Editing — Don’t wanna, don’t wanna don’t wanna.
I suppose I should. ?
I just started looking over a novel I’ve had lying around for a number of years now. It’s one of the few finished longer works I’ve written. But it needs editing. As I read over a couple of chapters I realize that I’ve committed what I now would consider a deadly sin as an author. I assumed that the reader needed to be led by the hand. There is a tendency to tell instead of show. To my annoyance I find far too much information about things that either don’t matter or that the reader has already learned. This novel needs serious editing mainly because I treated the reader like an idiot. And that’s just where the work starts. Because I’m not even mentioning the bad grammar littering this novel. The excerpt below is one of the better ones.
So here’s my short but critical list of things to keep in mind:
- Don’t treat your reader like an idiot. I, as a reader, don’t like to be told three times in three different ways what is going on. Chances are that you said it already but in such a context that it becomes just a hint and the reader creates his or her own image of what’s happening. Mystery is nice and I love the feeling of “figuring it out”. Describing all physical attributes does not do your characters any favours. Let the reader create the world based on your framework and it will come to life much easier.
- Don’t be afraid to cut, delete, rewrite, and rearrange. Editing is what makes the story shine. Sometimes it feels like polishing a turd but other times it’s like extracting a precious gem out of rock. If a paragraph simply won’t sit right and you just can’t make it work for you; consider if what you’re saying needs to be told at all. Is it redundant? Does it add to the story? Or does it distract from it. It could simply be better placed somewhere else in the story. Rewriting is another option. But if it really does nothing for you it will not do anything for the reader and it needs to go away.
In this story in particular I realized that the prologue has to go and I will hate to kill it. But it really doesn’t do anything for me and killing this one part may just save the entire story.
And that’s the advice I wish I could follow. Keep writing.
Bob Teller stepped out of his car. He hurried around the hood of the brand new Honda and stepped over a low fence. He was in a hurry and it was nasty cold out here. He shivered and the corners of his full soft lips pulled down in an expression of distaste mingled with desperation. Bobs face was the kind of face that made people around him comfortable and for the most part trusting. He was well aware of it and used it to its full extent. Many deals had been signed to his satisfaction because of it. That is what he believed and for the most part he was absolutely right. If the potential customers could see his face right now though, crumpled up in dismay and disgust, perhaps they would have glimpsed just a fraction of Tellers true nature. Today though, it had gone as planned and he was satisfied.
Bob snorted and surveyed the ground carefully before settling his perfectly polished shoes on the slope leading down in a deep ditch. His carefully combed over hair fluttered in a cold wind, exposing his much hated spot of shiny scalp. He was overdressed for this specific occasion and he glanced along the road. He wouldn’t want to be caught dead in a predicament like this. He opened his pants and shivered again as he exposed his private parts to the empty road and dark forest. It was bad enough that he had to go to this shit hole of a town and when he hadn’t found a single washroom that he could enter without disinfecting himself and the facility first, he had panicked.
With the town hall meeting concluded, not at all a waste of time when considering the nice little bonus he could expect from the finished deal with the town of Omni. Coffee, they always had coffee and gallons of it. That curly-haired little number with the coffee pot had been very persuasive. He would have chugged another couple of cups just to have that chest bobbing in that way , just so, one more time. A lady like that was wasted talent in a small time town like that.
Bob grimaced as he considered the unavoidable marks and dirt on his shoes. If you have to go you have to go. Hail nor rain nor snow can stop that, it was cold though. A piece of fluttering fabric caught his eye. Behind those shrubs, just inside the tree-line beyond the ditch with its toxin covered sand and gravel.
He couldn’t quite see what it was, a bundle of, something. He cursed when he thought of the glasses still lying on the passenger seat in the car. He never drove with them actually on, but kept them close by just in case. He leaned over further as he relieved the pressure and squinted.
A pair of pants, a pair of shoes, a coat. The man took a step back and caught the railing with his knees. The final squirt of yellow urine splashed over his shoe and the hem of his suit trousers. He scrambled backward while putting himself back through the fly on the silk boxers and closed his pants. He didn’t look away from what stuck out of one sleeve. The hand was bony and grey, too thin and lay curled half in and half out of a new looking brown leather glove.
He reached out to move some branches out of the way. He needed to see. His attention was drawn to something else though. Something that made him pull his hand back and take a step backwards. Something that wouldn’t have bothered him in the least on a normal day. This was not a normal day though and he wished he had never accepted that third cup of coffee. A leather band, three quarter of an inch wide, ending in a loop, lay wrapped around what he knew for sure now was an arm. A glint of silvery metal half obscured by the glove. The glove that he knew now contained something he knew he didn’t want to see. He gingerly moved a few branches to the side. There was definitely a pair of dark brown pants, a coat and, was that a hat?
It dawned on him. He looked away. People threw the oddest things. By the side of the road was the lazy man’s dump. He barked a laughter but cut it short because it wasn’t fucking funny. “Inconsiderate assholes,” he muttered to the blacktop, “some working asshole on minimum wage will have to pick up that shit.”
Someone would and that someone would not be Bob. What Bob did was push it out of his mind. He to leave the discarded scarecrow to the people who did that kind of work. They’d take care of it. He didn’t need his glasses after all. There was no need for a closer look. Those branches would ruin his new suit. It was a fucking scarecrow and nothing else. Never mind that it was months out of harvest season in these parts and that there were no fields anywhere in sight. And that outfit … no person with even a sliver of taste wouldn’t be seen in public with those old rags. Never mind that scarecrows rarely wore silver jewelry as expensive looking as the necklace that had caught Bob’s eye. Back in the car, he tore a tissue from the ever present box on the dashboard and dabbed his nose while turning up the heat. Perhaps he exceeded the speed-limit when driving through the Omni township border. Perhaps the odd feeling in the back of his mind stayed for a while. Perhaps.