Tag Archives: Show Your Work

More of the WIP

40Miler
A medicine show wagon, smaller than Dr. Miracle’s

Still editing like crazy. This section takes place after Slim has well and truly hooked up with Dr. Miracle’s Medicine Show. Here’s the previous version:

Their wagon moved so slowly that Thérèse walked beside it easily. Slim flanked the wagon on the other side. He felt well enough, and didn’t want to be seen as any more of a liability than he already was. Dr. Miracle drove. Mary had left the group within five minutes of their setting out, and no one made any comment. After the way Thérèse had ignored Slim’s questions yesterday, he decided not to ask why Mary had left. Instead he asked where they were headed.

Thérèse’s lips curved up to one side. “Didn’t you hear? West.”

“Is there a town, or even a state we have in mind?”

“We’ll stop at the first town that seems likely for our purposes,” Dr. Miracle said.

Dr. Miracle seemed by far the most loquacious of Slim’s new companions, but that didn’t really mean he was forthcoming. He seemed to like to talk a lot, but that was not the same thing.

Dr. Miracle seemed to reconsider. “I suppose there’s no call to be especially secretive, Mr. Holloway. If my map is accurate, the next place that we are likely to find need of our services is a little hamlet by the name of Green Willow.”

And here’s the revised version:

The medicine show wagon trundled down the dirt road behind two phlegmatic horses, Dr. Miracle at the reins. Thérèse and Slim accompanied it, one on either side. Mary had deserted the group within five minutes of their setting out. Two hours passed with no sign of her, and no one made any comment. After the way Thérèse had deflected Slim’s questions yesterday, he decided not to ask why Mary had left. Instead he asked where they were headed.

Thérèse shot him a sidelong glance. “Didn’t you hear? Away from Fish Creek.”

“Is there a town, a state, or even a territory we have in mind?”

Dr. Miracle said, “We’ll stop at the first town that seems likely for our purposes.”

“Do you know what I like about you, sir?”

“I imagine there are so many things it’s hard to choose among them.”

“I was thinking of one thing in particular. You are by far the most loquacious of my new companions. I appreciate a good conversation.”

“We have that in common, son.”

“There’s only one fly in the ointment.”

“Somehow I knew you would find one.” Doc’s mouth curved up as he regarded the horizon. Slim tried to see what the old man might be looking at, but saw only a rut-filled  road, low hills, tall grass and the occasional tree. Still no sign of Mary.

“Do you want to know what that fly is, Doctor?”

“If you want to tell me.”

“You are not what I’d call forthcoming. You may like to talk a lot, but that isn’t the same thing.”

Dr. Miracle chuckled. “I suppose there’s no call to be secretive, Mr. Holloway. If my map is accurate, the next place we are likely to find need of our services is a little hamlet by the name of Green Willow.”

The idea with the later version was that I wanted Slim to be more engaged with his companions, especially Dr. Miracle. I also wanted a clearer sense of the setting. And fewer adverbs.

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Showing more work

Anna_Brassey_woman-writing_web
wikimedia commons image, artist unknown

Second in a series of indeterminate length, showing revision work on a novel-in-progress, currently titled Dr. Miracle’s Medicine Show

Here’s another early section of the novel, which introduces new characters:

Mary poked the campfire for the hundredth time that evening, wishing there was some way she could help. A sound brought her head up. Thérèse’s black cat, Noir, leapt from the opening just before Thérèse eased down the canted steps. Thérèse looked fifty years old tonight, though Mary knew she was no more than twenty-five.

“How is he?” Mary asked.

Doc hadn’t wanted Mary in the wagon, and she hadn’t wanted to be there. His gray, drawn face had made her uneasy.

“He’ll be all right. For now.“ Thérèse came over and stirred the fire as if even on this warm night, she felt cold. She didn’t meet Mary’s eyes. “It’s just—he isn’t getting any younger.”

Mary didn’t know how old Doc was, not for sure. He seemed to have aged a lot just in the last few months, though. Therese wasn’t telling her everything. Despite her fear, this annoyed Mary. She might be just a kid, but she wasn’t a fool. When the silence stretched too long, Mary finally said, “What’s wrong with him?”

