Edit me Thursday #1

This is the first of what I hope to be many Edit me Thursday posts where I'll be editing one of your pages, or one of my own. To submit a one-page piece of your own writing email me at: bjbstories @ yahoo. com

About my editing style...I chip a lot, I tweak a lot, and I analyze everything to the Nth degree. So as with anybody’s edits they’re only suggestions, and they reflect my own writing style. I’ve had many occasions where someone suggests an edit that harmed the story rather than helped it. But hopefully the edits below make good sense.

When you finish looking over the changes I made to the entry below, let me know what you think? Did the edits help, or was it better off untouched? Or did you really like/dislike one particular edit I made? Let me know in a comment!

1) Draft sent to me
2) First edit
3) Second edit (with suggestions and explanations)
4) Clean draft with Brandon's edits

Draft sent to me:


  Fire ravaged the lands, bright persimmon oranges and mustard yellows, silently flickering in the weak morning light. The flames rose from the rubble like desperate fingers reaching up from the grave, grasping for another chance to cling to life. Thick black smoke poured from everything, from the ruins of the once magnificent Fiaj Hall to the tiny houses of the rural countryside of Foro, and when it was done rising it covered the ground with an ashen blanket.
  The bodies were broken and scattered in every way imaginable, almost as if some cruel artist positioned them thus. Children entombed in the protective embrace of their parents, dead with a whimper. Lovers melted together from the extreme heat of the bombs, dead with a sigh. Preachers crushed beneath their altars, dead with a prayer. Not a soul survived the destruction of the bombs.
  Life was not to be found in the small country of Morrta, but for the bacteria and the worms, and even they would not last long. The radiation would see to that, like it would ensure that the country would never live again.




First edit:

  Fire ravaged the lands, bright persimmon oranges and mustard yellows, silently flickering in the weak morning lightThe flames rose from the rubble like desperate fingers reaching up from the a grave, grasping for another chance to cling to at life. Thick bBlack smoke poured from everything, from the ruins of the once magnificent Fiaj Hall to the tiny houses of the rural countryside of Foro, and when it was done rising it covered the ground with an ashen blanket.
  The bodies were broken and scattered in every way imaginable, almost as if some cruel artist positioned them thus. Children entombed in the protective embrace arms of their parents, dead with a whimper. Lovers melted together from the extreme heat of the bombs, dead with a sigh. Preachers crushed beneath their altars, dead with a prayer. Not a soul survived the destruction of the bombs.
  Life was not to be found in the small country of Morrta, but for the bacteria and the worms, and even they would not last long. The radiation would see to that., like [line break]
  iIt would ensure that the country would never live again.


Second edit (with suggestions and explanations in orange)


Fire ravaged the lands, bright persimmon oranges [the words "bright" and "persimmon" seem to summer-day-ish for the scene set here. Actually, "orange" also isn't menacing. Perhaps "twilight oranges" or "crimson reds" would work better. Or perhaps, "bloody persimmon oranges" ...one dark word can redeem the other two neutral words and bring them to the dark side. But still, "persimmon's" and "oranges" are fruits, and that combo might confuse the reader at first as to the image being painted. In the end, I'm thinking "crimson red".] and mustard yellows, silently flickering in the weak morning light[I try not to leave two adjectives back to back because they tend to break up the sentence flow and make it feel clunky...I only leave them when I feel they're absolutely necessary. That's why I deleted "weak". And below here I delete "Thick" for the same reason.] . The flames rose from the rubble like desperate fingers reaching up from the a grave, grasping for another chance to cling to at life. Thick bBlack smoke poured from everything, from the ruins of the once magnificent Fiaj Hall to the tiny houses of the rural countryside of Foro, and when it was done rising it covered the ground with an ashen blanket.

The bodies were broken and scattered in every way imaginable, almost as if some cruel artist positioned them thus.  [I've numbered the following three sentences. Each is a very powerful image, and well crafted. Unfortunately, one must be cut to maintain the poetic flow of the prose. In my "Brandon's draft below, I chose to keep the "Children" and the "Lovers" because they were more emotionally packed] (1)Children entombed in the protective embrace arms ["arms" is more powerful because of its simplicity. "protective embrace" creates distance because it's formal] of their parents, dead with a whimper. (2)Lovers melted together from the extreme heat of the bombs, dead with a sigh. (3)Preachers crushed beneath their altars, dead with a prayer. Not a soul survived the destruction of the bombs.

Life was not to be found in the small country of Morrta, but for the bacteria and the worms, and even they would not last long. The radiation would see to that., like [line break]

iIt would ensure that the country would never live again. (I felt moving this sentence to its own paragraph made a nice dramatic ending to the prologue and heightened the finish)




Clean draft with Brandon’s edits:

Fire ravaged the lands, crimson reds and mustard yellows, silently flickering in the morning light. The Flames rose from the rubble like desperate fingers from a grave, grasping for another chance at life. Black smoke poured from everything, from the ruins of the once magnificent Fiaj Hall to the tiny houses of the rural countryside of Foro, and when it was done rising it covered the ground with an ashen blanket.

The bodies were broken and scattered in every way imaginable, almost as if some cruel artist positioned them thus. Children entombed in the arms of their parents, dead with a whimper. Lovers melted together from the heat of the bombs, dead with a sigh. Not a soul survived the destruction of the bombs.

Life was not to be found in the country of Morrta, but for the bacteria and the worms, and even they would not last long. The radiation would see to that.

