This week I self-edited my flash piece, HOMECOMING, and wow, I struggled with getting the opening just how I wanted it. And I'm still not entirely sure I am fully on board. Usually, this type of editing is already done through my drafting process (which is explained in the Challenges of Week 1), so it was difficult to get my thoughts back into the moment I was trying to capture in my first draft.
I was fortunate to receive some encouragement from the community in that I'd captured the hopeful energy I felt while writing this piece. Thank you, mclarkua, @tmnstories, & @StephWhitaker80 for your comments. I hope *fingers-crossed* I've been able to keep that in Draft 2.
Next week for Draft 3, I will incorporate the feedback from CP's (critique partners), so stay tuned for that revision later next week.
HOMECOMING Draft Two (self-edit)
The radio crackles, speakers buzzing to life for the first time in over eighty-six days. I sit bolt-upright, my breath catching in my throat, and I reach for the dial to hone in on the interference.
We’d given up hope.
Well, at least most of us had when the resupply mission didn’t return from the south. But not me. Winter isn't here yet.
The radio static fades and I fiddle with the dial a moment longer, unwilling to believe the sudden activity is nothing more than interference. It can’t be a coincidence.
For those who remain in the community, the away-team is considered lost to the wreckage of our old society. They’d held funerals. People mourned the loss of the eighteen lives and then moved on. They said I had to, for my own sanity in this brutal new world we live in, but I can't. I just can’t believe that Dale is lost out there. He can’t be. Not my stubborn-as-hell Dale.
Ever since our forced relocation, a small group of us man the radio in case of this exact situation. Most others from camp tell us its a waste of time, but to those of us sitting with the radio in our off hours, not willing to believe that all eighteen of our best people perished out in the ruined world, it's worth whatever time we can spare.
The radio crackles and dies before I can even try and catch the signal.
My heart races. There’s no such thing as coincidence. Not here. It has to mean that someone, somehow survived, made the long journey back to our old camp out in the Yukon wilderness, found the note in our overrun base, and made it into transmission range of our new camp in Whitehorse.
It was the longest of shots, but it wasn't impossible.
The radio crackles again, this time four letters make it through the airwaves.
The radio buzzes and despite my desperate tuning I am unable to get the voice back. It is them. It has to be. To use the letter designation for the military detachment they’d come from had to mean it was them. Right?
I press the button on the mic and use the code word for the team. “Grey Squirrel, is that you? Over.”
I release the button and wait for a response.
The radio crackles again and a few broken syllables make it through. “CF…ba-…-doned …”
Static fills the air, then silence.
After a long moment, I depress the button again. “Grey Squirrel, you’re breaking up, say again, over.”
I release the button and listen in anticipation.
When the radio crackles again, the voice comes back mostly clear. “We are in a helicopter.” Static. “…low on fuel…” More static. “Grey Squirrel coming home if we can fin...” A final burst of static. “Just on the outskirts of WH. Over.”
My heart leaps in my chest. I recognize the voice. “Dale? Is that you? Over.”
“Yes… no time…need location… fumes. Over.”
“I have to go to the roof.” I shout into the mic. “Look for a flare. I’ll be waiting, on the roof of the white building near the river.”
The mic falls over in my rush to push back my chair, which squeals on the linoleum floor. My fingers fumble in the flare box on the highest shelf above the station. My fingers close around a slender stick and I’m grateful we aren’t out of these too.
Another burst of static. “Less than five min… Over.”
I’d been rushing out of the room, but I stop and turn back to relay a quick final message. “I’m on my way to the roof. No one manning radio. Look for visual confirmation of location in two. Over and out.”
The mic wobbles when I set it down, and I’m out of the room before it settles. Unable to contain my excitement, I jog down the corridor and slam my fist against the door to Sarah’s room. She’ll want to be awake for this. She hasn’t seen her husband since before the birth of their son, and she’ll want to know he’s safe.
As I jog on, I passively hope I didn’t wake the baby, but the news is too good to let Sarah sleep through it. Once through the living quarters of our warehouse, I break into a sprint. The first rays of sunlight just lightening the sky beyond the row of tall windows. My feet pound on the concrete and I make quick work of running up the three flights of stairs. These stairs have become my daily exercise routine and they can’t slow me down.
Not when Dale is this close.
I burst through the door to the roof and scan the horizon to the south, then to the east. While I can’t see it in the early morning light, the sun just cresting the horizon, I can hear the faint thwomp thwomp thwomp of a distant helicopter. The engine stutters then settles back into rhythm. They must be lower on fuel than I feared. But they’ll make it. They’re so close. And we desperately need the supplies they are hopefully carrying if we’re to make it through the harsh upcoming winter.
Striking the flare, I hold it high over my head, but I don’t feel visible enough. The buildings around me aren’t very tall, but I don’t want them to miss me. I climb up on the pallets stacked against stairwell to stand on the highest point of the building, and holding onto the rusted pole, I lean out and wave the flare widely.
Soon the thwomping reverberations draw near and the helicopter comes into view.
I wave my arm in a wild hello, the bright flare a beacon welcoming them home.
Week 2 Triumphs
Completed my self-edit a few days in advance of the deadline.
Realized the second half of Homecoming was pretty solid in the first draft, so not a lot of it changed.
Week 2 Challenges
The opening!!!!! I must have layered this opening info 10 times before settling on this one. The first 150 words probably took me 3 hours alone.
Present tense. Usually shorts come out for me in present tense (my mss typically are third past), so this one threw me with all its past tense references. I probably still don't have them all ironed out and I'm not even sure if present is correct for this story. Although, I do feel the present helps keep it in scene more so I'll likely stay with it.
<<Week One: First Draft Week Three: Peer Edits (Coming Soon)>>
About C.M. Fick
C.M. Fick is a writer from British Colombia, Canada. She's recently finished her 6th ms titled #GreenDeath, launched QueryConnection (a forum for querying writers to workshop their query letters), and is also a co-host and admin for the Twitter event #Write4Life.
When she's not writing, managing forum business, or networking with other writers, she's running around after a 5 year old who rules her life.
This is her first Writer-In-Motion.
Some other fun facts:
I have 3 pet rats (Karn, Echo, & Cat)
I didn't have a television until I was 16. My pop culture references suck and most jokes about pop culture go over my head.
My first book was written in 2009
The grey hair is natural (I left this in b/c so many assume it's dyed)
I had two pet tarantulas back in my early twenties (Freakaziod (pink-toe) & Zombie (zebra))