This is it, guys – the final draft! I can’t believe we’re here at Week 6 already. Last week, I posted Draft 3, edited with the help of my amazing Critique Partners. I was pretty satisfied with it and couldn’t think of any other way to improve it, so that meant it was ripe and ready for the editor treatment with the magical Jeni Chappelle!
True to her nature, Jeni took one look and knew exactly what Joan needed. This is why having pro editor eyes on your work is such a huge boost to the revision process. They’re able to pick out things you and even your CPs may have overlooked, suggest ways to tighten your story, and get your gears cranking again with new ideas.
Lucky to have benefited from Jeni’s expertise, I’m excited to share with you exactly how editor feedback evolved my story! Let’s take a look at what she had to say about my CP Edit.
The Editor Feedback
Processing the Feedback
So to sum things up, Jeni liked the story overall but highlighted two main issues:
- Inconsistent narrative voice. “Sometimes it has a classic, timeless feel, and other times it feels like a quirky modern teenager.”
- Flippant phrases. Word choices like “screaming of tetanus”, “cheap IKEA lamp”, “roasting”, and “Old Tetanus” breach the tone of the story.
Thankfully nothing too catastrophic, but wouldn’t you know it, she was spot on! These issues were clearly related and could even be approached as one.
Tackling the Feedback
Although it was fun while it lasted, I had to admit the quirky humor just didn’t belong here. Not with the path I planned to take. So to address her comments, here’s what I did:
- Inconsistent narrative voice
There were a couple of ways to fix this problem. I could either scrub the story to inject a more consistently modern or snarky tone (at least until her flashback montage moment), or to take “modern” back a few notches so the “classical” voice doesn’t feel out of place.
Since I preferred the classical tone for this piece and felt it would work for an earlier time period than the present, I went with the latter. To pull it off, I made it clear Joan would be going back to 1429 – the year she asked the Dauphin for his army. Next, I hinted that 1429 was 400 years in the past, putting our modern-day Joan in the 1830’s. Finally, I replaced the modern-day references with more appropriate 19th century ones, which leads us to…
- Flippant phrases
As much as it pained me to get rid of Old Tetanus and Joan’s cheap IKEA lamp, I had to do it! I had to kill my darlings! Waahhhh! But as my CP Paulette said, “Old Tetanus had a good run.” And so I tried to make up for it with…you’ll see.
- Miscellaneous edits
Lastly, I shuffled things around and changed some words, because I just couldn’t make it through an edit round without doing stuff like that. Also, after dwelling on it a little, I decided to change “Master” back to her parents. Having to give up family, along with a decent life, drove in just how difficult it must’ve been for Joan to leave everything behind for the sake of her faith. It underscored the sacrifices she made in the name of God, and who was I to take any of that away from her? Joan’s undying faith, selflessness, and badass courage were what earned her sainthood after all.
And there we have it, folks! After applying those final edits, Joan’s ready for her Independence Day parade. Here she is for one last time at 1016 words.
The Final Editor Draft
He came to me on a midnight clear. An old man in a broken boat, rusted and bitten by the sea. There was something odd about him—the way he seemed to light up from within, the way he floated across the splintered hull. Otherworldly. As if he’d come from another time and place. His crimson cloak fluttered in the salty breeze as he approached, silent like the moon, bare feet soft on the sand.
“Bonjour,” he said with perfect inflection.
I scanned the New England shores for late-night stragglers, but all was still as stones. Never was a thing there when you needed it most. With quickening pulse, I raised my oil lamp up at him. It was midnight on a deserted beach, and I had nothing but a Jane Austen novel for defense. Father and Mum were snug in their Holiday Lettings bed, a sand dune away, too far to hear me scream. My fingers knew but one thing to do. They flew to clutch the crucifix at my throat, reaching for the Lord to keep me aground.
Fear besieges not the faithful, for through Him I am protected.
