The Key To Amazingness: Add Ons In Editing

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Using my unreleased manuscript An Angel On Her Shoulder, I am showing you my techniques for reworking a story into a more readable, more enjoyable piece. It’s 45+ lessons in about 45 days. (To start at Chapter 1, click HERE.)

To view it best, bring up the two versions in different windows and view them side by side to see what was changed.

Then give me your thoughts in the comment section.

ADDING ON

You can have a lot of fun going over your manuscript a second time with fresh eyes. As you edit, you’ll see stuff that can be made better. Sure, a well-placed comma can make the difference between “Eat grandma” and “Eat, grandma,” but equally so can a well-placed line.

Now, I don’t mean quotable sayings, like “You had me at ‘Hello’” or “Say hello to my little friend,” although stuff like that should be included in your writing just cos they’re so cool, and why not have some quotable stuff? Add that to your to-do list of editing items. Find a few places to create a quoteworthy line. Make your writing memorable!

But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about.

I mean add a well-placed line that heightens tension.

Consider passage below, with the newly added lines in bold. What a difference they make, and what a sinister tone they add. Now Doug running up the stairs sounds less like a dutiful father and more like a scared person.

One line added (“They didn’t take your statement, did they?”) changes everything, but it plays better when tweaking the lines around it, so technically it’s a few lines.

“He said something like ‘people need to learn to get out of the way.’” I let that sink in. “Saying something like that about people you had almost killed. It seemed very odd. Very . . . inappropriate. Misplaced. You know?”

She nodded. “I’d say his mind is going, but it isn’t.”

“Do you think there will be a lawsuit?”

Janice stifled a sarcastic laugh. She walked to the doorway, stopping to look up and down the hallway. “Maybe,” she whispered. “But it’ll never go anywhere. His friends on the police force will see to that. They didn’t take your statement, did they?”

“They’re supposed to. I was waiting—”

“The police have left.”

I bolted upright and peered out the window. The parking lot was empty.

“See?” Janice turned and quietly disappeared down the hall.

Upstairs, Sophie starting to make noise. “Daddy?”

Climbing the stairs two at a time, I reached my daughter before she could become frightened by waking up in a strange room.

Right now you are saying, “Wow, that’s much better!”

Thanks, I know.

Okay, so that’s what I discovered when I was editing chapter 10. And that’s today’s lesson. Have your editing eyes open looking for commas, and your writer eyes open looking for story enhancements.


Chapter 10 “FINAL”

The drive back to Florida was intentionally uneventful. Few stops were made; not a lot of conversations took place. Sophie’s oncoming head cold would be best fought with sleep, and if Mallory was going to catch it—and riding for twelve hours next to our daughter, she would—then sleep was her best defense, too.

I just drove. The van’s satellite radio let me keep up with sports and news, so I checked out the weather situation for the ride home. A tropical storm formed off the east coast of Florida, but nobody knew which direction it was headed yet. That could mean a long drive back to Tampa in the rain, or the swirling winds of the brewing storm would pull all the moisture away from Tampa and give me crystal clear skies the whole way home.

With two sick people in the car, I felt like a marked man. How long until that sneezing and coughing got me?

Either way, the best place for me now was Tampa, not thinking about my family getting a cold. And definitely not thinking about the three tragedies.

But long drives are long for a reason. The endless stretch of gray asphalt ribbon allows minds to wander. To go where they shouldn’t.

Mallory admitted how much things looked less and less like coincidences and more and more like… what, exactly? It haunted me.

I didn’t know Virginia. It wasn’t fair to decide about a place after such a short period of time, but I didn’t know it, I couldn’t trust it. I knew Florida and I knew Indiana. I knew what to expect when things happened in the places I knew. I didn’t know Virginia that way. The small town law and their ways of doing things . . .

It bothered me that the officers at the winery never took a written statement. It bothered me that close friends were so ready to throw old Mr. Hill under the bus. Lots of things bothered me about that day.

I didn’t have answers. I didn’t know Virginia that way. Florida, I knew that way.

And I would get some damned answers.

I had time to make some phone calls. I didn’t know the rules in every state we were going to pass through—driving while talking on a handheld cell phone might be illegal in some—so I played it safe and looked up the numbers I wanted while I was getting gas. They were ready to go when we started driving again.

The first call was to our church, Our Lady Of Mercy. Although I didn’t attend mass regularly after Sophie’s baptism, I felt comfortable in my years of Catholic schooling to sit down with the head of the parish and discuss the connections between the strange things that kept happening to our family. It was worth a shot. Who do you go to for stuff like that?

Then, I knew that an old high school friend was supposed to be a practicing priest somewhere in the area, and I had just run into my 8th grade English teacher at Maria’s wedding—he was a priest, too, and although it might make for an awkward conversation after so much time, he knew my dad and our whole family. He might be able to help.

