Going for the “Most Improved” certificate

Editing Central

So, it’s editing month. I hope I’m making the novel better. That’s the goal, anyway. And now you get to see me show my work. I reworked the opening, starting with:

A tall, beefy blond man pushed open the swinging saloon doors and looked in. Like everyone else in the room, Slim Holloway took notice.

The big man turned his head back over his shoulder and spoke, but Slim couldn’t make out what he said. A shorter man, perhaps 35 years old and better dressed than anyone Slim had seen since leaving Wichita, entered the saloon.

“Afternoon, Mr. Routledge,” the bartender said.

And ending up with:

A creaking hinge distracted the mousy clerk Slim had trained his Gift on. The little, balding man was no longer entranced by the pair of sixes he held, his attention drawn by the sound. So much for Slim discovering what else might be in his opponent’s hand. No matter. Slim’s own hand wasn’t one he cared to bet on; he’d mostly focused on the clerk because the game itself had been boring and not likely to gain him the funds he needed.

He withdrew from the middle place, the part of his mind he used so he could see through other people’s eyes, and returned his focus to the material world. He was just in time to see a hulking, fair-haired man at the saloon entrance, his meaty hand on one batwing door. The others at the table—a couple of farmhands and a blacksmith—also had their eyes on the entryway.

The big man looked back over his shoulder and said something, but Slim couldn’t make out what. It must have been some sort of summons or all-clear, because when he stepped through and held the door open, a normal-sized man entered the saloon. A bit of gray hair at the man’s brown temples made newcomer look as if he might be in his late 30s or early 40s.

“Afternoon, Congressman Routledge,” the bartender said.

Yes, the new opening is longer than the old opening, but it solved one genre-specific issue. In the earlier draft, magic wasn’t introduced until around page 4. In the revision, magic is set up more quickly. I was also trying to set the scene more concretely by using more sensory detail.

What do you think? Is one version better than they other? Does one make you want to read further, while the other makes you want to put it back on the shelf? Opinions welcome.

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