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.
Ruthy is the author of a slew of Love Inspired titles, such as Yuletide Hearts, Mended Hearts, and Small-Town Hearts. She is also the doyenne of The Seekers and Ms. Bossy-Pants on the popular blog, Seekerville.
The sample she provided for this post is from an unpublished contemporary manuscript tentatively titled Call Of The Old Guard and seems to toy with a rural area still bound by legends of days when wolf/humans ruled viciously. Interesting!
I’m not a fan of prologues. Too often they feel self-indulgent. The author wants to set the stage for the reader, but not give too much away. I say, just bring me the story. So I would elect to cut this entirely. I understand not everyone feels the same.
That said, this prologue does have a nice feel. If Ruth elects to keep it, I’ve provided some suggestions to strengthen it.
In addition, I found three main places of attack:
- Extra words
- Unnecessary, or untimely, information that slows the narrative
- A few changes to heighten the tension
Some changes are simple.
- Mental protests rose
within, but Gideon had been a cop a long time. Mental protests are not going to arise from anywhere but within. Wary,She hesitated. Wary and hesitated are redundant in this context. Incredulity deepened her voice.Her arched brow said she wasn’t buying it his declaration. These two sentences said much the same thing and we know what she’s not buying because of context, so no need for “his declaration”.
Don’t slow things down
In the middle of the sample, Gideon has the woman seated—but she’s on the edge of the chair, clearly not yet trusting him. And then instead of moving the characters forward, there’s a paragraph of backstory. If that information is important, bring it back in as part of the questioning, not in an info dump.
Later in the same scene, there is unnecessary (or misplaced) information, some of it with the potential to offend readers, i.e., the lines about “tree-huggers.” I realize this is a characterization line for Gideon, but I suggest staying with Gideon and the interrogation and bring in his character in other ways.
Gimme that old-time tension
In the opening graf of Chapter 1, it felt too early for the “Her eyes beseeched him…” line. Instead, I moved that line down and tied it to Gideon’s examination of the woman. In the process, we get a better look at the character of Gideon and his empathy.
I like the repeat then of “Wolf’s eyes,” but separating those one- or two-word sentences into four separate lines felt like overkill, especially since we’re in Gideon’s point of view. But I also thought it too early to resolve the issue with that declarative “No” at the end of the series, so I added a hint of doubt.
I loved the way Ruth turned the tables on Gideon (and our expectations) with the woman’s indignation near the end. But in places, the turn seemed overdone. I modified that by keeping the stronger sentences.
Then, by giving the woman a bit more of an even playing field in the interrogation, the stage is better set for the future. One way of doing that is to have her use the accusation from Gideon (of having a Wiccan cape) as a way to turn the power a bit in her favor.
Ruth already is headed this direction by having her lean in closer for the first part of her line. But if we then have her lean back into the chair–no longer nervously sitting on the edge–it completely tips the power to her for her line, “But weave the story as you choose.” She is not going to participate in Gideon’s delusion.
Read my edited version in clean form.
Ruthy, thanks for coming Into The Edit with me! I like the possibilities in this story and would love to read more.
If you would like to see your writing in a future In The Edit post, send a maximum of 350 words to opusmle (at) gmail (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.
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.