After that, I figured I’d end up wherever this was all headed anyway. Like a boat on a river, the direction of the current would influence things. If my wife was right, if these odd happenings were related somehow, then my family on some sort of course we weren’t directing, heading to a place we shouldn’t go. We needed to do our best to not end up there.


Original Chapter 10, An Angel On Her Shoulder

The drive back to Florida was intentionally uneventful. Few stops were made; not a lot of conversations took place. Savvy’s slight head cold would be best fought with sleep, and if Michele was going to catch it, sleep was her best defense, too.

I just drove. The van’s satellite radio let me keep up with sports and news, so I checked out the weather situation for the ride home. There was a tropical storm brewing off the east coast of Florida, but right now nobody knew which direction it was headed. That could mean a long drive back to Tampa in the rain, or it could mean the swirling winds of the storm would pull all the moisture away from Tampa – then it would be clear skies the whole way home.

And I was a little distracted. With two sick people in the car, I felt like a marked man. How long until that sneezing and coughing got me?

Without regard to that, I knew that whether I ended up getting sick or not, the best place for me now was Tampa, in my own bed. That wasn’t what distracted me.

On the twelve hour drive home, I simply had too much time to think about the three tragedies. Especially now that Michele had admitted how much they were looking less and less like coincidences and more and more like… what, exactly? It haunted me. The two sick people inside the car, and the potential for bad weather outside the car, were secondary issues at the moment. Details of recent events were nagging at me.

I didn’t know Virginia. It wasn’t fair to decide about a place after such a short period of time. I knew Florida and I knew Ohio. I knew what to expect when things happened in the places I knew. I didn’t know Virginia that way. The small town law and their ways of doing things…

It bothered me that the officers at the winery never took a written statement. It bothered me that close friends were so ready to throw old Mr Hill under the bus.

And it bothered me about the “blue lightning” saw on the face of the officer. What was that all about?

I didn’t have answers. I didn’t know Virginia that way. Florida, I knew that way.

And I would get some damned answers.

Since it was a weekday, and since we were on I-75, I had time to make some phone calls. I didn’t know the rules for cell phone use in every state we were going to drive through; it might be illegal to drive and talk, depending on where we were. So I played it safe and looked the phone numbers I wanted to call while I was getting gas. They were ready to go when we started driving again. That helped.

The first call was to our church, Our Lady Of Mercy. Although I didn’t attend mass regularly after Savvy’s baptism, I felt comfortable in my twelve years of catholic schooling to sit down with the head of the parish and discuss the connections between the strange things that kept happening to our family.

After that, I knew that an old high school friend was supposed to be a practicing priest somewhere in the area, and I had just run into my 8th grade English teacher at Maria’s wedding – he was a priest, too, and although it might make for an awkward conversation after so much time, he knew my dad and our whole family. He might be able to help.

After that, I figured I’d end up wherever this was all headed anyway. Like a boat on a river; the current was going to influence things. Right now, we seemed to be on some sort of course that we weren’t directing, heading to a place we shouldn’t go. We needed to do our best to not end up there.

There was a lot of work to do; there just didn’t seem to be a lot of time.


ANALYSIS

Hey, that was a short chapter.

Yeah, I know. It’s okay to have a short chapter if the story calls for it. Odds are this should be tacked onto the prior chapter, or the one after it, and then it’s just a scene change. To do that, we drop in a line of asterisks:

 *  *  *  *  *  *

letting readers know that time has passed, it’s a new scene, the POV has changed, or some other such thing.

The stuff we took out was mainly repetition and things we read not too long ago, but there’s a style change, too. Before, Doug was actively wondering about the connections in the three tragedies, now he’s reluctantly doing it. That’s more in his nature at this point, to shy away. That’ll be important when the time comes for him to act – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Really, looking back at this chapter, you have to ask: do we need it at all? Maybe not.

What new things did we learn? Do they warrant a whole chapter?

Maybe we can dribble them in here and there, and eliminate a section that slows the story down. Something to think about!

Now:

head shot
your humble host

Let me have your comments. The next chapter will post tomorrow but they will ALL come down shortly after February 15, so don’t dawdle!

You are readers, too. Your input will shape the final product. Be honest.

Share and reblog these! Your friends need to know this stuff, too.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – $2.99 or FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Available in paperback and audio book, too!

3 thoughts on “The Key To Amazingness: Add Ons In Editing

  1. I like the “break” in the “action” with this chapter. (or perhaps ****** ) I feel is allows the reader to digest everything that has happened. Somewhat like an intermission in a play without letting us out of our seats. Yes, I could see the enhancements and well places commas. As my newspaper editor used to say, “You’re learning.”

    Liked by 1 person

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