There’s a certain amount of power in editing someone else’s work. In that moment, you are the expert. It can, and should, be a much more humbling experience to edit your own.
It took me a long time to learn to edit my own work effectively. And I realized a few weeks ago that, since this is at least in part a blog about editing your own work, I should show you how I do it.
So I sat down over a cup of coffee and some eggs over easy and I hammered out a 500-word excerpt using a character I’d done a little fleshing out on not long before. I combined him with two separate milieu ideas, then let him do a little improvisation (see previous articles). I ended up with something that I would very much like to explore at a later date.
You’d be amazed at how hard it is for me not to edit my work as I write it. Editor Thomas is constantly in my mind, rereading what I write and nitpicking every little detail. Most of the time it’s grammar or phrasing. I had to tune him out this time. I now leave that polishing for you, my adoring fans.
Struck-through text is a recommended deletion. Blue and italicized text is marked for rephrasing. My direct additions to the text are in blue font, and my notes are in [bold with brackets].
Stick ducked behind the box and exhaled.
Every good soul stands strong.
The arbiters’ hymn rustled through his memories
mind. His mind even added his father’s sonorous bass running underneath it. It was an odd moment of nostalgia in the middle of the end of the world.
The sound of grating stone drew closer. Stick had to get to his boat.
He counted to three, then sprang forward. He was maybe fifty paces from the pier. His soft shoes struck the wood of the dock in soft staccato. Immediately the sound of grating stone grew more intense. The
golem was giving chase. [I don’t like golem. Too cliché. Eidolon, maybe? Or some original term, like stonefist.)
Stick listened close to the resonance of his footsteps on the dock. They rang out in low E. He hummed the E an octave above the wood’s song, then layered a B over top of it. The two notes from his voice blended in a holy invitation.
golem’s stonefist’s footsteps resounded on the dock behind him, stiff and strong and furious, a driving marcato. However Whoever had ordered this golem stonefist to pursue Stick was a strong singer indeed.
Twenty-five paces, and it was obvious that his boat had already pulled away from the shore. She was leaving without him.
Stick dropped the B to an A, then layered a D above it, the quartal harmony pleading for action. He opened his mouth and sang, “Fall.”
Louder, louder came the drums of death behind him.
Twenty paces. He wouldn’t make it.
Stick added an F# and
thanked the rains, not for the first time, that he was one of the lucky few who could sing more than a triad. [Too cut and dried for my taste. I don’t just want to give away information. Perhaps I can show him straining to layer a fourth note on the chord, then later show that others can’t do it. Take Treebeard’s advice when using exposition: “Don’t be hasty.”)
The wood of the pier shuddered, creaked, groaned, and then cracked. Stick allowed himself to feel a little relief as he leaped over the gap his song had created in the pier as the wood pulled itself into the water.
He landed in midstride, resolved his chord in a gesture of thanks, then immediately sang in a high falsetto, mimicking the tone of the wind in his ears.
Behind him, the footsteps ceased. Stick’s heart
leaped thrilled in his chest. But there was no splash. The footsteps continued, closer than ever. The golem stonefist hadn’t been fooled. Its creator was a strong singer indeed.
Stick took a deep breath, then blasted the air with a high, shrill triad. He then added an ascending scale atop it, his voice lifting higher and higher, his lungs straining.
Ten paces, and the
golem stonefist sounded close enough to snatch his Stick’s cloak from his shoulders.
Ten paces from the end of the dock, but his boat was another thirty offshore already.
“Bear me!” he shouted to the winds.
At five paces, force and pain crashed against his back. His breath caught in his throat; his song broke. He stumbled forward and saw black water before him. He couldn’t react quickly enough to take a new breath to hold.
But as he fell, he felt fingertips of
are air on his arms, grasping him and lifting him up and over the water.
Now he heard the soft, alluring voice coming from the boat ahead of him. He breathed and sighed, then winced. A few ribs were at least cracked.
Syph’s song carried him over the water to the boat and deposited him gently on the deck. She thanked the air and knelt beside him.
Stick groaned. Syph clicked her
tounge tongue in response. “Good thing I was watching.”
“My dear,” Stick said, “you remind me daily why I divorced you.”