Fiction editing: edit me Thursday #4

Welcome to another Edit me Thursday post where I'll be editing a page submitted by...well...anyone! To submit a one-page piece (or less) of your own writing email me at: bjbstories @ yahoo. com  (You're identity will be kept anonymous!)


Disclaimer: 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.

My Goal:  To maintain the author's story and the authors voice while improving the story's flow, structure, vocabulary, clarity, action (non-passivity), and general readability.

When you (anyone reading this blog) 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 (and the author know) in a comment!

1) Draft sent to me
2) My edit
3) Suggestions and explanations
4) Clean draft with Brandon's edits


1) Draft sent to me

Chance heard a creak in the darkness behind him in the direction of the hallway and he immediately set the mainframe detonator.  His checklist of sabotage was finally complete.  The door behind him crashed open, and Chance jumped onto the table, changing in mid-leap into an ape.  With legs made for leaping, he catapulted himself up toward the window ledge above him, and just in time.  He felt the air behind him move; felt the near-touch of his would be captors.  He turned to see who it was, and his eyes adjusted in the darkness to see – a tiger.  His shock nearly undid him, but as the tiger sprang for him, he reacted quickly, slipping out of the window and leaping into the air, again changing – but this time into a bat.  He flapped his wings madly for a moment, and then glided away into the dark shadow of the building.  Once in a secluded corner, he changed once again, this time into a cheetah.  With quick strides he sprinted across the deserted parking lot and down the nearby street.  He knew he wouldn’t have much time to sprint in this form.  The cheetah was fast, but only for short sprints.  He made it through the small town, and transformed into a dog, as he loped into the grassy sand dunes.

            Knowing that pursuit could be right behind him, he continued to run until he was splashing in the shallow waves.  As his paws left the ground and he paddled into the water, he transformed back into his normal man shape, and stroked as powerfully as he could into the deeper water, diving under the waves, changing into a shark.  He swam on as a shark for a while, and then as the water became deeper, and he left all vestiges of waves behind him, he changed again, lengthening and growing into a whale.  As he surfaced to take in air, he heard an explosion behind him, almost deafening in this form.  The waves of sound traveled through the water with an intensity he hadn’t anticipated.


2) My edit

Chance heard a creak in the darkness behind him in the direction of the hallway and he immediately set the mainframe detonator.  His checklist of sabotage was finally complete ("checklist" snatches me out of the scene...it conjures an image of someone actually making a tally on an actual "sabotage list". And that comes across humorously in my mind. If saying something along these lines is really important, then perhaps "His last act of sabotage was complete" but if this sentence can be removed from the story whole, then remove it.).  The door behind him crashed open(.), and Chance jumped onto the table, changing in mid-leap into an ape.  With powerful legs made for leaping(leap was used in last sentence), he catapulted himself up toward the window ledge above him, and just in time.("just in time" is telly. Deflates the power of the next sentence)  He felt the air behind him move; felt with the near-touch of his pursuer would be captorsReaching the ledge, H(h)e turned to see who it was, and his eyes adjusted in the darkness to see – a tiger.  His The  shock nearly undid him(.), but as t (T)he tiger sprang for him, he reacted quickly, and he dove slipping out of the window and leaping into the air, again changing – but this time into a bat.  He flapped his wings madly for a moment, and then glided away down into a the darkened crevice shadow of at the foot of the building (the bat needed to be on the ground before the next sentence when he turns into a cheetah--that's why I made the changes to this sentence).  Once in a secluded corner, he changed once again Chance altered shape, this time into("this time into a" was used already) --a cheetah.  With quick strides he sprinted across the deserted parking lot and down the nearby street.  He knew he There wouldn’t have be much time to sprint in this form.  The cheetah was fast, but only for short sprints.  He made it through the small came to the edge of town, his thin lungs weezing.(I felt he should be weezing after the mention of a cheetah only running for short sprints...plus it creates tension) and There, he transformed into a dog, as he and loped into the grassy sand dunes.(Can you call sand dunes grassy? Having read the next paragraph, these "dunes" are a beach. perhaps simply call it such... "he loped onto the sandy beach.")

            Knowing that The pursuit could be right behind him was not over, he could feel it. Call it a canine's sixth sense.(The phrase felt too formal and created distance between the character and the reader, the change I made keeps the reader right there with Chance, adds tension, and even exploits Chance's temporary doggy attributes.) , h (H)e continued to run until he was splashing in the shallow waves.  As his paws left the ground and he paddled into the water, he transformed back into his normal man human shape, and stroked as powerfully as he could into the for deeper water(.), d (D)iving under the a waves, he changed ing into a shark, and with one thunderous thrust of his tail he was in fifty feet of water and he had become a whale.(I felt with the constant morphing, at the end it became too much, so I felt tightening the details between him going from shark to whale was necessary to preserve the tension.)  He swam on as a shark for a while, and then as the water became deeper, and he left all until the last vestiges of the waves lay behind him, he changed again, lengthening and growing into a whale.  As he surfaced to take in air, he heard an explosion behind him, almost deafening in this mammalian form.  The waves of sound traveled through the water climaxing with an horrific intensity he hadn’t anticipated.
-Oohh, what will happen next! We are all in suspense! :)


3) Suggestions and explanations

Well, as you can see, I explained most things in the orange font within the edit.

