Friday, July 15, 2011

Before and After: A Mirror into the Editing Mind

A few posts ago, I blogged about editing my WIP down to a more reasonable size. This time, I thought I'd give an example of my cutting, with line notes. A bit of background: Beryl (my bear in girls' clothing) has been posing as a student at Wood's Hall to gather information on humankind. She's found out, in a manner of speaking: one of her favorite humans, Meridel, the school librarian, realizes that Beryl thinks she's a bear and commits her. Facing an extended stay in a Psych Ward, Beryl calls her slice-of-weather guardian, Auntie Claire, to help her escape. Giant tornado! The hospital, town, and school destroyed! Months later, Beryl must deal with the emotional aftermath:

Scat it all down a well.

I know I said I wouldn’t write about it anymore. But it’s happened again. (Unnecessary) I’ve just woken up from another nightmare. Insiders’ faces, the ones I knew, who I thought were my friends, who I cannot think on without the stabbing pains. In the dreams, those faces weave in and out of images from my travels. Blood dripping from jaguar fang. Snake coiled tight. A shark whipping up the waters. I’m still drenched with sweat. Won’t be able to fall back asleep now.

I need to figure this out.

They can’t hurt me. They’re dead. I don’t have to be afraid of being trapped anymore, or worse: being killed at their hands. I know this; so why can’t I just accept it? (Blah sentence)

No, wait. Now that it’s written down, I see it. What’s not right.[what’s wrong]. (Two less words! Says the same thing!) )I’m not afraid. That’s not the taste, the scent of what I’m feeling whenever the trap snaps shut inside me. Not fear. Pain. A hurting pain, a deep, hurting pain. (Thought this sounded better with the cut - crisper) But not caused by a scrape or a bruise or a cut or a….

I’m hurting. I’m hurt--

Oh. My. Dirt Clod.

I’m sad.

That’s what it is. (Doesn't really need to be said.) I'm sad that I killed my own jailers. I’m scatting sad I had to destroy those who were going [wanted] to destroy me.

Perfect. Just Perfect. They trap me. And then they make me feel bad for what I had to do to escape? Now, doesn’t that just take the chocolate cake.(Wrong emotional tone)

Why’d they make me do it? Why did they make me care about them in the first place? Why’d they have to be all friendly and sweet and funny and silly and smart? Lexie and Meridel and Mikey and Xander and Rebeka and Alex and Mr. Begin? I liked them.


I cared about them and I lived with them. (What comes later says all this, but in a much more specific way, truer to Beryl's voice) We were a pack. We were a covey. And then they make me destroy them by capturing me and why oh why oh why would they do that to me?

I Hate Them!

My process has been to go through each scene. After I've cut, I read the scene aloud and find more to delete. I can tell I've been working for too long when I'm not finding much; if I come back later, I can see what I've missed. Note that I haven't cut out all the repetition: I've got three examples of riled up animals in the dream, "why oh why oh why...." Sometimes saying more is truer to the story and makes for a better telling. But often, it's just grey and deadening.

Current count: 102,623, down from 128,119.

Feel free to suggest further trimming, if you see any fluff.


Mark Teats said...

Nice post, Lisa. Interesting to see a sample of your manuscript marked-up.

I've started back over on BLACKHEART editing, doing the same type of thing. I'm on chapter 5 now, hopefully soon on to the next chapters. It's going quicker this time for me, now on revision 4 or 5 (depending on the chapter). Less story stuff, more word/sentence stuff. I'm trying to get down to 120,000 from 133,000.

Shawn Enderlin said...

Yes, I'm doing the same thing as well, although maybe with a bit less focus than you are because you are a draft ahead of me.

Its interesting how when we first got together we all needed each other so much, but now the work is becoming more solitary.

Jon said...

But I think it could get to that solitary level at this point due to all the work we did with each other's first couple of drafts. As I start ramping up my new project and Mark starts to roll out his, you'll probably see an upswing in interaction.

Good work, Lisa. I'm going to be going through gunslingers again coming up soon, as well. I'm kind of excited to see how the cuts go. I'm aiming for another 20,000 to 30,000 words. Wish me luck.