In these posts, with the author’s permission, I look at their work pre-editing and post-editing—and at what I did to improve the piece.
Today Mary Connealy is In The Edit. You know Mary “Romantic comedies with cowboys” Connealy. Her latest book, In Too Deep, takes place in Colorado in 1866 and involves a marriage of convenience. Isn’t that sweet? That Mary, she’s a sweet gal. I’ve known—and read—Mary for a long time, but I’ve never read anything she’s done like today’s sample.
And you know what? It’s good! Not sweet, no. As a sample, it’s twice as long as I asked for. As a read, it’s far too short.
Mary’s sample arrested my attention. After reading through it several times, I found these main things I would address as an editor:
- As always, extra words/repetitions
- Ways to heighten the tension
- Subtle hints that things aren’t as they appear—to the reader or to this character.
Read my edit in track changes.
Joy in repetition
Writers—and I’m talking to myself as well—get so enthralled with what we’re writing. We often latch on to a particular phrase because it sounds so cool, but then we fail to let go of that phrase.
In Mary’s sample there is lots of thunder and lightning that is important to the set-up. So the challenge becomes saying the same thing, but in new ways. There were too many times when “lightning lit up the sky” or “thunder streaked across the sky.”
I also thought there were opportunities to make the setting a malevolent character in this piece. So you’ll see in the edit some tweaking from me to address those issues.
In the first couple grafs there are places where extra words slow the reader just when you don’t want that to happen:
- Thunder streaked across the sky
growing in speedlike an incoming missile.
- The thunder exploded again, tearing a
Ascream torefrom her throat.
In the first bullet point, “growing in speed” seemed redundant to both “thunder streaked” and “like an incoming missile” so I cut it. The result is a faster, leaner sentence that gives a strong word picture.
In the second bullet, I took two short sentences, which normally picks up the pace, and instead used them to give the storm a sinister personality. Rather than the ambiguous “a scream tore from her throat” we now have the thunder tearing that scream from her—and we don’t mention the throat (where else would a scream come from?) because less specific at this point is more frightening.
Those who aren’t members of the Big Honkin’ Chicken Club love tension. We love the adrenaline rush of the unknown.
In paragraph seven, there’s an opportunity to amp it up. Mary’s original started this graf with more pain description I thought belonged better with the graf before it. With that move done, we’re free to increase the threat to this character.
To do that, I suggest once again using the setting as a malevolent, active force. Since Mary had already used “the thunder streaked,” I changed that to “rumbled.” Then I set off with em dashes the phrase “built force” (more immediate and active than “building force”) and included the concept of the thunder as a predator in that sentence thereby tying it to “the thunder” as a character rather than using it as narrative.
Those aren’t tears?
Mary did a great job of hiding the true nature of this character’s tears. But once I got to the end and realized what she’d done, I saw more opportunities for this kind of misdirection.
The main suggestion I have is to hide it even better. I think Mary includes a few too many hints that things aren’t as they appear. Providing enough hints without giving it away is a fine line to walk. What you have to be careful of is spoiling the big reveal.
In my edit I highlighted in yellow all the times tears were mentioned or alluded to. Made me think of my Shakespeare: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Hamlet) The more Mary mentioned tears the more I started to think “those aren’t tears.” You want to be subtle so that when the truth is revealed the reader is surprised, realizing the truth at the same time the character does. So I eliminated a couple of them to mitigate the problem.
Read my edited version, clean.
If you like this style of writing from Mary, you may be interested to know that she writes suspense under the pen name Mary Nealy. I did not know this. Last year she released Ten Plagues, from Barbour Books. Find it here. I know I will.
Mary, thanks for coming Into The Edit with me!
If you would like to see your writing in a future In The Edit post, send a maximum of 350 words to michael.ehret (at) inbox (dot) com. Please send in Word format (.doc). If I use it, you’ll be eligible for a 25-percent discount on any editing services (link).
On Thursday, we’ll look at another self-editing writing tip. See you then! Then on Saturday, drop by for a quick writer’s quote and to share what that quote means to you.
Nice work, Mike. I think I was leaning a bit into melodrama on this. I need to reel that in. Still, I love the book.
I do too, Mary. Get back to your computer! LOL
The folks from Seekerville sent me over to give Mary a hard time. Not going to do that. Mary, thanks for putting yourself out there! Thanks, Michael for the tips. PS. Mary, do you shoot someone now?
Shoot? No one mentioned anything about shooting? Heh heh … Mary … heh heh … Shooting? She’s just kidding, right?
You’re not going to give her a hard time???/ Julie….
Sigh…. This is your chance, darling!!!
Ruthy, are you trying incite violence on my site?
Well, I loved it from the beginning, Mike, and I really think you added to the layer of tension by hog-tying Mary!
In all seriousness, Mary and I met because of this story when I wrote her a note of apology because I gave her a low score in an unpubbed contest… and she got two perfect scores from the other judges… It was a discrepancy final, she won, and I e-mailed her to explain what happened, what I thought, why I downgraded the score and (in my huge egotistical Ruthy Manner) went on to say how I thought it would be nearly impossible to GET THIS THING PUBLISHED BY A CHRISTIAN PUBLISHER AS WRITTEN….
Wrong, yet again, LOL! But the good thing is it began a friendship that has lasted nearly a decade…. And she still likes me! Most days.
Great job, da bode o’ youse!
If that was 10 years ago, maybe you weren’t wrong THEN … but I hope you are now. Because I’d love to read more of this.
Was it really TEN YEARS AGO?? Wow, that makes Ruthy really OLD! (I won’t comment on my own age!)
No, Ruthy, that was Ten Plagues. Mike mentions Ten Plagues but he’s editing Devil’s Nest…..my gothic romance. Bwahahahahaha! There was a ghost but I had to take it out for Christian fiction, dagnabbit!
