Making before into after

Out of all the projects I’m working on right now, editing the novel is by far the most challenging. But it’s also the most fun!

The challenging part boils down to one simple fact: there’s a lot of work to do! I have to correct factual inconsistencies, and I have several since I changed a few things as I worked on the manuscript and now need to update earlier references to match. I tend to write sparse early drafts, so I’m adding more description and sensory details. (Some scenes have plenty of detail, but many do not – yet.) I’m looking at every scene to make sure it forwards the plot and isn’t just something pretty that I like but that doesn’t need to be in the story. I’m evaluating the tension to ensure it doesn’t drop too much in any one place. Sometimes you want the tension to drop a little, but if the reader gets bored – and especially if I get bored with my own writing πŸ™‚ – then that’s too much of a drop. And I have at least one new scene to write to clarify something.

All of this takes a lot of time. I really enjoy this phase, but I go back to work in a week, and I can hear the clock tick tick ticking… I’ll get as much as I can done this week, and hopefully I’ll only have a little left to do.

Here’s an example of the before and after for one particular scene.


Laran sat on a chunk of rock jutting out of the sand. The witch was fiddling with an assortment of things she’d pulled out of a dark blue pack. The selkie sat on a nearby log, staring at the sea and ignoring both Laran and his mistress.


Laran sat on one of the low chunks of black rock that jutted out of the sand. The witch was fiddling with a collection of brightly colored velvet and silk bags she’d drawn from her dark blue pack. The selkie leaned against one of the weather-beaten tree trunks the waves had carried ashore, his arms crossed and his tanned face sullen, staring at the sea and ignoring both his mistress and Laran.

I will likely tweak that paragraph a little before the final draft…I’m itching to fiddle with it right now. πŸ™‚ Why? Because there’s a pattern that’s repeated in all three sentences, and I’d like to add more variability. Here’s what I’m seeing:

  1. Laran sat…
  2. The witch was fiddling…
  3. The selkie leaned

So for three sentences in a row, each sentence starts with “‘character noun’ verb.” (I’m pretty sure there’s a more accurate term than “character noun,” but my mind is blanking on it.)

Aside from the pattern that’s now bothering me like no tomorrow, you can see that there’s a difference between the before and after versions.

Before: Laran is sitting on a chunk of rock.
After: You see there are several chunks of rock, not just the one, and that they’re low. So you know he’s not sitting on a ten-foot tall boulder.

Before: The witch is fiddling with an assortment of things.
After: She’s fiddling with a collection of brightly colored velvet and silk bags. So instead of the reader making up whatever they want to for the ‘assortment of things’ I’ve now specified what that assortment is.

Before: The selkie is sitting on a log, staring at the sea.
After: The selkie is leaning against a weather-beaten tree trunk, and you now know it’s one of many trunks so you can picture multiple trunks scattered around the beach. Instead of merely staring at the sea and ignoring Laran and the witch, he’s staring at the sea and ignoring them, but we also see that his arms are crossed and his face is sullen. And we now know he’s got a tan.

This should give you a feel for what I’ve done to improve the manuscript so far, as well as an example of what I’m working on improving.

I’m really, really happy with where the manuscript is at. It feels much richer and fuller than it did just a week ago. Hooray!

I’m working very hard on the novel, and will keep this up until it’s done. The next step is to run it by a small group of beta readers I’ve got lined up, then I’ll make any needed adjustments and will pass it on to the editor. πŸ™‚

2016-04-26 Dakota Ridge

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