Writer in Motion, Week 2: Exile (self-edit)

To catch you up, this month I’m taking part in #WriterInMotion, where I write a 1,000-word story and document my revision process. Last week, I posted my first draft, and since then, I’ve done a self-edit on it. As a reminder, here’s the photo prompt again:

Photo of a small cabin in a grassy area with mountains in the background
Photo by Rahul Pandit on Unsplash

If you’ll recall, my first draft was almost 2,000 words, so I had a long way to go to get below 1,000. My revision started with printing it out and making a lot of edits in pen. It’s easier for me to make big cuts that way—character actions that don’t move the story forward, excess description, that sort of thing. After transcribing those changes, I still had about 600 more words to cut. Not a bad start, right?

Things got tougher from there, but I noticed a suggestion on Dan Koboldt’s post about using the Hemingway Editor, which I haven’t visited in a long while. I pasted my draft in there and found a few things that were easy to change—words to omit, places for a stronger verb instead of a verb/adverb combo. But I also had five sentences that were hard to read, and two that were very hard (according to the app, at least). I whittled away for a while longer until, finally, I reached 995 words. (When I pasted it into Word, though, it came in at 957 words, so I can only assume that Hemingway and Word count contractions differently.)

While I think this is a good exercise, I think Hemingway does make the writing sound… well, Hemingway-esque. But it’s an interesting to explore what a story can live without.

Without further ado…


Matt figured Doyle would be skittish once he found him. Now, he’s flat on the ground outside Doyle’s cabin while blaster shots sizzle the air above him.

The shots stop. In the silence that follows, Matt cranes his neck toward the cabin and shouts.

Doyle. It’s me.”

A door creaks open. Heavy footsteps plod through the grass. When Matt looks up, a type B worker bot towers above him. It reaches down and grabs his wrist.

“Come with me. I am not to harm you unless you resist. Please comply.”

“Okay, I’m complying.”

Inside, the rustic little shack is clean, bright even: a bed in the corner, a couch and coffee table. A kitchen runs along the back wall. Steam curls from a pot on the stove. Doyle sits at a small table with two chairs, a bottle and two short glasses in front of him.

“You can let him go now, B.”

Doyle’s grown a beard. Matt likes it, and for a moment he imagines how it would feel against his cheek, or his belly.

“Have a seat.”

Matt sits. Doyle uncaps the bottle and pours. It smells like bourbon. Matt lets it wet his lips but doesn’t drink.

“You’re hard to find,” Matt says.

“You’re not.”


Doyle smirks. He downs his drink, pours another. “You rented that flyer three days ago. Arrived planetside five days prior. Traveled to each major city before finally meeting someone who said they knew me. Spent two months on Azati before that. Should I continue?”

“I was there, thanks.”

“Why are you here, now? I thought you didn’t want anything to do with me.”

Matt looks down. He’s rehearsed all the different ways he could explain himself, why he should get another chance. He can’t remember a single damn one of them.

Something smells acrid. He looks up.

“Your dinner’s burning.”

The pot is bubbling over. Cursing, Doyle lurches to his feet. That’s when Matt notices his left hand—or rather, its absence.

“Doyle.” Matt moves toward him, only to find Doyle’s right hand at his neck. Matt tries not to blink. He’s seen what Doyle’s hands can do.

“Don’t move up like that on a man like me.”

“Sorry.” Matt tries to swallow. “For everything. I’m sorry.”

The hard set of Doyle’s mouth doesn’t change—but the eyes, they tell a different story. Doyle lets him go and turns back to the stove.

“You hungry? There’s plenty.”

“No, I’m—what happened to your hand?”

“It’s over there.” He cocks his head toward the bed. “I fell a couple months ago. Hasn’t worked right since. I’d get it fixed, but there aren’t a lot of techs around here.”

“Doyle,” Matt says, “what are you doing here?”

“Other than falling apart? Not much.”

He puts two bowls on the table, grabs two spoons, and they both sit. Matt eats a little—it’s gamey, a layer of grease floating on top—before setting his spoon down.

“I don’t see why my reaction would turn you into a hermit on this nowhere planet.”

Doyle drops his spoon in the bowl with a splat. “You think all this is about you? Because you reacted badly? Because I’m half machine from a parallel universe and you have the same face as my ex-husband?” He waits long enough for the silence to get uncomfortable. “You’d think the universe would be big enough, right? That I wouldn’t run into anyone who looks like someone I knew or cared about from my universe. But it kept happening, like I was some kind of magnet drawing them to me. I got sick of seeing ghosts everywhere. So don’t criticize my choices. D-don’t. D—”

Doyle’s head twitches, his eyes glaze, and his arm thumps the table. Electricity arcs around his forearm. Soon, all of him is twitching as he collapses to the floor.

Matt resists the urge to hold Doyle still and stop the seizure. He turns toward the couch.

“Bot, activate!” He’s not even sure it will respond to his voice commands, so it’s a relief when its eyes light up.

“Ready to receive—oh.” It looks toward its owner, convulsing on the floor, and moves toward him. It stands motionless over him for one, two seconds, then bends over and grasps Doyle’s forearm. The electrical current and Doyle’s convulsions stop, like flipping a switch. The bot lifts Doyle from the floor and carries him to the bed.

“Has this happened before?” Matt asks.

“It appears to be the same malfunction that occurred approximately one month ago.”

“Can you repair him?”

“Repairing cybernetic implants is not part of my program.”

“B’s aren’t supposed to be able to talk, either, but apparently your program’s been augmented.”

“Correct. I am still unable to repair him.”

Matt gets up. “I have a flyer about a mile from here. We can take him—”

“Mister Doyle does not wish to leave this place.”

“Did he command you to make sure he stayed here?”

The bot looks up. “Negative.”

“What’s your command protocol?”

“I am to look after Mister Doyle.”

“Are his injuries life threatening?”

“Probability of fatal outcome is seventy-four point two percent.”

“Is letting him die looking after him?”

The bot looks at Matt, then back at Doyle. If Doyle were conscious, Matt is almost certain he would order the bot to leave him there.

The bot leans over the bed and picks up Doyle again. “There is a technician in Callanish. I will carry Mister Doyle to your flyer.”

Matt follows the bot to the door. “If he wakes up before we get there, he might want you to bring him back here.”

“The likelihood of that is ninety-nine percent,” the bot says. “We should move quickly.”