• Cheyanne Lepka

Writer In Motion: Zero Draft!

So announcement!

I know I've been gone a long time--I'll have a post about that coming soon, but for now, as I'm dipping my toes back into the writing game, I wanted to share that I'm participating in Writer In Motion this year!


The whole point of Writer in Motion is to show the process of writing a short story, from start to finish and week by week! We're all provided with a prompt, and then have to write a short story under 1000 words long. This week is where I share my zero draft with y'all (Yeah I'm calling it a zero draft, because other than a quick read-through for spelling errors, I haven't edited it). And if you know me... you know I don't like sharing unedited work haha. But next week will be the self-edited draft. The week after will be after being shared with critique partners and the final week will be after working with a professional editor on it!


Prompt:


A person in a black hoodie covers their face with their hand. Smoke billows around their head and through their fingers.
Photo by Jaroslav Devia at Unsplash

Honestly, I love this image, it just brings so many things to mind. But it mostly made me think of my breathing exercises to help with my OCD, and uh, how sometimes it feels less like they're helping and more like I'm drawing attention to myself. They work in the end, but it can feel like I'm drawing a ton of attention to myself. So that's what I decided to write about.


As for my process? Well, I'm a pantser to the core. I just sat down and this is what came out. The real fun will come when I start working out how I'm going to revise it to make the themes that I put in really shine. Anyway, here's my zero draft, coming in at 1082 words (it's supposed to be under 1000!) and with very little editing!


OCD story:


Ari flicks the lock once. Two times. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven times.

The door’s locked. With a sigh of relief, Ari slings their bag up over their shoulder. The sun has already been beating down on the street for hours, and the heat radiating off the sidewalk blocks is already suffocating. The acrid stench of the nearby dumpster wafts over them, and they hurry down the street away from the unbearable perfume.

They check their watch. 11:02. Five minutes till the bus comes, and their walk will take seven. Swearing at themself, they burst into a run. They can make it. It’s possible, but they’ll have to be quick.

The street is too busy to allow for more than a brisk pace. All the usual people are out and about. The baker is on his step, puffing on his usual mid-morning cigar. There’s that yappy dog that always nips at their heels. Dodging just out the grasp of its jaws, they almost bowl over the guy who works at A New Page, the local bookstore. He’s cute, but is never more than passingly pleasant to them. With hurried apologies, they keep running to the bus stop. Though, admittedly it’s more a brisk walk than a jog. If they can just get to the corner, the driver will see them and wait.

Just the corner. That’s all. But only 10 feet from the corner, the bus drives by. They burst out into a sprint, shoving their way through the people. It’s no use—the bus is already a block away. Too slow.

Shit.

They stop beside the bus bench and catch their breath, trying to dislodge the stitch in their side. They pull their phone out. Another quick apology text that they’re going to be late. No big deal. It’s no big deal. They take a deep breath and then let it out long and slow. But smoke billows out of their mouth, gathering in a cloud around their face. Again. It’ll be fine. Mads won’t be angry.

When they make it to the restaurant, Mads is already there, sipping casually on what looks like a coke, but Ari knows there’s something just a bit stronger in it.

“Sorry,” Ari says as they sit.

Mads raises an eyebrow. “What happened this time?”

“Just lost track of time. You know.” But Ari’s already looking at the utensils in front of them, not really paying attention to the annoyance on Mads’ face.

“Seems to happen a lot,” Mads says, but then she just takes another sip of her drink. “You know what you want?”

Ari looks up and then takes a deep breath, letting it out with another puff of smoke. Mads is too polite to say anything about it.

“Give me a minute.” They look quickly over the menu.

Nothing looks appealing. Everything just sounds… off. That’s the day though. Off. Everything is off. Without much of a second thought, Ari nods and then returns to their cutlery.

The utensils are speckled with water spots. Nothing outwardly dirty, but the voice is there in their mind all the same—contaminated. Wiping their sweaty palms on their pants, they just try to take a deep breath. Deep breath. Let it out slow. But it billows like smoke around their head again. Mads still says nothing about it.

When the waiter comes by and takes their order, Ari goes to ask for new utensils, but they know that look on Mads’ face. She knows what they’re about to do. They fall silent and change their order. Chicken fingers and fries. Easy to eat. Finger food. No cutlery necessary. It can just stay on the table.

After their meal, Mads drives Ari back to their house. Ari is sure that Mads knows something's wrong. But she doesn’t say anything.

“Come in and watch a movie?” Ari asks hopefully.

Mads nods and waits for Ari to open the door. And when it swings open, Mads doesn’t even wait by the door, she just shucks her shoes and heads into the kitchen. Ari waits until they’re sure that Mads is distracted going through the fridge, and then they start.

One. Two. Three.

“Hey… this is like empty. Where the heck is your food?”

Ari’s breath catches. Before answering, they draw in a deep breath and let it out slow. More smoke, rising through the air. “We just ate?” Ari finally says.

“Yeah, but don’t you have snacks.”

“No. Sorry.”

Ari starts again.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

“Nothing? Seriously?” The sound of cupboards opening. Ari’s hands shake. They have to get the door locked. Come on Mads. Stop interrupting.

One. Two.

“We should go to the store. You need something more than this in your cupboards.” Mads stands in the doorway to the kitchen, looking out at Ari. “What are you doing?”

“Oh. Just making sure it’s locked.” Ari swallows hard, their breath is shallow now. More smoke clusters around their head. It’s not dissipating this time though. Soon Mads won’t be able to ignore it, to pretend it’s not their. She’s gonna ask Ari what’s going on. They won’t be able to hide it any longer.

One. Two. Three.

“Ari?” Mads puts a hand on their shoulder. “What are you doing?”

“Just locking the door.” Ari’s hand tenses against the deadbolt. “Please. Just. Give me a minute to do it.”

Mads’ hand falls off their shoulder, and she mumbles, “Okay.”

One flick of the lock. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.

Ari waits. But it’s wrong. It’s not right. The door isn’t locked.

Again. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.

They let out a long breath, before turning back to meet Mads’ eyes. The smoke is almost everywhere in the entryway. Billowing around them. It’s everywhere. The look on Mads’ face isn’t what Ari expected though. Instead of annoyance, or anger. There’s… concern.

“Still doing that, eh?” Finally, Mads says, and then she shrugs. “Come on. Let’s go relax. The door’s locked now. The smoke still floats around Mads’ head, but she doesn’t seem bothered. It doesn’t affect her at all. It’s like she can’t even see it.

Ari takes a deep breath and releases it slowly, more smoke. But it’s less dense this time. They take another breath and the same thing. More smoke, but easier to see through. Another deep breath. Another exhale of smoke. With each deep breath, the smoke clears. And Ari finally lets out a sigh of relief. The smoke is clearing.




Anyway! Thanks for tuning in! I can't wait to show y'all what I do with the story next! Until next week (and by next week I mean this Friday... since I am late with this post! lol).

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Writer in Motion: Self-edit

HELLO AGAIN. Wow, I'm actually not super late with posting this! Anyway, here's my self-edited version. In terms of process, normally I would have let it sit for more than a few days before going back