Writer in Motion: Week 1, Rough Draft
Updated: Aug 14
Ooh, I hate posting this. My writing process is involved. I revise and revise and revise until I have something I can even think of showing my critique partners. No one EVER sees my first draft, which is essentially me telling myself the background, the base of the story. I use my first draft to explore what the story is about, who the characters are, what they want.
Often, that means sticking them up against a conflict and having them talk at each other until the story comes clear.
So when I tell you that it kills me to show a first draft in public, you had better prepare. There's telling, not showing, there's tension that dissipates because I figured something out better, there's character that falls apart because they need to tell background first.
Still, the challenge of Writer in Motion is to show the process. So here it is. The first draft of my Writer in Motion story.
Reminder: here's the visual prompt.
Straight up: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
THE GOOD: I really love my characters and concept. I love my opening, the tone it conveys, the wistful melancholy and resignation, and it gives me a lot to build on.
THE BAD: this draft was really about my discovery process. I used dialogue to unveil the characters, the big mystery, and the potential story. But this is no where near what I want it to look like in the end. This was ABSOLUTELY a discovery draft. There's just so much telling, so much exposition, so much explaining. I want to bury a lot of these things in the subtext of Maren preparing to take on the world. I can still keep a flashback to show her relationship and disagreement with Giana, but I want more of the action in the present.
THE UGLY: The Promising: That means my revisions are going to be so much fun as I bring the story more in line with what it could be. I want to improve the tone throughout. I want to build in a progression from the weary resignation to a determination that things will change. The dialogue scene will almost entirely be rewritten and slashed to give Maren more of the story. The reveal at the end gives me something to build to, and as dark as it is, I'm really excited about it. This will absolutely be a fun revision, as I will probably be doing some major rewrites. Now that I know the underlying story, I can actually write something worth reading.
Now comes the fun part!
Anyway, here it is.
Maren wiped the sweat from her brow, leaving a smear of wet earth in its place. The ground had been soft beneath the spread of ferns and wildflowers, making it easy to dig a hole big enough for Giana. The work was easy, methodical, almost meditative. The hard part had been in replacing the moved plants, arranging them so they covered the telltale grave. Wrestling the large roots of the ferns back in place over Giana's body had left them both covered in mud and dirt.
Exactly as it should have been.
Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Returned to the earth from whence we came.
There was a natural order to these things, even if the world refused to see it.
There was light still in the sky, though the sun had set some time ago. It was like that up here. Light lingered a longer the higher up, you were. Maybe it was the thin air, or the fewer obstacles between the horizon and the upper edges of the Appalachian.
Maren took a deep breath. There was time for that now.
This, she considered, was the between time. The moments between the pain and the illness and the tears that came before, and the work that still lay ahead.
She snorted. She was getting maudlin already. Giana would have mocked her for that. After all, Giana had always known what had to happen. From the moment the decrees came down, that the country's fertility had been solved with the most humane solution, she had been adamant.
"Over my dead body," Giana declared over the remains of breakfast that morning.
Maren had chuckled as she picked up the syrup sticky plates. "Yeah, sweetie, that's the whole point."
"It's grotesque. Unnatural!" Giana stomped to the coffee maker to refill her mug and managed to slosh the bitter drink all over the tile.
"Watch it," Maren said, grabbing a towel, cleaning up after her wife. "Okay, I admit, it's a rather unconventional solution. But it's got promise. Artificial wombs have never succeeded, and there aren't enough willing to take on children of our own. Besides, what does it matter? You won't care one way or the other. You'll be dead."
"It doesn't matter? How can you even think that? How would our kids feel to know that some form of their moms were still out there. Treated as incubators. Long after we're dead to them."
"Gigi, let the IVF take at least once before you start worrying about our kids, hm?"
"But we will have them. We've both tested viable. There's no reason we won't have kids of our own one day. And that makes us prime candidates for this program! I don't want my children's mothers' bodies being propped up as some artificial baby makers."
"But it wouldn't be you. They're not animating corpses, here. It would be a clone using your DNA."
"It would still be me."
"No, sweetie. A clone might have your DNA, but it would be a completely separate entity. Besides, these clones would never achieve sentience. They wouldn't be conscious. They'd be no more than cloned body parts, livers, lungs, hearts. They're just more effective wombs."
Giana shook her head, sinking back into her chair and angrily consulting her tablet again. "That's what they tell us. I'm telling you, it's always worse than they tell us. I won't be a part of it."
Maren leaned over the back of her wife, pulling her into a hug. "No one is going to make you, baby. The program is voluntary. Like organ donation. Which is what it is."
Time proved Giana right, though. There weren't enough fertile women willing to commit to the program; only a handful agreed to donate their bodies to the cloning project. Even the heavy propaganda [have fun with this!] wasn't enough to sway more than a few hundred women to give up their DNA.
So it had become mandatory. Any proven fertile female gave up claim to her DNA in the event of her death, that the reproduction of the American people might continue. The lawsuits all failed on the grounds of standing, because the women weren't yet dead and couldn?' claim legitimate injury until that happened.
In the end, the dead have no rights.
Giana swore she would fight it until her dying breath. She didn't know it would be so soon, though.
The lingering light of the sunset faded as Maren pushed open the heavy wooden door of their concrete cabin. The light flicked on, and the heavy orange glow warmed her. There was still time to make things right.
She started with the beds. There was hers, soft mattress, downy blanket, multiple pillows of various firmness. Then there was Giana's.
Maren didn't bother washing the loam and dirt from her hands. Seized with a need to move forward, she ripped the oxygen tubes away from the wall, the tray of individually packaged sterile needles, the plastic-lined bed pads from the shelves. Sponges for her chapped lips. Straws that bent to feed her soup without lifting her from the bed. Gauze for the incision along her right breast that didn't take enough of the cancer. The wound that never healed. All onto the mechanized bed. Sheets, flung over the top. Then with a huff, Maren got around behind the bed, unplugged it, and began pushing it out the door.
She wanted to push it all the way to the edge of the mountain. Send it flying over the edge. As if that would erase what she and Giana had done here.
It was enough to get it out of the house.
Maren slammed the door back behind her, and leaned against it, winded and wanting nothing more than to curl up and take a nap on her own bed. But she still had more to do.
She packed her bag. The morphine, left over and unused. The hormones. Clothes. She'd leave in the morning.
She felt a kick then. All the activity must have waken her up.
"It's okay, Gigi. I won't let them take you."
Four months, now, since she'd gone back to work at the lab and her last maternity appointment. Seven months after Giana's had been given her final prognosis, and they had made their plan. They'd worked against the clock, and there had been no guarantees. Maren's egg, Giana's DNA.
All the previous rounds of IVF had failed. This one, though? Maren had had doubts, but Giana had always known it would work. Simply because it had to.
Now, they were part of the fertility program after all. This, though, was on their terms, the way reproduction should be. Giana would help her see this through to the end. They could still end the fertility program together. Not as unconscious wombs against their will, but as mother and daughter, and on their own terms.