The anatomy of an edit, part II

Friday was once again ‘Flash!Friday’ and I almost didn’t participate.  I didn’t have anything, not really and the word count requirement was even more challenging: 100 words, no more, no less.

At 18:00 I sat down and told myself “If you can write a 300-500 word story in an hour or two, this should be easier and faster…”  If nothing else, it would be easier to do a ‘post game analysis’ of my drafts.  At least the second assumption was correct.

Here is a shortened edit history with comments.

Version 1 Draft 1

“Maggie, will you uplease smile?”
Margaraet James looked her brother and sighed. “Why do I have to pose for this picture in the water? It would be so much safer on dry land,” she said as she looked at the rickety boat her brother had chosen for his master piece.
Davis laughed, as if the answer were perfectly clear. “The lighting would be all wrong,” he said, then gestured for her to smile.
“How can I smile when I’m sitting here in almost stangnat water, holding Mom’s favorite tapestry in the water wearing a dress that will pull me under if it gets wet?”
“Maggie, I’m immortalizing you on canvas.”
“So that when I die of Dengay fever, this is what they’ll remember?”
“Maggie, don’t be such a drama queen

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either.  It was already way over the word limit and it hadn’t really gone anywhere, and so, rather than edit this, I decided to start over, this time with a rather Oscar Wilde/Edgar Alan Poe twist at the end.

Version 2: Draft 1

Margaret James looked at the setup and sighed.  There were so many ways she knew this could go wrong, but her brother saw none of it.  Where she saw a dry rotted boat, and her mother’s favorite tapestry being ruined, Kevin saw only art.

She shook her head.  “Kevin, why don’t we do this on dry land,” she asked as she looked at the flowing skirts that she knew would cling to her if it got wet.

Kevin laughed, as if the answer were perfectly clear.  “The lighting would be all wrong,” he said, then gestured for her to smile.

As she climbed into the boat and he pulled her away from the dock, his smile changed.  “I’m going to immortalize you on canvas,” he told her as the boat started to sink.

As Maggie’s screams filled the night air he smiled.  “It only works if you die…”

This version gave me the meat of the story, but in this case the meat had to be trimmed and all the fat removed.  I had to lose 48 words and still keep the heart of the story alive.  But how to tell what was fat and what wasn’t?

Version 2 Draft 3

Margaret looked at her brother and then at the boat. Where she saw a dry rotted boat, and her mother’s favorite tapestry being ruined, Kevin saw only art.  By removing most of her foreboding and the over used (by me) consideration of everything that could go wrong, I lost about 20-22 words.  (on a second pass I ditched the last name since it really didn’t matter to the story)

“Why don’t we do this on dry land?” she asked, thinking about the risk.  I moved the thoughts of risk here, but dropped the specific fear of the dress she was wearing

“The lighting would be all wrong,” he assured her before gesturing for her to get in.

Once she complied, he pulled her away from the dock.I got rid of some of the extra gestures and at one point I had added a hint of the malice in his smile which I then removed since again, it was too much and actually took away from the surprise/shock of just what a bad boy Kevin really was.

“I’m going to immortalize you on canvas,” he told her as the boat started to sink

As Maggie’s screams filled the night air he smiled.  “But this only works if you’re dead…”  I had to play around with the wording slightly to make it fit the word count and not change the impact of what was happening.

“It only works if you die…” became  “But this only works if you’re dead…” to make the final word count 100.  If I needed one more, you’re would have probably become ‘you are’

It took me about twice as long to finalize the story and smooth it out because here, I had to keep the word count at 100, so ‘polishing’ the story had to be done with care: always keeping in mind that for every word added, one would have to be deleted, and for every word deleted, there would have to be one added.

The final story, with no comments:

Immortalized  — by M.T. Decker

Margaret looked at her brother and then at the boat. Where she saw a dry rotted boat, and her mother’s favorite tapestry being ruined, Kevin saw only art.

“Why don’t we do this on dry land?” she asked, thinking about the risk.

“The lighting would be all wrong,” he assured her before gesturing for her to get in.

Once she complied, he pulled her away from the dock.

“I’m going to immortalize you on canvas,” he told her as the boat started to sink

As Maggie’s screams filled the night air he smiled. “But this only works if you’re dead…”

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About mtdecker

Just your average writer- which is to say, I have a full-time job developing and testing software.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Editing, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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