It would ensure that the country never live again.

18 comments:

Kat Heckenbach said...

A definite improvement. Much cleaner. Good job, Brandon :).

Brandon said...

Thanks Kat,
glad you thought so! We'll see what others say....

Budd said...

the original was too adjective heavy and you were right about the fruit, as I initially thought that is what was being described. The changes gave it a way better flow.

I like protective embrace it just says more than arms and kind of paints a scene on its own. Imagery wise it is a better choice, IMO.

KM Wilsher said...

Improvement, yes. Cleaner, yes. But I have to say "more understandable". . .I can't think of a better way to put it maybe: clearer.
The first draft felt like I was wading through something. I couldn't get a clear picture. The last draft, much more understandable and I really got the picture -- I think the picture the author was trying to create, just needed another pair of eyes.

Great job to the author -- thanks for letting us see this. and, Brandon, this is fun! Great new Thursday spot!

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for doing this Brandon. I definitely see improvement, and I'm loving the remarks others are putting up, too. Hope to see more. Thanks once again!

Brandon said...

Hi Budd,
Thanks! And about the "protective embrace" it may be just a personal preference. I tend to stray away from what I term "flowery" language when a more straight-forward term fits. But then, the genre can be a factor in this. Fantasy trends toward more words, more "flowery" prose, and based on the prologue, this sounds like a sci-fi/fantasy type story.

Hi KM,
I agree, great job to the author. I'm glad they were bold enough to be my first participant!

Brandon said...

Hey Anonymous,
Thanks for submitting your piece! Glad to have helped.
And yeah, it make's it twice as much fun hearing feedback from all the commentors :)

Joshua Peacock said...

Good stuff! I do take issue with "Crimson red" because the word crimson itself is the name of a type of red, rendering "red" after "crimson" redundant. Mustard yellow seems to be okay, because leaving mustard by itself wouldn't sound or look right (not mention destroy the mood of the sentence). I think there could be yet more words cut--but that just might be a style choice of mine.

Also, I would make "live" in the last line, "lived". If you wanted to eradicate the passive voice completely you could write: "It made sure the country never lived again"--which means the sentence before would also need be changed to something like "the radiation saw to that."

Just some humble thoughts! I have much to learn myself--Lord knows I do!

Brandon said...

Hey Joshua, thanks for your feedback!
I agree with one of your points, and disagree with the other (this is the fun part of editing...hashing everything out toward perfection)

(1) I agree on you with the "lived" part, that helps it flow better.

(2) I disagree on the "crimson red" being a redundancy in this case. In this particular case, the author is going for a "distanced, prologue, effect" that has a lot of poetic imagery. Now, I think a writer can use crimson red, or aqua blue, or emerald green, if they are going for that "distant pov" which is common in prologues.

However, in most cases, simply saying "the crimson sky" would be best, not "the crimson red sky". This is what you're pointing out.

Also, since the author is using two double color phrases, "crimson reds, mustard yellows, it sounds poetic and "prologue-ish". But of course, this is one style...a prolgue can be written in any form.
So good point Josh!

And actually, I discovered one other thing I needed to change to make the final draft even better. After reading back through, I'd delete "of the bombs, in the last sentence of the second paragraph, it repeats the same phrase of the previous sentence.

Anonymous said...

Good catch, Brandon. I'd take out the "of the bombs," too. Now, I just need to go through the rest of the piece. Thanks everyone for the great feedback!

Joshua Peacock said...

Brandon, I see what you're saying now. I think I agree.

"of the bombs" is something I thought should be cut too, so I agree, I just forgot to include it in my post! Good writing though. Friendly but honest discussion is invaluable to a writer's progression.

Brandon said...

Hey anonymous,
My latest novel that came out, American Midnight, was riddled with a lot of extra words, sentences, and in a few cases paragraphs. I cut a 109,000 word manuscript down to a 101,000 word manuscript after tightening and deleting. It can be fun cleaning up during edits.

Hey Josh,
I agree, its fun discussing this stuff :)

Mike Lynch said...

we cut

Peter Stone said...

Thanks for doing this, Brandon.

The author's opening scene is great, paints such a vivid picture of destruction, and the way you have tightened it up Brandon helps it flow so much more, and adds even greater impact.

As you have also edited a page of fiction that I sent you, feel free to include that in one of your Thursday posts. (I worked on incorporating your suggested changes on the weekend.)

ℜ-₩inch said...

I'm hooked. I like reading the first draft and making my own notes and see how they compare to yours. This "series" will be a great writing exercise for me. Do you need another victim?

Brandon said...

Hey Mike,
Yes, we've learned since our early days!

Peter,
Thanks, I'm glad you like the changes. And I'll add your piece to an upcoming Thursday slot!

Andrew,
Ha! That's great you do your own edits before you look at mine. That is a good exercise! I would love to make you my next victim...(That sure sounds weird)
:)
Just email me a piece of writing that's a page or less: bjbstories@yahoo.com

S.R. Van Ness said...

Much cleaner. I'd like to see a few additional words disappear--maybe a few slightly fragmented sentences to break it up a bit, but that's more about personal style and everyone's got their own groove. I don't know how you do it once a week, Brandon. I go cockeyed when attacking my own stuff with the red pen of death--God bless you for being able to look at others' work without going completely mental.
;-)

Brandon said...

Hi Van Ness,
Haha, I enjoy editing. Finding the time to do it can be tough...but I can manage one page a week :)
Nice to see you around!