I replied a hasty “bonjour”, silently praying he wouldn’t carry on. French was a rarity found only in Father’s library, and a few more phrases would’ve exhausted my repertoire. He didn’t, thank God. Instead, he stood staring at me with bottomless eyes, raising the hairs on my skin. I didn’t know this man. Yet somehow, I recognized him.
“You must go back, Joan,” he said, his deep voice resonant with the waves.
I blinked at his peculiar accent, his familiar tone of address. “How’d you know my name?”
His smile pierced the dark. “Ah, mon coeur, you have always been Joan.”
Snapping the book shut, I stumbled to my feet, bare toes gripping the cool sand grains. I lifted my face to the lamp’s flickering light and frowned. “Go back where?”
“Là où tout a commencé,” he said. “To 1429, where it all begins.”
My heart lurched as he reached a hand inside his cloak. He drew out a glowing sword, the silver of its blade so fluid, it lit up the night like twelve moons. Powerful grey wings burst forth from beneath heavy folds as he pointed the sword’s tip at me, crumpling me down to my knees.
And in that instant, I was bestowed with knowledge. Divine remembrance.
Centuries reeled before my eyes like credits at a movie’s end. All the lives of my past. A thousand strings of cause and effect. And in every one, I was Joan. Jehanne d’Arc. A poor farmer’s daughter called to march an army to victory. An innocent damned to rot in cells until the end of my days.
But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. For if it was, the angel called Michael wouldn’t be here, summoning me to launch yet another thread of life from four hundred years in the past.
“Once more, you shall convince the Dauphin of France to grant you his army,” Michael said. “You shall liberate the city of Orlèans, chase the English from the Loire valley, and deliver Reims so that Charles may be crowned king.” He knelt in front of me and seized my shoulder. “But this time, when they capture you at Compiègne, you must not recant. You must burn in martyrdom and light France’s flames into victory. For without France, the new nation cannot rise.”
I sank to the sand beneath the toll of his proclamation.
Yet how many more times must I relive death, my Lord? Yet how many more times must I wield the banner of war, watch the massacre of innocents, condone the tortures of men?
Tremors rippled down my spine. “And by what sin must I burn?”
“Man will find reason to suit their agenda,” Michael said gently. “When they cannot charge you for heresy, so shall they settle for the donning of men’s clothes.”
My mind spun at the injustice. To die as a woman shamed for improper dress—that was to be my fate!
Michael released me and stood to sheath his sword, fixing me with pity in his onyx gaze.
“One day, your sacrifice shall be a copper torch at the new nation’s golden shores,” he soothed. “A beacon to steer the lost and the homeless, igniting hope in the wretched poor who yearn to breathe free.”
But his words were an enigma, filling my heart with the bitterness of doubt. How many strings of cause would it take to conjure such a place on this suffering earth? For even I, though blessed at birth, was far from free.
“Will this time even matter?” I dared to whisper. “Or will it all be in vain, like the thousand times before?”
“God does nothing in vain, dear Joan. Lose not your faith.”
Shame washed over me like the sea as I clenched the book in my fist and swallowed doubt down my throat. Who was I to question His design? The answers were not for me to know. I was but the hand to do God’s will. I released my breath until the last drop depleted from my lungs. And unto Him, I lifted my soul.
“Then let His will be mine.”
The angel folded his wings and vanished into heaven’s stars, leaving me alone with the boat that would take me back through time to the banks of the River Vienne. I stared at the black waters crashing against its weathered hull. The perfect vessel upon which to ruminate my impending demise at the stake. The battered ark to which my name would forever be tied.
I laid my book upon the sand and set my lamp atop its cover. I could not take these items where I was going. I could take nothing but my faith and conviction. But perhaps one day, I too could escape to those golden shores. To live free at last beyond nineteen.
If God so wills it.
Until then, I shan’t be afraid. I am Jehanne d’Arc. I was born to do this.
Thank you for following along with me on this prompt-to-polished journey! I hope you enjoyed Joan‘s evolution as much as I did, and maybe even took a little something away from peeking into my process as well. As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned as I wrap up this Writer-in-Motion project with some final thoughts next week!