Hello hello helloooo…
I’m very excited to be participating in this years Writer in Motion (it’s my first time!), where we write a short story based on an image prompt, but we show the process one week at a time. So today we post the first draft, then next week we’ll do a self edit, then we’ll get feedback from critique partners online, and THEN we’ll get feedback from professional editors! 😱
I’ve been writing short stories over at the Muses blog for a few years now, so I’m excited to really break the process down and give lots of time to each step. Check out my first draft below (*silent scream from my inner perfectionist*), and I’ll include my usual writing update/rant after that. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear what you think!
Here’s the image prompt:
Working title: Sulphur and Smoke
I backed away as smoke pooled around his face and under his hood. He reached up to catch the tendrils, to shape them, and in the process remake his features.
For that’s what his kind did, and had done, for centuries.
I didn’t know how he’d found me here in this city, on this exact street, yet as that same unmistakable stench of sulphur and acrid burning filled my senses, I knew I had to run.
I didn’t wait to see what new form his face had taken. I turned and hauled ass down the block, pumping my legs as fast as I could and dodging anyone in the way. He was not so considerate. I heard screams and shouts behind me, and the sour smoke somehow still reached my nose as he gained on me. My chest ached, but I pushed harder, willing my legs faster. His voice found me next, its silky tenor shivering down my neck.
“After all these years, this is the greeting I get?”
One of the smoke tendrils caressed my cheek, and I shuddered, pulling away. I turned a corner, my shoes skidding on the pavement, and plowed through a tour group marvelling at the surroundings. The Louvre was always a formidable sight, but it was nothing compared to the shifter on my heels. His hand closed around my arm and yanked me to a stop.
“Come now,” he whispered, his voice resonating deep in my core, “I only wish to speak with you.” His face had morphed into a different man’s, all sharp angles and dark stubbled jaw. But the eyes—the eyes were the same—a deep brown with blazing embers at the center.
I tried to twist out of his grasp. “So you can ensnare me again, and spellbind me?”
He unfurled a slow smile. “That was a fun few decades, wasn’t it?” His fingers brushed aside my hair, and I flinched away.
The tour group was gawping at us now, probably convinced we were a street theater troupe. His grip tightened on my arm as he led me away, towards a side alley. My pulse throbbed against my ribs, and I still tasted the bitter smoke on my tongue, but try as I might to pull free, he was too strong. Too consumed with purpose, which I wanted no part of. Amongst the trash bags and bins, he stopped, his eyes softer than I had ever seen them.
“I’ve been searching for you for so long,” he said.
I couldn’t look away, couldn’t escape the fathomless depths of those brimstone eyes. But my age-old anger flared within me. I’d been running from him for so long, I wasn’t about to lose myself to his charms so soon.
“After what you did to me,” I hissed, “I never wanted to see you again. Ever.”
“Now, now,” he said, the wryness creeping back into his voice, his smile, “I’m sure you didn’t hate every moment. You took to your magic with great enthusiasm. And I could still teach you so much more. I could teach you this…” He trailed his long elegant hand in the air between us, conjuring more smoke, the gentle iridescence hinting at its feature-morphing capabilities.
A spark of yearning flickered in me to learn all of his ways, to be able to change my appearance at will, as he did. But I knew that madness lay that way, and I needed to end this conversation and flee before I lost all reason.
“What do you want?” I asked, gritting my teeth.
His hands found mine, his skin cool and soft. He stroked my palm with his thumb, and the burning embers in his eyes softened again.
“I need your help.”
Ok that was fun to get back into some flash fiction! (Again, I’d love to hear what you think!) As soon as I saw the image, it made me think of an antagonist for a novel idea I’ve had for a while. I have the two MCs/love interests in mind already, but didn’t have a clear picture of the antagonist, and this image sparked him into life! I’m not sure if I’ll keep the same magic power/vibes if I ever do pursue the novel, but I liked diving into it a little bit, and hinting at these immortal characters living in our world… 👀
For my current WIP update, after finishing my rewrite of Raven Book last month, I’ve been slowly polishing it to (hopefully, maybe) get it ready for querying again. I’m feeling more confident in what I’ve changed and added, butttt I’m running into my usual problem of the wordcount being too high. I’m a chronic overwriter, so in revisions I always have to trim and prune and even cut whole sections out, which I’ve already done. BUT—a big part of my rewrite was adding in more interiority and characterisation, soooo I’m having to cut other things to make up the difference. And yet, it’s still too long 🙃
I know wordcounts can be a bit flexible, but I’m already over the maximum amount I was aiming for, so I really need to get even more ruthless as I finish my re-read/polish. I’m hoping the fact that it’s an adult historical fantasy will allow me to have a slightly bigger wordcount range anyway, but I still don’t want to ruin my chances when I query because it’s too long…
In the last few days I’ve also had some character motivation breakthroughs for Heist Book, and I think they’ll (hopefully) pack a punch. I definitely am getting the itch to move on to a new project once I finish Raven Book again, and while I know I still need to revise my Venice Book more, I also want to start a trash draft of Heist Book…maybe…The plot is coming together, the characters are coming to life, I just need a few more story beats nailed down before I can start writing for real, but I’m enjoying this early brainstorming stage. My playlist and pinterest board for it are already Quite Extensive, so I just need to solidify what I really want this book to be, and then I think I’ll be ready to dive into it fully. I think I figured out my comps/pitch for it too, which is essentially: dual timeline Da Vinci Code meets Dark Academia 🤓
Also, it just feels good to be excited about writing again? I had another mental health slump in the last few weeks, where everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) felt pointless, and even writing lost its joy. But I’m back, for now at least, and I’m riding this wave for as long as I can.
I also finished reading FOR THE WOLF by Hannah Whitten, and holy crap do I wish I wrote like her! Her style is so evocative, and the way she articulates those silent, jaw-clenching moments between siblings, or between a mother and daughter, or between two people who aren’t great at the whole feelings thing anyway, is just so…visceral. I mean, isn’t that the magic of writing, literally giving words to those inexpressible emotions and sensations that we all experience? I enjoyed her world-building too, and the mash-up of fairytale tropes and elements (which she called ‘fairy-tale soup’ in an interview, love that), although certain things with the religion/cult and its rules were a bit confusing for me. All-in-all though, I really loved it, and I’m excited for the follow-up FOR THE THRONE coming out next year.
I’ve love to hear what you’re working on, and listening to, and reading. If you’re participating in Write in Motion let me know so I can follow along and support you! I’ll be posting my progress here over the next few weeks as I revise my short story too.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe.