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EDITING EXAMPLES 2018
From time to time, I show examples of how I edit. This time, the examples will be more complex - and harder to read - as I plan to include deletions as well as additions. Also, I am using an example that required a lot more revision than I usually have to do. The idea is to demonstrate that although some editing is easy—a word or two here and there— sometimes it's necessary to add or delete entire sections of text.
No one ever said editing was easy!
Theoretically, it should be possible to follow the sense of the story by skipping everything in red (deletions), but I don't offer these examples for the story content - only as examples of the work involved in editing. Editing is demanding. Editing requires thought. And effort. You can't skim through using that old derogatory musicians' expression: "It's good enough for jazz." Your work has to be right. The best you can make it. Do not shirk the editing end of writing.
Yes, it's great if you have a friend who is a whiz in English and willing to read your book. But . . . does that friend have a feel for what makes or breaks a manuscript? Will that friend tell you the truth? Your other alternative to Do-It-Yourself is to hire a professional editor. (And NOT just a copy editor! It is the height of arrogance to think your work only needs proofreading for typos and slips of grammar.)
The two examples below are excerpts from Royal Rebellion, Book 4 of my Blue Moon Rising series. They are "first edits"; i.e., edits I made the first time I read through those particular chapters. If you recall the order of edits in my post of 1/13/18, these passages will be edited at least twice more before I declare them good enough for public display.
The first example below is from a chapter written on not one of my better days, and therefore heavily revised in editing. Which brings me to another bit of advice (if more for writing than editing): if you're suffering brain freeze or simply aren't at your best, keep going. You can always—as I did—fix it later. But if you give up, the next day it's so easy to say, "I'm still not ready, I have no idea . . ." The day after that, the same. And suddenly three weeks, a month, five months have gone by, and you haven't written a word. And then - WOW! - it's truly hard to find your way back. So no matter what, keep going, bull your way through it; then print it out, sharpen your pencils, get out a legal pad & pens for inserts, and tear that first draft to pieces. Make it say what you wanted it to say (but didn't) the first time around. (And yes, I'm advocating my "hardcopy" approach to editing. At least it works for me. I can simply "see" what's wrong better when I'm looking at a printed page.)
Color code for the excerpts below:
Original - black
Additions - blue
Deletions - red
King Ryal’s study, Crystalia
“Your Excellency.” Rogan Kamal executed the same stiff bow he gave the Emperor, his brother-in-law.
“Your Majesty,” Ryal corrected.
Rogan Kamal appreciated the king’s point. Ryal did not care to be addressed in the same manner as the Emperor Darroch. yet this meeting was so unprecedented, each man found himself regarding the other with an undercurrent of wry humor. At the same time he recognized an undercurrent of wry humor in Ryal’s demeanor. Evidently, Psyclid’s king, like himself, found their meeting so unprecedented that only a strong streak of pragmatism and a dash of amused irony would see them through.
“Sit, sit,” Ryal said, waving his guest toward two comfortable seats away from the formality of his desk. “Tell me, to what do I owe the honor of this visit? I would have thought you’d be half way to the spaceport by now.”
The Chief of Regulon National Security allowed a self-deprecating look to pass over his face. Having humbled myself before my son, I am here to do the same before Psyclid's king.
“How could I not request such a meeting, Majesty?” Rogan returned, his tone diplomatic perfection. “In some convoluted fashion, we seem to have become family. Admittedly, I cannot find the correct word for the relationship, but there must be some term for it. My son has, after all, married the mother of your only son.” Kamal paused, eyes gleaming, before adding helpfully, “‘Lover-in-law’—perhaps that fits.”
Ryal, resting his chin on the knuckles of his right hand, studied his opponent, a spark of appreciation lighting his azure eyes. “You are everything I’ve been told. And more. No wonder Darroch’s managed to cling to the throne for so long.”
The two men exchanged a look of mutual respect, tinged with regret by the inevitability of remaining enemies.
Dismissing the moment, the Chief of Regulon National Security got down to business. “I would not be doing my duty if I did not inquire about the prisoners you hold. All loyal citizens of Regula Prime. In which group,” he added with open chagrin, “I am sorry to say, I can no longer include my son.”
After a brief silence to indicate his sympathy, father to father, Ryal said, “I assure you the prisoners are comfortably housed and well fed.”
“I should like to see them.”
“Ah.” Ryal considered the possibilities. "On general principles, Tal would not like it. “I am certain you are aware that Psyclid’s sympathies are with the rebels. And I fear they would not approve. The prisoners would be heartened by a visit from Rogan Kamal, which could inspire mischief. A message might be passed . . . Ryal offered an infinitesimal shrug. “Or were you considering ransom or an exchange? Ryal inquired smoothly. Our treasury would certainly benefit from not having to house and feed so many Regs. Your son’s crew, in particular, eats like a host of grizzoids.”
