Step-by-Step Edit No.1: First to Second Draft

I should be posting the second in my series on world building, but after I wrote the post, I realized it simply didn’t have life.  So it’s archived until it decides to get a life (the weekend should help it).

In the mean time, I’m going to show you that step-by-step editing process I was talking about.

To start, here is a scene from a now-finished Christian fantasy short story of mine.  Note it’s awfulness.  Yes, it’s a first draft.

Mirage stood tall, straight, unmoving on the cliff as the fiery ball of day drifted beyond the horizon. He grasped his sword hilt, clenching so violently his knuckles whitened. How infuriating. He, a warrior, captive to a simple spell.

There is one way to conquer anything.

Mirage closed his eyes as tightly as he could, trying to block the words. The last rays danced along his chest before dying. As they left his body, a tiny splotch of gray rock appeared over his heart. It rapidly grew, branching fingers all over Mirage’s body. Mirage didn’t struggle. He knew that did no good. Years had taught him that.

The cold stone encircled his body, covering most of it. As the last stone tentacle wound around his face, freezing his expression, locking his hair, the words came to him again.

There is one way to conquer anything.

No! His eyes flashed with desperate anger just before he lost his sight to the advancing stone. He was a warrior. He was his own man. He had no need for others, much less some god that let this happen to the world!

Others. Curse them all, the Complacent who had given up their freedom for comfort. His body contracted. Surely there were more options; stone most of his life or hazy submission to the Dark Land. . .

There is one way to conquer anything.

. . . or that woman’s God. Mirage’s body contracted a second time, with a desperate struggle to remain flesh. He could still feel the fading warmth of the sun, the only thing he ever found comfort in. Ironic that god was supposed to govern the light. But a comfort would not even stall the process. How long could he remain his own man? Each night something gave way to the Prince of Darkness. If something didn’t happen. . .

No, no, no! his mind screamed. But something else had a voice, something special ripped at his soul. Mirage’s lips started to solidify. In a sudden first of resolve, he forced the words off his tongue. “A servant of your told me to ‘Seek the Majestic One while he may be found, call out to Him while He is still willing to answer. . .’ Are you still willing to answer? I need, You. . .” Mirage choked on the words. “. . . and I can’t do this on my own.” There. He said it. Even as the petrification completed, relief soothed his mind. But did the Majestic One truly hear him, this puny creation who had fought Him for so long? Mirage’s mind slipped into a stone-sleep with that last conscious thought.

I then printed it.  I always make hard copies of drafts to edit them.  I see so much more on paper than a glowing screen.  Redundancy, grammar, spelling, weak words, and clunkiness are fixed in my second draft.  Supposedly.

Mirage stood tall, straight, unmoving stiffly [Redundant, and easily summed into one word.] on the cliff as the fiery ball of day drifted beyond the horizon. He grasped his sword hilt, clenching so violently his knuckles whitened. Every night he stood here. How infuriating. [Not only does the new sentence give more back story, it shows his feelings instead of telling them.] He, a warrior, captive to a simple spell.

There is one way to conquer anything.

Mirage closed his eyes as tightly as he could, trying to block the words. The last rays danced along his chest before dying. As they left his body, a tiny splotch of gray rock appeared over his heart. It rapidly grew, branching fingers all over Mirage’s body. Mirage didn’t struggle. He knew that did no good. Years had taught him that. Years had taught him movement did nothing. [I try to eliminate demonstrative pronouns, since they are weak words. “That” is changed to “movement.” “Did no good” is changed to “did nothing” because I felt “did no good” approached a cliche.]

The cold stone encircled his body, covering most of it. As the last stone tentacle wound around his face, freezing his expression, locking his hair, the words came to him again.

There is one way to conquer anything.

No! His eyes flashed with desperate anger just seconds [“Just” is a weak and unspecific word.] before he lost his sight to the advancing stone. He was a warrior. He was his own man. He had no need for others, much less some god that let this happen to the world!

Others. Curse them all, the Complacent who had given up their freedom for comfort. His body contracted. Surely there were more options; stone most of his life or hazy submission to the Dark Land. . .

There is one way to conquer anything.

. . . or that woman’s God. Mirage’s body contracted a second time, with a desperate struggle to remain flesh. He could still feel the fading warmth of the sun, the only thing he ever found comfort in in which he ever found comfort [Pesky preposition at the end of the sentence.]. Ironic that god God [I realized that he is talking about the true God (at least, allegorically in my story) at this point, not a general god.] was supposed to govern the light. But a comfort would not even stall the process. How long could he remain his own man? Each night something gave way to the Prince of Darkness. If something didn’t happen. . . If he did nothing. . . [I needed to be more precise than “something”]

No, no, no! [Unnecessarily redundant] his mind screamed. But something else had a voice, something special ripped at his soul. Mirage’s lips started to solidify began solidifying. [Never use three words when two will do. When the word “to” is in your verb, it can usually be eliminated] In a sudden first of resolve, he forced the words off his tongue. “A servant of your told me to ‘Seek the Majestic One while he may be found, call out to Him while He is still willing to answer. . .’ Are you still willing to answer? I need, [Don’t split a verb and it’s direct object with a comma.] You. . .” Mirage choked on the words. “. . . and I can’t do this on my own.” There. He said it. Even as the petrification completed, relief soothed his mind. But did the Majestic One truly hear him, this puny creation who had fought Him for so long? Mirage’s mind slipped into a stone-sleep with that last conscious thought.

Yes, I know, spelling and grammar mistakes still abound. I’m showing you how I actually edited a story, not how I was supposed to. After this and the rest of the story had been edited, I proudly decided to show it to a few cyber-friends. Next post – tomorrow – I’ll show you the initial critique I received and how I edited the scene in response.

A word on how this step-by-step editing series will go. I have four drafts.  The next two posts will demonstrate my further edits.  And yes, eventually I will pick up the world building series again. I promise.

Second in the series:  Second to Third Draft

For now, what do you (try) to fix in your second draft?

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About Kathrine Roid

I'm an science fiction and fantasy author living in Texas with an undead parakeet and teleporting cat. Think about that for a moment.

Posted on January 6, 2011, in How to Edit and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Second draft? I’m still on my first draft, which is why I haven’t done much editing yet.

  2. I don’t notice that sort of thing. I kinda read too fast to. Plus, I don’t know what the terms are, they don’t stick in my head! So my editing is adding words, and making sure that things are spelled right-though that is HARD!

  3. First, I’m sorry I forgot tags and a title. Fixed now. *laughs at self* Hey, I’m a newbie blogger and my mom was calling me for supper!

    ~
    I’m sure you’ll soon have reason to do editing, Varon. 🙂

    _
    Hmm. . . why don’t you at least try, Louisa? Get a small scene and look over it very carefully (In other words, read slowly!) for the things I mentioned: redundancy, grammar, spelling, weak words, and clunkiness. Your writing can only be the better for it.

  4. Abby aka PrincessoftheKing

    You know how much I love this story, Katty! I liked the changes you made from the first to the second draft… nice job catching all those little things. 🙂

    I need to edit my story… 😛

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