-Basically all I did was tighten, and add a few things to draw the reader into the character(the cheetah's weezing, the dog's sixth sense).  Sometimes tightening requires a slight restructuring of a sentence. This is good. To look at each sentence and see if it can be improved, tightened, made more active is always fun, because afterwords you're rewarded with a more potent sentence, and ultimately, a more gripping story.

-One further possibility/suggestion for this piece is to cut out some of the morphing going on. That would help prevent the morphing from being repetitive. Which animal(s) to eliminate would be a tough choice in my opinion.

I found this week's selection very engaging. The author has an exciting story on their hands! And by the way everyone, I had a professional editor go through the last novel I finished and do the same thing. It was wonderful to see what she did, and I learned a ton! Much of what you see above here is a result of what she taught me. Alethea Eason is her name, and she's the author of the YA sci-fi novel, Hungry.


4) Clean draft with Brandon's edits

Chance heard a creak in the darkness behind him and immediately set the mainframe detonator.  The door behind him crashed open. Chance jumped onto the table, changing mid-leap into an ape.  With powerful legs, he catapulted himself toward the window ledge above him, and felt the air behind him move with the near-touch of his pursuer.  Reaching the ledge, he turned to see who it was, and his eyes adjusted in the darkness to see – a tiger.  The shock nearly undid him. The tiger sprang and he dove out the window, again changing – but this time into a bat.  He flapped his wings madly for a moment, and then glided down into a darkened crevice at the foot of the building.  Once again Chance altered shape--a cheetah.  With quick strides he sprinted across the deserted parking lot and down the nearby street. There wouldn’t be much time to sprint in this form.  The cheetah was fast, but only for short sprints.  He came to the edge of town, his thin lungs weezing. There, he transformed into a dog and loped into the beach.

The pursuit was not over, he could feel it. Call it a canine's sixth sense. He continued to run until he was splashing in the shallow waves. As his paws left the ground, he transformed back into his human shape, and stroked powerfully for deeper water. Diving under a wave he changed into a shark, and with one thunderous thrust of his tail he was in fifty feet of water and he had become a whale. As he surfaced to take in air, he heard an explosion behind him, almost deafening in this mammalian form.  The waves of sound traveled through the water, climaxing with horrific intensity.

8 comments:

logankstewart said...

This piece is definitely exciting, and it really has me wondering what's going on in this story. The edits look good. One sentence doesn't sit well with me, though, and that's (last paragraph): "Diving under a wave he changed into a shark, and with one thunderous thrust of his tail he was in fifty feet of water and he had become a whale."

I think maybe something like "Diving, he shifted smoothly into a whale and then, with a thunderous thrust of his tail became a whale, bounding through the deep." Even there I don't like the rhyme between tail and whale.

Anyway, just my thinking. All this shape-shifting has got me excited. Great work, author and editor.

Joshua Peacock said...

Brandon you did a good job. I think there's still some of the passive voice with "had" and "was" being used quite often, however, and could probably be tweaked out.

As far as action goes (and this is just my own opinion), I usually make the sentences and paragraphs as short as possible, so I would personally cut out things like "Call it mammalian instinct." The sentence before, saying he sensed it suffices, I think, considering we know the character changes from animal to animal.

I also don't think "The cheetah was fast, but only for short sprints" is necessary. People generally know that; and if they don't, it's not a big deal--if the cheetah slows down after a quick burst, I don't think it'll bother the reader.

Brandon said...

Hey Logan and Josh
I agree with both of your suggestions. The shark to whale change you suggested Logan and Josh's pointing out of the non-necessity of explaining the cheetah's speed. And Josh I'm with you on short sentences during action. Maybe I should have worked more on breaking the sentences apart.

Josh, the one point I disagree with is the "call it canine instinct" addition. However, I realize I was inserting a Deep POV perspective into a passive, distanced POV, so it might not have translated well. When I write, I like to be in the characters heads a lot, so that what they think comes out along side their actions.

The piece was written mostly in passive voice. And for an action scene, it should be more active. I made some changes, but ultimately I didn't want to change the text too much.

I think the story is there, we just need to be brought closer to the characters thoughts and actions...that includes eliminating most of the passive feel.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Brandon,
I really appreciate the time and effort you put into editing my story. Sometimes, I think that I get too close to my writing, and even when I know something's wrong I can't seem to break through and make the changes I need to make.

With your edit, I feel like I can dive into the rest of it, and get it going in the right direction . . . hopefully with a more active, character driven voice.

Thanks!

By the way . . . I have an award for you over at my blog today . . . Friday's my day to give out the Blessed Blog award.

Brandon said...

Whoo hoo! thanks for the award Tyrean. :) And thanks for sharing your piece with all of us here!

jessicathomas@jessicathomasink.com said...

You definitely cleaned it up, which heightened the tension. I'd go through it again and cut even more (if it were my own, that is). For instance, below I'd cut the first "but" and I'd remove the ", and then" in favor of simply "and glided". These are the types of changes I made during my recent edit of my own novel. My word count dropped 5K, even with new/rewritten scenes. It's hard to see the word count go down, but I decided to be brutal. Good idea, by the way (edit me Thursday). :)

"but this time into a bat. He flapped his wings madly for a moment, and then glided down into a darkened crevice at the foot of the building."

Brandon said...

Great point Jessica!
I agree, those extra cuts are good ones.
5k is some good cutting! Though it might feel painful, it reads less so :)

Sheila Deeth said...

Cool editing!