The writing powers that be are laughing at my humorous attempts at editing. If you could see the notes in my manuscript you’d understand. On each page there are notes pointing out sections of telling not showing, clunky dialogue, adverbs, and name your personal writing horror. The process of identifying and correcting substandard work is tedious and painstaking, one that literary masochists like myself have come to enjoy only because we know that the writing that comes out of it is better than whatever we started with.
During the editing process this week a whole family of awkward thoughts sprang to my attention. Most result from writing the story too fast without much thought for how the reader will ‘see’ it. This is one of my writing downfalls and one that I hope with time and more experience will gradually fade away. This example is copied word for word from my manuscript:
He went and stood beside Bremin and tried to look the part of an experienced traveler and not some love-sick fool that he was sure Bremin was describing him as.
Yikes. My first knee jerk reaction would be to cross the ugly mess out and decide if the thought even needed to be there. However, if I did that with every strange and ungainly sentence then the length of my book would be cut in half. No, we must make the thought work. The most important question that must be kept in mind throughout the process is, “What am I trying to say?”
Let’s start with some clarifying and get rid of the redundant Bremin.
Overhearing his name in conversation, Elan went and stood beside Bremin and tried to look the part of an experienced traveler and not the love-sick fool that the man was describing him as.
Hmm, still not good enough. The verbs are passive and dead, we can fix that.
Overhearing his name in conversation, Elan walked over to Bremin while making his best attempt to look like an experienced traveler and not the love-sick fool that the man described him as.
The sentence is very unwieldy, perhaps we could break the two thoughts apart.
Overhearing his name in conversation, Elan walked over to Bremin. He made his best attempt to look like an experienced traveler and not the love-sick fool that the man described him as.
The second sentence still sucks. Let’s try a different angle and perhaps add something else to the scene.
Overhearing his name in conversation, Elan walked over to Bremin. Judging by the look of pity he got from the innkeeper, his companion must have told why he had come along. Refusing to satisfy either by acting like a love-sick fool, Elan did his best to imitate Bremin’s relaxed posture as he leaned on the bar.
It seems I have a tendency to start sentences with gerunds. What would it look like if I didn’t?
Elan walked over to Bremin when he overheard his name used in the man’s conversation. His companion must have told why he had come along, judging by the look of pity from the innkeeper. He did his best to imitate Bremin’s relaxed posture as he leaned on the bar, refusing to satisfy either by acting like a love-sick fool.
Now we’re getting somewhere! Not perfect but better, I can live with it. It also changes the ending word from ‘as’ to ‘fool’ which feels stronger. One could argue that it now feels like ‘he’ and ‘his’ are overused and I would agree. I would have to play around with different arrangements of the last two examples to find a good balance.
Now to tackle the other 562 bits of awkward text, wish me luck!