Monday, February 11, 2008

Big Plain V's first writing post

So I’ve been making this exhausting effort to improve my writing this last year: classes, writer’s groups, books on writing, writing websites, and the like. After a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard work, I think I’m finally starting to see some results. Check out these two excerpts and tell me how I’m doing.

One is from when I thought I was good enough, the other is current – now that I know how much is left to learn.


2nd draft

Everything here was made out of rope and rotting wood set against rock that was so gray it was almost blue. A cluttered town pressed in on her from all sides, hanging overhead, tumbling many levels beneath her, and unrolling a great distance to her either side. It’s height and length were immense, but strangely enough, the town was not very wide across. The reason for this was obvious. Less then a hundred feet in front of her, the ground ended and the namesake of this brugh began.

The entire town was built between the faces of two massive, opposing cliffs. Where she was now, the buildings were carved out of the grayish-blue rock of the cliff, yet the bulk of the town hung on a dubious network of ropes and platforms in the center of the endless chasm. Blocks of living structures dotted the open air of the chasm, some tilted awkwardly, and others hanging at weird angles, but all of them looking as though they could simply snap and drop away at any moment. Sagging catwalks criss-crossed between clusters of shabby buildings, woven together on a spider’s web of dangerously frayed ropes. Xierna suddenly felt like it’d be safer to turn around than to go out across the swaying, decaying bridges. She quickly checked the pass-warde, and just as she expected, it pointed out across the tangle of sloppy buildings hanging in the abyss.

(236 words)


5th draft

She was in an alley, between buildings carved from rock so gray it was almost blue. A short distance away were a few wooden structures that sagged in disrepair, and beyond them, a dark, wide open space with many more buildings that seemed to be slowly rising and falling. Her first thought was that perhaps she was at the shore of an underground sea and that the far buildings were floating in the surf. Then her eyes found a distant wall in the darkness and she realized that she had entered Chasm-brugh; the town swayed because it was hanging on a network of ropes and platforms, strung between massive, underground cliffs.

Even from a few blocks away, Xierna could tell that the shabby houses and shops were simply tied together, dangling in the open air like a ton of garbage caught in a fisherman’s net. Sagging catwalks and rope bridges criss-crossed between the buildings and joined them to the edges of the chasm, but they looked unstable, untrustworthy. A slight breeze fondled the torch-lit structures, causing them to gently twist and bounce to the sounds of creaking ropes. It also carried the unmistakable odor of mildew and moist wood.

Everything here was decaying.

(203 words)


I feel a little like Happy Gilmore. In the movie, he had this amazing slapshot that translated into an amazing golf drive, but his efforts on the green were pathetic. I think I have a strong creative gift, which translates into tons of cool story ideas, but my writing skills have totally been holding me back. Now that I’ve learned to see where my mistakes are, and can wrestle them into basic functionality, I feel like Happy did when he told Shooter McGavin, “Uh-oh, somebody learned how to putt.”


Roo said...

there was a vast difference between 2nd draft ans the 5th. I have to say it is still a bit disciptive for my taste. I was a bit confused about the alley being a town????

shortensweet said...

I don't think the alley was a town. I think the town was being described from the alley out as it were.

I like the writing style better in the 5th draft. It made a better mental image.

I'll read the rest of it when I get a signed first edition :)

Unknown said...

Excellent instincts, Roo, this is indeed a descriptive passage. One thing I've been criticized for is having some sort of hazy barrier between the reader and the objects I'm describing. One of my major goals has been to make my description more tactile and immediate, which I think I'm improving at thanks to Jamie's comment.

And yes, the town is being described from the perspective of an alley.

VeeFlower said...

I much prefer the 5th draft. It is more succinct, I get a more clear picture of what the town is like. And the description of the rotting and mildew REALLY conveys a feeling of the girl (or the whole town!) going to fall!? It makes you want to read more.

VeeFlower said...

I much prefer the 5th draft. It is more succinct, I get a more clear picture of what the town is like. And the description of the rotting and mildew REALLY conveys a feeling of the girl (or the whole town!) going to fall!? It makes you want to read more.

bunnyjo georg said...

The descriptions in the second draft were hard to follow; basically too many descriptions following upon detailed descriptions. What you did right in the fifth draft is give the reader a chance to reflect on (almost) each description which gives them time to both create the mental image and then conjure up how they feel about it before moving on to the next description.

By the way, I very much enjoyed the first couple chapters of Eflhomme, of which I am assuming this is an excerpt. I got sidetracked with the books I bought with the gift cards you gave me for B&N, sorry! But I just ran across Elfhomme again yesterday and was like, yay! So I'm getting back into it and already look forward to reading the new drafts!

bunnyjo georg said...

Oh, nice profile pic, by the way. I might steal it for myself. Ain't it grand to be skinny?! I wish...

Anonymous said...

Glad to see that you're writing's improved so much on that draft of Elfhaime - just look at the amazing differences! The clarity and descriptive quality (and even the grammar!) is so much clearer and more distinctive in the fifth draft compared to the's almost an entirely different piece of work!

Btw, I haven't heard from you since the beginning of December. Shun me, did you? ;)

Drop me a line...if you can remember who I am and recognize me. ;) (Give you a hint: NaNo, meetings, and got stuck at your house because of the ice storm ;)

~Andrew A.

P.s. - I'm signing my name at the end of this as an addendum, because your blogger apparently doesn't let me publish the comment as anything except "anonymous". Go figure.

Unknown said...


The whole 'Andrew' thing threw me off, but I haven't forgotten you. Drop me an email and tell me how things are going jobwise and writing-wise and woman-wise.

Very nice to hear from you sir, and thank-you for patronizing the Big Plain V.

Anonymous said...

Well said.