I had some interest in this so I'm going to make an attempt to do something a little different. This is a bit of an experiment, so we'll see how it goes, and I may do more if people want to see more.
As you may know, I've been taking an editing course through Holly Lisle's Forward Motion
Writer's Board for, um, a while now. Law school has stretched this out a lot longer than I would have liked! Forward Motion is a writing support forum, which I will review properly someday when I get around to it.
The course I'm doing is called How To Revise Your Novel
. It's a 22-week course, and highly, highly recommended. I'm not even done, and the number of things I've learned about writing is staggering. Again, I'll do a proper review of the course at some point. It's definitely on my list. I just want to finish it first.
Anyway, in a nutshell, the course involves reviewing your novel multiple times, looking for various specific things, such as conflict, character consistency, pacing, etc. You fill out worksheets and make notes, and it's all very structured. In week 17, you finally take everything that you've learned about your novel, good and bad, and start actually revising it. Exciting!
So what I thought I would do is scan my first scene and post it for your edification/amusement and do a bit of a commentary on what I'm changing and why. If there's enough interest, I'd be willing to continue the commentary in future posts, too.
Keep in mind that this is going to look really rough. I'm doing the edits by hand, and I will type them all in later, so I apologize if you can't read some of my handwriting.
I've left the pictures as links to another page, because they're extremely large. If you want to be able to easily flip back and forth between the picture and the commentary without having to hit the back button, right-click on the link and select "Open Link in New Tab".Page 1
As you can see from the crossed-out page number in the upper right-hand corner, this scene was originally page 135 of the manuscript. I was never happy with the original first scene, because I felt it started too slow and was too awkward in terms of revealing the world I have built, without info-dumps and irrelevant exposition. So after a lot of thought and poking around, I decided to pull this scene into the beginning, as a flash-forward. I help to indicate this by including a date at the top of this scene and subsequent ones, as well as indicating that it's the year 316 "After Breakthrough", which won't make sense yet, but will later.
I think it makes a far more intriguing first scene, introduces the main character, Liilan, and one of the main themes of the book, which is about Liilan's conflict between keeping his career intact, and searching out and reporting the truth, which is what journalists are supposed to be doing.
You'll see a lot of weird number codes in my draft. These are references to worksheets that I've filled out. Some of them refer to problems in the manuscript that I want to change (for example, [1Ba10 #8] at the top refers to an entry in a worksheet that points out that Liilan broke his cellphone in a previous scene, but now suddenly he has it. I solved this problem by deciding to make him not break his cellphone, and in fact I will be removing the whole thing that caused him to break it in the first place, because it related to a sub-plot that never went anywhere and which I am cutting from the book)
For plot reasons, I've decided that it's early winter, so I made it colder than it had originally been in the first draft. I also edited those middle paragraphs to account for the fact that the reader won't have read the scene before it, to introduce the existence of two characters, Mortis and Phames, without referring to events that would just confuse the reader.
I also mention that Phames is a vox, but I'm not explaining what that is, yet.Page 2
On page 2, we introduce Salmo, Liilan's editor. Because this is now the first scene, so Salmo hasn't been seen before, I fiddled with his description. I also added a line to show how tired Liilan is, as he's been dealing with a lot of stuff over the last few days.
Originally when I wrote the first draft, I put all of the new words I invented in italics. This got tiresome pretty quickly, so I made a note to myself to remove the italics. I think this melds the Aerian language into the book more seamlessly, especially since the terms are used so much throughout the course of the book.
Again I fiddled with description to introduce concepts the reader was going to have to understand since this is the first scene of the novel, and removed references to Phames' safehouse, since I think this would be confusing at this stage of the book, and not really necessary. I added more description to show Liilan's been busy, not at work, and dealing with badness, even if the reader doesn't know what that badness is yet.
Also I should mention that in the original draft, Liilan had been shot it the leg before this. I decided that he shouldn't have been shot in that previous scene, so I am taking out references to his injury throughout this scene.Page 3
The scene goes on with Liilan trying to give his boss the story of the century, and Salmo acting more and more weird and agitated. Liilan suspects far earlier than in the original draft that Salmo's turned on him, even though he doesn't want to believe it, because it's pretty obvious by this point that something is terribly wrong.
I also include a few references to the incredible - almost unbelievable - length of their friendship. Three centuries? How could anyone live that long?
I also had Salmo refuse to say the word 'dead'. Liilan says it for him, in fact, showing far less fear at the concept, and more acceptance of it. This suggests that there's something about death that Salmo is too terrified of to even mention, while Liilan is coming to accept it.Page 4
The police finally strike, and Liilan's fears are realized. Instead of being totally shocked, he's angry at Salmo for betraying him, while Salmo is almost afraid of him. The police treat Liilan like a dangerous criminal, and it's clear that Salmo has his own problems that he was trying to avoid.Page 5
The fight with the police officers continues on, with Liilan unable to do much, because he's a journalist, not a fighter, and there are lots of guys holding him. Also for some reason I kept referring to the van as a truck, so I fixed that.
And then the previously-mentioned Mortis and Phames appear - and they have wings. I describe the wings (again, because this is the first scene they haven't been described previously, and I want the reader to have a few extra seconds to notice that something weird is going on). And Mortis does something that shouldn't be physically possible. The police officers try to run, but Liilan thinks that that's pretty pointless - you can't outrun Death. Mortis is Death.Page 6
Mortis actually has amnesia and doesn't know what she is (though by this point in the story, she's learned that she's the vox of death). In the original draft, she couldn't even remember her name, and Liilan gave her a new one, Umos. But the new-name thing never really was significant and she ultimately learned her real name and started using it, so I am removing all references to the Umos name.
I also decided because of the magical physics of this world that guns are pretty useless weapons. I was fairly inconsistent about the use of guns throughout the first draft, so I'm cleaning up any mention of them. So Liilan wasn't shot in that previous scene, and the police don't carry guns to shoot uselessly at Mortis. Liilan does
get shot in this scene, though, by a sniper rifle. It shocks him that anyone would bother using a gun, but for the single shot, it's mortally effective, and we are left at the end of the first scene with a cliffhanger.
I hope you enjoyed this, and I'd welcome comments and feedback! What do you think of the scene so far? Does it intrigue you and would it make you want to read more? Or are the number of things I leave out to whet the appetite making it a little confusing?
Also if there's else anything that I've changed and you're curious why, please ask! I pointed out most of the major ones, but I'd be happy to discuss any of it. I have reasons for pretty much every word I've changed or added.