And here’s the above section, revised:

Mary poked the campfire for the hundredth time that evening, watching sparks dance and settle and wishing she knew what to do. Doc hadn’t wanted her in the wagon, saying she was too young. Normally when he said that she would argue, but his gray, drawn face kept her quiet.

A sound brought her head up. Thérèse’s black cat, Noir, leapt from the wagon opening just before Thérèse eased down the canted steps. Though she was no more than twenty-five years old, Thérèse looked more like forty tonight.

“How is he?” Mary asked.

“Comfortable, more or less.“ Thérèse stirred the fire as if even on this warm night, she felt cold. She sat on a camp stool, not meeting Mary’s eyes. “It’s just—he isn’t getting any younger.”

Stupid thing to say. Mary had seen how fast Doc had aged in the last few months. She didn’t know exactly how old he was, not for sure. She didn’t even know exactly how old she was, though according to Doc’s best guess, she was ten or eleven. She challenged Therese. “You ever met anyone who gets younger?”

Therese stared into the fire. Noir jumped into her lap and she stroked him absently.
When the silence stretched too long, Mary said, “What’s wrong with him?”

Going for the “Most Improved” certificate

office_sm
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.

So there’s this Magical Medicine Show…now what?

Anna_Brassey_woman-writing_web
One can work in one’s peignoir

The lovely people at National Novel Writing Month are pushing a new thing, or at least a thing I don’t remember them being as pushy about in previous years. Now that we’ve all written a novel, they’re all about making it good. And because I’m into the whole “Show Your Work” movement, you get to read about how I’m going about making it good.

NaNoWriMo works for me because of the combination of deadlines and the group solidarity. In the past, I either haven’t had a novel with any potential, or I didn’t want to go through the scary, scary revision process all on my own. Luckily, one of my writing peeps, KatherineWriting is leading an editing path as an activity of our local writing group, The Writing Journey. She’s all about deadlines and group solidarity. This past week, those of us who are participating received an email with this request from her:
Please post a brief blurb about what you’re planning to do for the Editing Path. (Often it helps people achieve their goals if they write them down.)

  • Where are you starting? It doesn’t have to be chapter one.
  • What do you intend to do first? Quick overview changes, detailed line by line, or ?
  • How much do you hope to get done in February? How many chapters per week?

Here are my answers.

Where am I starting?

Pretty close to the beginning. I spent December and the beginning of January going through the novel I drafted in November of 2012 and November of 2013. I smooshed the two drafts together and attempted to remove extraneous character, scenes, etc. I’ve been looking at the first section with mixed feelings of dismay and delight, mucking around in it a bit. Time to stick a fork in it and move on.

What am I doing first?

I’d like to get it to pass the sniff test—making sure it doesn’t stink. Shall I count the ways in which it might stink? That will take too long. The least painful way to ease in will probably be to:

  1. Fill in the blanks. I have some bracketed and/or highlighted text which might denote a missing character name, location or some specific research detail. So fix those bits.   
  2. Make sure I buy the character motivations. I remember a few of them as needing work.   
  3. Remove overwriting and redundancies. Repetitive redundancies. You know, where you say things more than once even though the reader got it the first time.
  4. If I have any time after that, I’d like to fill in specific sensory details. More showing, less telling. Not so much white room syndrome. All that good stuff.

How much do I hope to get done in February?

I would dearly love to get the novel in good enough shape to share with beta readers (alpha readers?) by the beginning of March. Or by March 14 at the latest. It’s not exactly in chapters, more like scenes or sections. A March 1 deadline would mean about one section (averaging 4500 words) per day; I’m not sure I can do that in three hours, let alone one. I may or may not have the damned thing* ready by May. Though of course if I feel I’m on the right track, I can always start sharing chapters before I’m all the way through. That’s probably what I’ll end up doing. If you like being of service to your fellow man (or woman in this case) watch this space for requests for beta readers.

*Sorry. I didn’t mean “damned thing.” I meant “my wonderful, exciting novel about which I’m passionate.”