How to Edit a Paragraph (from a Novel)
Here's what we actually do when we edit novels.
Andrés Cruciani of Toho Publishing over here, and we are nearing the end of a major edit of Ross Boone's The Blind Step Boldly. Thought I might use today's blog to show just what it is we do when we edit—shown by the edits we actually made on a paragraph.
The Blind Step Boldly is a fantasy novel about a boy and a girl on a quest to save their drowning world. In the following graf (as all the cool editors call paragraphs), the main character Tobei meets the eyes of Beastoad—a strange, frog-like man. When making eye contact, Tobei has a power that allows him to see others' memories.
Tobei met his eyes with intense compassion and striving to connect behind the confusion on his face, but he only saw one image this time. It was the prominent thought that came in the wake of all the rejection of the people, and of his brothers, and of the Overbearon, and the desertion of his mother.
Here are the edits I made. If you want to see the final graf, just jump to the end of the list.
1) Ambiguous pronoun: It's unclear who that first "his" was referring to, so I changed it to Beastoad's.
2) Awkward construction: "Tobei met his eyes ... and striving to connect ..." The "and" here creates some awkwardness, so we cut the "and".
3) Redundancy & ambiguity: "... striving to connect behind the confusion on his face ..." First, there's another ambiguous pronoun (whose confusion? Tobei's or Beastoad's?). Second, "confusion on his face" seems slightly redundant. Where else would the confusion be expressed. So, we cut "on his face".
4) Telling instead of showing: The whole line, "It was the prominent thought ..." is a lot of explication. And, frankly, in the very next graf we're going to see the memory, so we don't need to be told beforehand what the memory is about. The sentence is also quite long and the phrase "in the wake of all the rejection of the people" is a bit wordy and difficult to decipher. So, very simply, we cut.
And here's what we have after the edits:
Tobei met Beastoad's eyes with intense compassion, striving to connect behind the man's confusion, but he only saw one image this time.
Note how much more concise this new graf is. And note how much less is explicitly being told. From two sentences, we dwindle down to a sharper ONE. This is what we here at Toho Publishing do: we get at the essence!