The Nitty Gritties of Editing
|White Forest by Azot2014 on deviantart.com|
Del, a supporting character in Monster-Moored, is in the clearing at midnight. The moon turns off. Clouds perhaps. A storm threatens. Yet she can't go yet, there's a strange light.
This post is about editing. Making the scene stronger by untangling clauses to clarify sequencing, rewriting in the active mode and ratcheting up tension.
Notes for page 107
1: In my first version I had:
In the clearing there was enough moon light to see by.
She switched off the torch.
Transposing these sentences, and making the new second one stronger, works to strengthen Del as well. Good sequencing makes a story stronger, so it is said, and I can see it becoming so on this page. The new version reads:
She switched off the torch. There was enough moonlight in the clearing to see by.
2: My awareness of the need for clear paragraphing has obviously grown since I wrote this. The main rule seems to be to start a new paragraph when you start a new subject. I knew that rule already when I wrote the old version but took the passage of time (then/now) as the new/old subjects. The old version:
A pair of small trees stood to one side in front of the log and another grew quite near the well.
Last anniversary they would’ve been saplings, that’d be why she didn’t remember them. The backpack squatted …
In the new version the small trees and the saplings are deemed the same subject, despite the time gap, and the backpack is the new subject. Works much better …
A pair of small trees stood to one side in front of the log and another grew quite near the well. Last anniversary they would’ve been saplings, that’d be why she didn’t remember them.
The backpack squatted …
3: My third big change on this page was to another instance of weak sequencing. The old version:
Del retrieved the bag and the flock-backed cloth – it would make a blanket of sorts come the pre-dawn cold.
In addition to the improvement in sequencing of actions, the new version has Del acting those actions in verbs that can be visualised.
She folded the flock-backed cloth – it would make a blanket of sorts come the pre-dawn cold – and stuffed it into the bag.
4: My last big fix-up on this page was to strengthen the suspense in the last part of the scene. Seems to me I’m always raving on about increasing the suspense in other people’s stories, here’s my chance to concretize that in my own writing practice. The old version:
She turned to go.
The moon was switched off.
She stood in the absolute dark, fumbling for the torch.
There was still the breeze, night time cool, but nothing whatever to see.
No, wait. There was a light.
In the well, in the water, tugging at her gaze.
Why would the water be glowing without the moon giving its light to reflect from the water?
She drifted there, taking hesitant steps in the dark.
Silver streaks curled in and out of one another. Yellow light glinted in between.
The moon switched off.
Had to be clouds passing in front of the moon. But the dark so complete? She fumbled the torch from her pocket.
A breeze, night time cool, stroked her face. Overhead it blustered among the tree canopies. Wind like that was the harbinger of a storm.
A glimmer of light from the well tugged at her gaze.
How could the water be glowing with no moon to reflect its light from the water surface?
She had to know, didn’t she? Taking careful, hesitant steps she made it there without falling.
The stillness in the air was the calm before the storm.
In the water, silver streaks curled in and out of one another. Yellow light glinted in between.
No source that she could see.
All this on one page. With three hundred and some pages, I can see it's going to be a long winter, editing this book. I must have been dreaming thinking it was ready for beta-readers.