The edit of “Tishta the Crystal Orb,” Part 4: Colmaria took a lot longer than I had hoped. Three weeks seems like an eternity as I make my way through this edit of Tishta. I finished the initial read-through and edit of the five chapters in Part 4, for the most part, in about a week, but found it difficult to impossible to do the recording. Since I consider listening to the stories as part of the editing process, I couldn’t justify moving forward into Part 5. To record, I need to be at home, and it needs to be relatively quiet—which generally means having the windows closed (and the cats asleep). Even though we’re having a cool July in Seattle this year—we have yet to break 85° F this month—I have rarely closed the windows. In general, Seattle only has a few days over 90° F each summer, so most of us don’t have air-conditioning.
I made some good progress over the weekend, finishing the recording of the second and third chapter. Then, Monday, one of the tasks that has been occupying most of my time resolved itself. In the evening, I finished the fourth and fifth chapters. It was an exciting day!
The scenes in all of the chapters remained in tact. I continue my move toward simpler sentences with strong verbs. I hope I haven’t gone too far with this. It is a practice that I first learned when I was regularly attending the old Louisa’s Café Writers’ Group (now, Vios Café Writers). The group is led by long-time writers (and comrades), Jack Remick and Robert Ray. The two shared many techniques for how to do this, as well as lots of other favorite practices. I didn’t understand what I had learned. After I finished my first draft of Tishta and handed it off to my editor, Anne Bean, a major complaint from her was my use of gerund phrases to begin sentences. These were actually artifacts of long, complex sentences, and my propensity toward using gerunds, in general.
As I went through Tishta’s second draft, I spent a lot of time getting rid of gerund phrases, but primarily at the beginning of sentences. I had not entirely embraced getting rid of most of them from my writing. It wasn’t until the current edit that I realized what Jack and Bob were saying. Not only have I removed most of the gerund phrases—except for judicious use—I have also replaced the vast majority of the words “and” and “then” with a period and a capital letter to start the next phrase. This accomplished more than simply creating shorter, more declarative sentences. It also helped separate the characters’ actions and, in doing so, allowed me to break up paragraphs to describe a single character’s actions.
This example is from chapter 22, “Castle Colmaria,” scene 2, “Is It Really Meant for Bathing?” where Coltan has convinced Mar that baths can be nice. First, this is the content from the original draft:
Finding soap and a washcloth in a nearby drawer, Coltan came back to help her wash. He lathered up her hair and made sure it all got rinsed out when she dunked her head under the water. Then she stood, and he wrapped a large towel around her and lifted her back to the floor. Using a smaller towel, he rubbed her hair, then combed it for her.
This is the current version of the same content:
After finding soap and a small towel in a nearby drawer, Coltan came back to help her wash. He lathered up her hair and made sure it all got rinsed out when she dunked her head under the water.
When she was done, she stood.
Coltan wrapped a large towel around her and lifted her back to the floor. Using a smaller towel, he rubbed her hair, then combed it for her.
Several changes happened here. I mitigated starting the first sentence with a gerund phrase by adding the preposition, “after,” to the beginning. There are other ways to do this, but I liked the flow this approach gave to the text. I broke up the paragraph into three, separating the subjects’ actions. I accomplished this, in part, by getting rid of the “and” in the second to last sentence. This allowed me to put all the rest of the actions with Coltan in the last paragraph. After listening to the recording, I opted to keep the gerund phrase in the final sentence—hopefully, it is an appropriate usage “using” and “then.” I think the sentence was fine as originally written.
Changes like these have been one of the causes of the increased page count in the second draft. Sometimes the word count goes down even though the page count goes up, but, more often than not, both increase. The changes from the first draft to the second that I made to this chapter resulted in the word count diminishing by nearly two-thousand words while the page count went up by four. I realized, to get a true word count, I needed to only include the manuscript itself, and not the notes. This puts me at 175,847 words.
For this edit, I am focused on making changes like the ones above. After I get through Part 5: Into Mondar, I will do one more to look for scenes that are not required to move the story forward. I am fairly certain I will not be able to discern the truly extraneous ones, so I will need to involve my editor—if she is available—to help me with this. Part of the focus of that edit pass will be to scour the text, looking for missing commas and periods. Another thing I will check is how consistently I have separated characters’ actions into discrete paragraphs—I am doing this more regularly the more I write and edit, so the beginning of the book might, again, be out of sync with the writing style towards the end.
My current goal is to finish the current edit pass in a week. The ultimate goal is to be published before the end of the year. The finishing Tishta has moved up in my priorities list, so I feel confident, today, that these are possibilities. Wish me luck.
Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.