“I would commend their loyalty,” Rogan snapped, adding on something close to a growl, “Sir.”
King Ryal eyed his guest. “I regret matters did not go well with your son. Be assured, however, that we treasure his presence. And that of all the men who followed him into the rebel cause. The Empire is known for how well it trains its troops, and we are honored to have them.”
Rogan’s newfound respect for Psyclids rose another notch. Evidently, intelligence and courage started at the top, even if this odd king of an odd people was a staunch pacificist. “The visit?” he urged. “May I see them?”
Ryal rang for an equerry. “Lord Kamal has my permission to visit the Reg prisoners. See that he has the proper escort. After that,” the king added in measured tones, “he will go directly to the spaceport, where he will return to Titan without hindrance.” Ryal, exchanging a look with the equerry, emphasized the last few words. Ryal rose, held out his hand. “Lord Kamal, I wish you safe journey. I truly regret the uneasy relations between Psyclid and Regula Prime.”
~ * ~
Edits from a chapter needing a more normal amount of editing:
Dagg Lassan, captain of the armed merchant ship Pegasus, barreled his way into Tal Rigel’s office, slumping into the chair in front of the desk. Scowling at the booted feet stretched out in front of him, he declared, “If he was not such a valuable weapon, I swear I’d kill him.”
Tal needed no explanation; he’d frequently felt the same way himself. K’kadi could be a problem. Hoping to cajole his long-time friend out of his fit of temper, he ventured, “Not ready to be a grandfather, Dagg?”
Dagg’s snarl sounded more like one of T’kal’s pack than the former owner of a vast Turan merchant fleet.
“I beg your pardon,” Tal returned. “What can I do for you, Dagg?”
“Nothing,” Dagg the merchant captain muttered, his gaze still fixed on his boots. “But some on Blue Moon . . .?” Dagg’s fist hit the desktop with a resounding thump. “Fyddit, Tal, they seem to think I should be rejoicing because my daughter is about to bear the grandson of a king. A great honor, I’m told. Well, fyd them!”
Tal, head down, examined the shining top of the desk that had once belonged to King Ryal. “A good case can be made for Ryal keeping it in his pants, but then we would have only Kass and M’lani and not the very special gifts of B’aela and K’kadi. T’kal would not have a wife and twins—remarkable twins. And Talora would not have been called upon to give love to a struggling young man who very much needed her.”
“You were there, Dagg. You saw what happened. Nekator wanted to seal our alliance by marrying Anneli. When I found a way around that, he asked for B’aela and then Talora. Which of course I could not allow appalled them both. So there we were, our alliance with the Hercs teetering on the brink when K’kadi stepped forward and said he'd offered to marry Alala. Yes, he did it to save his mother and the alliance. He was also saving Talora.” Tal emphasized his last words, willing Dagg to look him in the eye.
Instead, Dagg’s head dipped lower. “Guess that’s why I came. I needed to hear you say that. But it hurts, Tal. It hurts.”
Tal regarded his long-time supporter with considerable sympathy. “It was unrealistic for any of us to think K’kadi would give Talora up just because he got married. Beneath that child-like façade, he’s a royal to the core. Like father, like son.”
When Dagg didn’t respond, Tal asked attempted to change the subject. “Do you like your new house?”
The merchant captain straightened and for the first time looked directly at Tal. “Forgive me, but that’s what set me off. All that magnificence for a merchant and his family? Blood money, Tal. The king’s bastard’s mistress suitably housed before adding yet another bastard to the royal line.”
“Sorry,” Tal muttered, “it wasn’t meant that way. Fyddit, Dagg”—Tal huffed a sigh—“you’ve been with me almost since the beginning. You’re not only a friend, but one of my most reliable captains and advisors—”
“Alek Rybolt captains a battlecruiser and he lives in two rooms in the palace,” Dagg returned in a lethal monotone that gradually grew in volume and intensity. “Dorn Jorkan and Gregor Merkanov captain hunterships but live in modest apartments. While Dagg Lassan, merchant captain, wallows in luxury in a brand new house in the country!”
Tal flipped up his hands, palms out. “Very well, it’s true. You’re about to become family. But you, Shaye, Talora, Romy, and Peter have more than earned a house big enough for your family. Kass and I were pleased to provide it. We even had T’kal send a team from Psyclid to augment our busy builders on Blue Moon.”
“Forgive an old man his petulance,” Dagg growled. “I assure you my family is overjoyed. Shaye would likely slit my throat if she knew I was complaining.”
