I love getting feedback from beta readers and especially CPs, and it’s always a fun process to wade through and figure out what the sometimes opposing opinions mean.
Feedback can have so many varying emotional responses. I’ve laughed out loud, I’ve cried, I’ve wanted to throw things (not in this one!), etc. So I have gotten myself into the habit of reading the comments right away so that I don’t stress about “What if they hate it? Oh my goodness, I know they hate it. It’s awful. I should never show anyone my writing” before I even slip into the spiral. With my trusted CPs, to be honest, I read the comments less out of a “rip the bandaid off” thing, but instead because I can’t wait to sneak a peek at all the amazing ideas that I will get to implement! Trusted CPs are gold.
Look at all those marks! I love it!
After reading the feedback, I get up and do something. This movement allows me to express those emotions if need be and I can also get my brain churning in the background. I usually leave feedback to churn for at least a week but the time table for Writer In Motion is too quick for that, so I gave it a few days. Then I read back through the compiled notes, looking for things I absolutely agree with, things that disagreed with other comments, things that agreed with other comments, etc. Everything gets looked at and considered, even things I don’t agree with. Especially things I don’t agree with.
I was super lucky to receive a comment that clarified for me exactly what I felt was wrong in my story, so I addressed that right away, cutting the head and tail off my story BEFORE my typical next step of placing all the comments from CPs that I felt needed more consideration or that I agreed with and that were NOT compliments into my copy. (I love compliments, and they are a necessary part of critiquing, but once I read through I generally don’t need to keep them unless I think there’s a discrepancy. This stage is all about fixing what’s broken, and to do that you have to shine a light on it). I lopped off the head and tail before bringing in the comments because… why bring in comments on pieces that were no longer going to be there? Here’s what it looked like after this step:
Next I work on the easy stuff and the things that multiple people agreed on first. If multiple people are saying it, even if I don’t agree with it, there’s probably something wrong. And in this case, it was the Cow’s interiority. I had several comments along the lines of not being able to connect with the Cow, or not understanding the Cow’s reactions, as well as a drop in tension. These two things are directly related to each other, the one causing the other, so I knew it needed fixing. By lopping off the head and tail, I had more words to play with, and then it was a matter of trying to squeeze every last breath out of the words for interiority, connection, and tension.
Some places, I just couldn’t get the words to work the way I wanted them to. That required switching to a new blank text and rewriting portions until they were streamlined the way I wanted and stronger than what I had, and then patching those in to the rest of the story.
Once I had addressed every comment I agreed with, I was at a word count of 1064! Ack! Time to go through and get rid of unnecessary bits, including potentially things that make the story more complicated than it needs to be. Yes, Whales, that means you have to go. Again. Some of my favorite phrases also needed to go, unfortunately. They simply couldn’t pull their weight in a piece so short.
After going through multiple times to get to 1k, I actually hit the target dead on! Time to stop for the day and look at it for the last few passes before putting it on the blog. Those last few passes mostly consisted of going through and smoothing sentences, making sure there’s clarity and making sure the body language choices I was using are the best ones for the job.
So, without further ado, Space Cows 2: Draft 3!
You drop into a marsh. A bellow escapes your throat as you flounder to find footing. Green plants, blue sky—except where thunderclouds are rolling in—and brown dirt surround you. A hill rises from the edge of the marsh, and the clouds above are lit in flashes. The Beacon with which the settlers had signaled for help.
Beside you, your Wolf “partner” struggles, the Matter Transportation Device clamped in his jaws. He goes under, then fights to the surface, ears laid back. Your stomach twists. The Wolves nearly stranded you to be torn apart by monsters, but if he drowns with the Matt, you’ll be stuck here forever. If you lose the Matt, you’ll never get home.
“Climb on my back,” you grumble.
The Wolf pants. His claws dig into your hide. You try not to flinch. Acting like prey only encourages the Wolf’s cruelty.
The marsh mud sucks at all four hooves as you slog toward the hill and the flashing Beacon. When you finally meet dry land, the Wolf drops to his own paws and shakes himself, and you do likewise. He clutches the Matt, his eyes ringed with white. Is he… frightened?