(and now I’m cussing!)
No shooting so far in my excerpt. You will notice someone’s gotten their throat cut, though, so we’re counting that.
Yes, it counts. Love this piece Mary. Really hope I get to read more. 🙂
Way to go Mary!
Way to go Michael!
Appreciate a good & timely lesson!
Did I hear a tell-tale *click*?
I’m getting the impression that Mary is quick on the trigger … no one warned me of this. Ruthy?
It’s kind of a Seekerville joke, Mike. I solve all my sagging middle plot issues by shooting someone. It works surprisingly well. Admittedly it’s less affective if you’re writing Amish fiction. And it can be a metaphorical bullet of course, but I actually prefer flying lead!
Breathing normally again … it was tough for a while, constantly looking over my shoulder for a smoking gun.
How much of your edit can I use before I have to give you a co-author credit?
If you like it, use it. I’m happy to help in any way.
As a reader, just reading for enjoyment, I liked both versions just fine. As a writer. however, I think that this was an idea scene to write in deep POV. So I very quickly did a deep POV version to get a feel for what this might look like in deep POV:
The shockwaves lifted her body an inch off the mattress.
Her eyes sprung open as the window lit up. Night became day and then night again. A scream pierced the darkness. She grabbed her throat with both hands. Was that my scream? What’s happening? Where am I?
A blinding flash exploded rocking the room. Whatever it was, it was close. She grabbed her head. An after-image of a jagged lighting bolt dominated her vision.
Get up! Run! Save yourself. But from what? . My head. Can’t think.
Concerning Shakespeare. I do think there was a little, little bit too much sound and fury and less significant story movement. Also, while repetition was fine for Gertrude Stein, I think today it just acts to call attention to itself and the fact you are reading a story.
Actually, I was sent here by Ruth to give Mary a hard time. : )
heh heh … Ruthy is a dear, isn’t she?
Oh, great. Now Vince is editing me. C’mon, anyone else? I’m a big girl. I can take it. I cut my ghost didn’t I? It was a 300 year old French ghost, tied to this early by a dying pledge to forever protect her child and his descendants.
I’m a little weepy thinking about my noble ghost. sniffle
Don’t make Mary cry, Vince. That was my job.
That’s awesome! My first reaction was, “Okay, how’s he going to improve on *that*?” Mary’s writing started out so strong. Then I read your track changes. Brilliant, and what a great reminder that even the most experienced and talented writers can benefit from an extra pair of eyes. 🙂
Thanks Jen, but as I say, it is easy to improve great writing. Mary established the scene so well and her voice is so clear that, as a chameleon, it was fun to step in with some extra thoughts to improve it.
How did Shakespeare get into this?
“How did Shakespeare get into this?”
My question is: “How can you keep Shakespeare out of anything?”
After coining over 1,500 English words, Shakespeare abides not in books, but within ourselves.
Oooo … deep … glad I have my hip boots on. 🙂 Actually, I mentioned Shakespeare in my post, Mary. Extrapolation occurred.
It’s amazing how often Shakespeare comes up when people are talking about my work…….hey, who can blame them.
The hero comes charging in moments after this excerpt ends.
Oh, and she has amnesia.
Oh, and the hero assumes she killed the dead man, which saved him the trouble of killing the louse himself.
This book was so much fun to write. 😀
Really? Mary Connealy needed editing? I thought perfection just poured out of her mind onto the computer screen, LOL!
Very nearly, Audra. Very nearly. 🙂
So cool to read how Mary writes, pre-edit! I think we all second-guess ourselves, until we get our editors to look things over. Editors can really teach us how to THINK as we write. Great post about a very fun writer! (Though X Plagues sounds so different…I’d love to know more about that!).
And that’s another reason why I’m doing these IN THE EDIT posts, Heather. Not only to show the editing process, but the writing process as well. Glad you are finding it interesting. Feel free to review the past posts and to stay tuned for future ones!
Heather, I love Ten Plagues but one of the reasons I used a pseudonym was to WARN PEOPLE. It is DIFFERENT. BE AFRAID!!!!!!! You can’t HANDLE the demon possessed serial killer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Haha–Mary, sounds right up my alley…I wrote about a ghost that wasn’t all that it seemed…I’m more a paranormal kinda gal, myself. Now you KNOW I’m going to get my hands on X Plagues! (Ps–love the X instead of ten).
You and me both!
Wow this hooked me! I want to read more so bad!
I know what you mean. I can’t believe it’s not contracted yet.
Well, honestly, you’ve got to admit it’s not really what I do!
I beg to differ. It may not be what you’re known for, but it is, I think, what you do. Or at least could be. But you have to start wearing black nail polish, pierce your nose, and get a tattoo. Oh, and throw out any clothes that aren’t black.
Mike, honey, if you can figure out a way to sell this…I am all for it. I may end up epublishing about five books I’ve finished and love and have on my computer….well, honestly there are more like EIGHT. But five are romantic suspense in the vein of Ten Plagues, though not as dark. And about three more that are sweet romances. I’d love to see them in print but I love my brand and straying from it is something I do with CAUTION.
and that is wise … I love your brand, too! Just seems a shame that when you’re able to do more than one thing well, that you (in general, not necessarily you you) feel constrained to stay with one. But that’s both a strength and a weakness of the market. As you know.
So, did we have fun or what? 🙂
Always with you … you win the award for “most comments generated on my blog to-date.”
I really enjoyed your comments. I wish you were on Blogger so I could follow you. I have you bookmarked so I’ll be checking back.
BTW: to be edited do the 350 words have to be published? I’d love to give it a try.
Vince, the submissions do not have to be published. I’m glad you enjoyed it and look forward to seeing you back.