“Sir, I beg your pardon.” Jor Sagan, Tal’s aide, stood in the doorway. “Urgent news, Captain. I don’t think it should wait.” Tal waved him in. “I had the communication reconfirmed, sir, before bothering you.”
Personal problems fell away. “Urgent news” was enough to capture the attention of both men at the desk, but at Sagan’s last words their focus sharpened to even greater intensity full alert.
“Rogan Kamal just landed in Crystal City.”
“Impossible!” Dagg barked. “They’d skin him alive.”
“Psyclid is no longer at war with Regular Prime,” Tal said evenly, although his surprise was equally great. “Is he alone?”
“His aide and a bodyguard, sir. That’s all.”
Tal’s fingers tapped on the desktop as he mused, his voice soft and speculative, “He wants his son back so badly he’s willing to walk into the jaws of the dragon.”
“What about his grandchildren?” Dagg asked.
“Oh, he wants them back, but it’s Rand he’s come for. You have to give the man credit. He’s figured out where we are—or close to it. And he’s trailing himself out as bait.”
Dagg heaved a sigh. “And you want me gone while you figure it out.” Don’t worry about me the Lassans,” he added as he stood up. “I’ve said my piece, and the Lassans we will now enjoy their our fine new home. Please extend my thanks to your wife.” And with that, Dagg Lassan stopped fighting fate and left S’sorrokan to cope with the latest challenge to the rebellion.
Tal and Jor Sagan exchanged a long look. “Send for Kamal.”
“Sir, you’re not . . . I beg your pardon.” Sagan stood at stiff attention, his gaze focused over Tal’s shoulder.
“You think father and son shouldn’t meet? That we should simply throw the head of Regulon National Security in with the rest of our prisoners and continue on as if nothing had happened?”
“No, sir, sorry, sir. It’s just that it’s almost like the Emperor decided to pay us a visit. I mean, Rogan Kamal is Darroch’s brother-in-law! One of our worst enemies. Look what he did to his own grandchildren.”
"A puzzle," Tal agreed. "And one “You think I should turn him loose in the woods with T’kal and his pack at his heels.”
Jor Sagan grimaced. “Something like that, sir.”
“You could be right—but I’ve lived among the Psys too long. Black and white long since turned to an astonishing number of shades of gray. Making this a puzzle I need help solving. So go! I want Rand here now.”
Jor snapped a salute and left the room at a jog.
After the office door shut behind him, Tal plunged his head into his hands, and groaned.
~ * ~
I was typing the final copies of my mother's children's books by the time I was a freshman in high school. She wrote on an old manual typewriter on cheap yellow pulp paper, and I swear she only wrote in or crossed out maybe one word every two or three pages. Sigh. As for myself, for a long time it never occurred to me we could have two authors in the family. And when I finally tried it—when my children were little—I discovered I didn't write that way. There were just too many things I wanted to change or add when I read my manuscript, and retyping a 90,000-word book? (Likely more than once.) Forgetaboutit!
And then, lo and behold—as I've mentioned in previous posts—in 1981 I saw my first word processing machine. And fell in love. I mostly had to use it for professional typing jobs in order to pay for the darn thing, but circa 1992-3, I finally got around to doing some serious writing, although it was late 1999 before I was published. (There was no way I could write to Harlequin/Silhouette formula, which was how most romance authors got started in those days.)
My big advantage, I admit, was that I was an expert manuscript typist and, by the early 1990s, had been both editing and typesetting for the educational publishing company my husband and I owned for twenty years. When he had a stroke and I became a stay-at-home caregiver, I had a lot of inside knowledge garnered from my mother's close-to-50 children's books and the books our company had published, including the first Black History textbook aimed at middle school & high school.
But, believe me, almost anyone can learn to read their own work with a discerning eye. It's a matter of discipline. Instead of getting lost in the magnificence of your prose, you have to read critically. You have to notice what you didn't say. Did you leave a motive in your head? Do you have a character who popped into a scene without identification? Do you have so many characters in a scene that they trip over each other? Do you leap from sub-plot to sub-plot, plunging your readers into total confusion? Or maybe what you wrote is just plain boring; i.e., nothing is happening. (And on and on - there are a myriad questions, a myriad solutions.)
So print it, read it, get your characters and plots straight before you move on. For me, that's the only way to build from one chapter to the next. (As previously mentioned, if you can edit well on screen, fine, but perhaps you should experiment with both methods, just to be sure. (The new generation - today's teens - are growing up with "on screen" just about all they know, but most of us, even twenty-somethings, were raised on the printed page.)
That's it for this week. Hopefully, I've driven home one more nail in my efforts to get people to "Edit the Blasted Book"!
~ * ~
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