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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Critiquing Again

I found my old manuscript! Since there was some interest in how I shaved Lever, for what it’s worth let me compare a few paragraphs from a random passage in the story. I’ll face it off paragraph by paragraph, and then give a brief explanation. The old passage was 347 words, the final is 286. This gives a percent cut of 18%.

***

OLD (50 words):
Seidel had been planting only the first of the four bombs then. Gideon had given him a very detailed outline of procedure once he was in the time machine. Benjamin must have come in before Seidel had been in the target area five minutes, and Gideon clenched his fists angrily.

NEW (26 words):
Seidel had been planting only the first of the four bombs then. Benjamin must have entered before Seidel had been in the target area five minutes.

NOTE:
the reader already knows that Gideon delivered a detailed outline

*

OLD (16 words):
He followed Benjamin’s glance to his hands and forced himself to relax. Don’t give yourself away.

NEW (20 words):
Gideon clenched his fists, then followed Benjamin’s glance to his hands and forced himself to relax. Don’t give yourself away.

NOTE: I moved clenched fists to the next paragraph to tighten the reference. I also italicized the thought.

*

OLD (23 words):
He suddenly had no energy for this, now that he’d learned what he needed. He stood up, signaling the end of the conference.

NEW (23 words):
Now that he’d learned what he needed, he had no more energy for this. He stood up, signaling the end of the conference.

NOTE:
I transposed the first sentence so that the actions take place in chronological order. First Gideon learned the information, then he was enervated. Subtle but important, as anyone who reads about Randy Ingermanson’s motivation-reaction units knows :-)

*

OLD (69 words):
Benjamin cleared his throat. “Sir, do you know if they’ve found the missing trigger yet?”

Gideon started. “The trigger,” he said.

Benjamin nodded. “Yes Sir. Colonel Aaron did mention to me that the man had been carrying four bombs and two trigger mechanisms, plus another trigger on the wire cable that he’d been setting. There’s – well, he seemed to think that suggested that a trigger mechanism might be missing.”

NEW (57 words)
Benjamin cleared his throat. “Sir, do you know if they’ve found the missing trigger yet?”

“The trigger?”

“Yes, sir. Colonel Aaron mentioned that the man had been carrying four bombs and two trigger mechanisms, plus another trigger for the wire cable that he’d been setting. There’s—well, he seemed to think a trigger mechanism might be missing.”

NOTE:
I removed speaker attributions, plus cut some wordiness.

*

OLD (72 words):
Gideon pressed his hands together. “Ah – no, they haven’t found it yet.”

“What did it look like?”

“Excuse me?”

“The trigger,” Benjamin said. “I don’t remember seeing one last night, but maybe I could recognize something I saw if you could describe it for me.”

“The trigger,” Gideon said, and he took a breath. “Ah – I believe they were unusual, like the one used in that car bomb that killed your wife.”

NEW (51 words):
Gideon pressed his hands together. “Ah—no, they haven’t found it yet. I believe it was like the one used in that car bomb that killed your wife.”

“Like the one in the car bomb—” Benjamin grimaced as he covered his eyes with his hand again. He held himself immobile.

NOTE: The old passage was wordy. The multiple exchanges were distracting.

*

OLD (74 words):
That was a slip. Careful. “They’re white, cigar shaped, can fit easily in your palm.”

Benjamin suddenly grimaced as he covered his eyes with his hand again. He held immobile for a few moments before he relaxed.

“I’m sorry Sir,” he said. “My eyes have some stabbing pain still, but the doctor says that will stop in a few hours.”

“Hmm.”

Benjamin looked up. “Sir, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to get some rest.”

NEW (62 words):

Blast it. Distract him from that slip. Gideon jumped forward. “Feinan, do you need to see the doctor?”

Benjamin lowered his hand, shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir. My eyes have some stabbing pain still, but the doctor says that will stop in a few hours."

“You’d better rest them. The mission’s just two and a half days off now.”

“Yes, sir.”

NOTE: old paragraph didn’t convey a strong sense of urgency, and frankly wasn’t realistic. In the new passage Gideon takes control.

*

OLD (44 words):
Gideon waved him on. “Go. Go."

After he had left Gideon sank into the chair behind his desk. He pulled out the top drawer to his cigarettes.

His hands were shaking as he lit the match, and then he breathed in the burning smoke.

NEW (47 words):
Gideon pushed him to the door. “Go. Go. Now.”

After he had left, Gideon sank into the chair behind his desk. He pulled out the top drawer to his cigarettes.

His hands were shaking as he lit the match, and then he breathed in the burning smoke.

NOTE: Gideon again is slightly more aggressive in the second passage.

6 comments:

Andra M. said...

Ah, yes. Those pesky MRUs!

Excellent examples of cutting, rewording and restructuring. Thanks for sharing.

Travis said...

This is interesting to see the evolution of your manuscript. Thanks for sharing.

Jessica Thomas said...

The rewrites are definitely more to the point, more interesting and engaging. Great examples. Thanks for letting us peek into your revision process.

lynnrush said...

NICE.....That is fun to see the changes...and helfpul.

Great post!

Brandie said...

These are terrific, and very helpful. Especially the smaller changes, which are subtle but so effective! Something I really need to work on.

gzusfreek said...

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

I got my first crit from someone I didn't already know :( the best word in there, the only positive was: interesting. . .mmmmm Then I think, well, maybe I can't write hee hee

Keep on keepin on!
Thanks for your site and all its help!