“Come on, we need to find the Beacon.” You move to pass him.
“We’re stuck here, you stupid Cow.”
You freeze, waiting for the next words to fall from his muzzle, dreading and hating them before they’re even born.
“I hung on to it. But the water… Just look!” He thrusts the Matt in your face. “Do you see any lights?”
No cheerful glow—just a dead metallic box. The Matt is broken. You stamp the dirt beneath your hooves, reassuring yourself that there is something solid in the universe.
“We can’t get back.” The Wolf’s bitter tones slice at you.
You breathe through your panic. The settlement surely has supplies. Maybe you two can fix the Matt. “We’ll figure it out. The Beacon is still out there.”
“They’re not going to send anyone after us. We had the only working Matt.” He lobs it at you, and you flinch when it hits your sensitive muzzle.
The words dry in your throat. Every Cow knows to stay calm around a Wolf, no matter how much they want to run. Once your racing heart and trembling limbs are under control, you pick up the Matt and head toward the settlement.
“We’re stuck here!” he shouts, as if you haven’t understood.
You keep a tight lid on the panic. The only chance of getting home is checking the settlement for supplies. “I’m still going to do my duty. I may be just a stupid Cow, but I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ll figure out a way home on my own if I have to.”
You were given a mission: investigate the Beacon and come home. And that’s exactly what you intend to do.
The Beacon lights the storm clouds above a settlement on a cliffside, crisp against the tossing ocean. The tall metal fence surrounding it glows in the afternoon sun, rusted though it is by the salt air. The gate creaks as a settler pushes it open. More fill the space behind him, so similar in form to the monsters from the previous planet. Humanoid. You shiver.
“The Wolves are here!” The gatekeeper flaps hairless arms. “And they brought…” He furrows his brow. “…food?”
“Might as well,” the Wolf says with a lolling tongue. “Since I can’t return to my ship.”
The gate clangs shut, displaying a snarling wolf carved on the inside. Terror slams through you. You are not prey! The Wolf will not show mercy. Do the settlers worship Wolves? Will they follow his lead, or can they be reasoned with?
“But the Beacon!” you shout to the settlers, desperate to stall.
“Yes, we lit it as instructed when the water purifier broke. See?” The person leads you to a large machine—a water desalinator.
The Wolf crowds behind you, flashing teeth. “No need to worry about that now.”
“We’re supposed to help you.” You stamp, whirling to face the Wolf. “At least let me try to fix it.”
“You can fix it? The Wolves always fix things.” Surprise fills the settlers’ faces.
“I can.” You glare at the Wolf as he slinks away toward the larger group.
“We’ll give you until evening,” the settlers agree.
Your blood rushes in your ears. At least it’s still inside. You crouch by the machine, pulling off the side panel. The nearby marsh must be fed by a freshwater source, given its smell. Even if not, there are other ways of getting salt out of water for the people. You don’t care, not really. Not while trapped inside a fence with creatures looking at you like dinner.
The collection basin of the desalinator is rusted, with a gaping hole. You have no metal to replace it. Tears well up. You’ll be slaughtered and eaten.
A wire catches your eye. You grab the Matt and peer inside the case. Dusk is settling, but the sun has dried it. If you can splice a new wire, the desalinator could power the Matt. You don’t have to be dinner. A rock enables you to pluck the power cable out from the Matt and peel back the casing.
“Time’s up: the people are hungry,” the Wolf says.
You hunch over, pulling back the coating of the desalinator’s power cable. With the rock, you mash the new wire with the old to splice it.
The Wolf’s paw lands on your shoulder. “What are you…”
“Not such a stupid Cow.” You keep the Matt away from him. “I’m going home.”
“Let’s go then!” The Wolf’s eyes gleam.
“You were going to let them eat me!”
“Come on, Cow, it was just a joke.” He shrugs with a friendly smile and wagging tail.
You narrow your eyes. “Fine. I have a joke of my own.”
As he opens his mouth, you press the button, Matt’ing safely back up to the ship.