orange pigment streamed high into the air above the crowd. “Let me through!” she shouted, waving the fountain of orange.

The crowd scattered, and Rainey made her way to the stage, her parents hurrying after, calling her name. She ran up the steps, winded, tossing the wand at the Port Steward’s feet.

“It fell on my parents’ airship yesterday,” she gasped, “I colored the sky with it.”

The wand must have belonged to Cardinal Sky. When Rainey picked it up off the deck, she had felt her whole fortune change, her summer ahead going from gray to rainbow. How wrong she had been. Rainey had wanted to be a cloud painter – not punish one for Rainey’s own mistakes.

#

Rainey felt the crowd’s stares, her stomach full of stones as she waited with Cardinal Sky while the Port Steward took her parents aside for a hushed conversation. After what seemed like forever, they faced the crowd.

“Through carelessness and refusal to report a blunder, Cardinal Sky and Rainey Cadence each put the city in danger today. Neither may be allowed to leave the city without atoning for their mistakes.”

Standing next to Cardinal, Rainey couldn’t see her face. But she could feel Cardinal’s fear as her own.

“Cardinal Sky is suspended for one month. She will review our code of conduct so she will take appropriate action should she lose another wand. She will also work in the market for free to make up for today’s lost trade.”

Cardinal exhaled. Rainey froze. So she would be the one they imprisoned.

“Rainey Cadence will serve as Cardinal Sky’s page for the month. She will return to her parents’ airship knowing how to conduct herself in the presence of cloud painters for the rest of their trip.”

Rainey’s heart leapt. This was no punishment!

“Both shall start,” he gestured grandly, “With airship mechanics.”

#

The Breakdown

Because of my time crunch, I had to do something important: I had to revise my expectations for this sitting. Truly, if I didn’t have this deadline, I would have put this off until I had a longer sitting – which is bad because this short sitting turned out to be productive!

What I was going for this time…

  1. CUT MORE WORDS TO MAKE ROOM FOR EDITS.
  2. ADDRESS MY CRITIQUE PARTNER’S QUESTIONS, MAKING THE STORY (HOPEFULLY) MORE CLEAR.
  3. FIX THE ENDING.

I didn’t think this was a very heavy edit, but when I ran a comparison to track changes, there were more updates than I thought. Here are screen shots of the tracked version.

I still want to look more at language and characterization next week, but hopefully the plot is more clear now, and I think I found the ending. Rainey was so bummed about taking readings of the gauges on the airship and thought cloud painting would be so much more interesting. AND it IS, but cloud painters have to know just as much about airship mechanics as a Captain’s Intern would. So Rainey has gotten herself off the ship only to find that she’ll need to study the same stuff either way. I dunno. I’ll think on it. Until next week…

P.J. Powell

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