Editing your work: word redundancy

Having just finished the line edit for RAVENCRY, I’ve noticed that it has changed the way that I’m writing the draft of the next book in the Raven’s Mark series. Editing can sometimes feel like an isolated process, so I decided that I’d share the way that I’m approaching writing now.

Key things that I’m keeping in mind:

  • Clarity
  • Brevity
  • Removing redundancy

Prose choices are stylistic and a personal choice. I like to write in a way that’s clear, neat and where the words don’t get in the way of a reader’s experience of the story. At heart I’m a storyteller rather than a poet. If you prefer your prose to be different, then that’s not in any way wrong, it’s just a choice.

Below I’ve posted three versions of the same opening paragraph from a book that I started and abandoned back around 2014.

  1. The paragraph as I wrote it in the first draft
  2. The paragraph showing changes that I would make during an edit
  3. The final paragraph

I haven’t changed what happens in the story – it wasn’t a very good story, and it’s not a very good opening paragraph either, and I’ll explain why I think that at the end. I’ve not changed the events, as here I only want to focus on the prose rather than storytelling. So, let’s get started. This is the first paragraph from chapter one of THE MAWKIN FIELDS.

Capture1

So, this isn’t working at all. It feels clunky, the descriptions get in the way of what’s actually happening and overall it feels like it’s really trying too hard. Here are the tracked changes that I would now make:

Capture2

Once I’d made these changes, other changes became apparent. So I made some more, but if I showed you all the changes, then basically the whole thing would be red, so I’ve skipped that stage.

The final version would therefore look like so:

Capture3

Now, this is still a poor opening for a story. Sure, there’s a storm, and sure, Tay is uncomfortable, but setting the scene this way isn’t driving action. The only real saving grace is that a storm opening tends to put the reader slightly on edge as it’s a classic metaphor for approaching external conflict, but at least having doctored it this way it’s not so damn confusing, overwritten and it gets us closer to something actually happening slightly quicker.

I’ve no idea whether this would be helpful to anyone, but I never got to see edits at work like this until I had an editor, so maybe it will be of use to you. Let me know in the comments!

blackwing_2

Published by EdMcDonald

Ed McDonald is the author of The Raven's Mark series of novels. He currently lives in the UK. Find me at www.edmcdonaldwriting.com

3 thoughts on “Editing your work: word redundancy

  1. Hi Ed.

    I love this because it is what I do, and that you do it gives me hope that maybe my edits will amount to something. After editing the whole story so many times, I’m finally editing it believes I’ve actually LEARNED something about making it better, instead of just trying to improve it. And my current editing looks like this. Simplify and clarify, cut extra fluff, and keep what’s necessary. The next night I read whatever I did last over again, and eventually I’m down to, say, only ONE little edit. That’s when I know I’m there.

    Joel

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  2. Thanks for sharing this, Ed. An example can be more useful than a book on editing.

    I often overwrite character descriptions in the first draft. Square face, eyes wide apart, three grey hairs in the left nostril. Lots of text that doesn’t actually say much about the person.

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