Last week I shared how I reworked (and reworked and reworked) the opening to Book 2 (A River in Each Hand) in the hope my editing adventure would inspire others. The idea wasn’t to explain the editing process as much as to provide insight into how a first draft can become more than you ever dreamed possible.
Well, I’m at it again.
Let’s shift back to Book 1 (Trust in the Forgotten) for a new tale.
The original draft contained a brief, unmemorable encounter with a demon early in the story (demons in Ontyre possess the ability to feed off a person’s magic). The encounter was nothing more than my protagonist, Ergain, spying a demon watching her from a secluded spot at night. The moment was important only because he uncharacteristically resisted attacking her, thus hinting he had a mysterious agenda.
Later in the drafting process I thrust my protagonist together with a demon (who didn’t have a name). Sparks! He went from a minor character with virtually no lines to engaging and enticing. Both characters flourished.
Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This tale is about more than two unrelated scenes. The early demon scene was dumped in with a series of smaller ones stretched between two pivotal events. In other words, a string of wandering pointlessness. While drafting I’d been unable to decide how to bridge the two pivotal scenes and kept adding and adding and adding…
The string? An argument with a drunk man outside a tavern. A short dinner engagement with a fellow cause member. A large crowd blocking her path. It went on and on and none of it served the plot. Instead, it was manufactured conflict and spanned two chapters.
The other problem was the great scene with the demon character later on. He’d elevated the story, but he’d come out of nowhere at the story’s end. I’d introduced a fascinating character at story’s end. Bad writing on so many levels! What to do?
My editing brain kicked my drafting brain to the curb and took over.
You probably already see the solution. The early demon and later one became one in the same (other appearances were also enhanced). My beloved demon, now named Greeze, became a deeper character with backstory and a bigger role in the the book. In other words, I had a lot of work to do, including rewriting scenes, especially the initial encounter.
All the deadweight disappeared, moving the early encounter in Chapter 4 to Chapter 2. The story’s pacing gained traction and the arc thrived. The demon and his associates were brought into the story sooner, aiding the reader’s understanding. Two character arcs benefited. More showing. Less telling. The benefits reverberated through the entire book. For instance, later encounters benefit from Ergain and Greeze having a known history. The best part? There’s more revising to come!
And all because I looked beyond the original draft.
The Excerpt (First Encounter)
He bowed deep, hands out wide. Straightening, he shared a toothy grin, his dark hair swept back and high. The eyes sparked red again. “Now, now, your ladyship. No need for animosity. I’m an assassin for sure, Greeze by name, but you be safe enough with me.” His flawless skin glistened in the mist, his face unnaturally alluring. His body twitched. No doubt his attraction to magic.
“You’ll not bleed my gift, nor drag me off to Knoss.” She set her feet. “Kill me, if you think you can.”
“You think I work for the Ministry?” He laughed. “They be our common enemy.”
“Our common enemy? Unlikely. Dear Genessa, you’re a demon. Lies roll off your forked tongue as easily as practitioners haul people to Knoss for torture.”
“Oh, your ladyship, that cuts me deep. Hurts me bad. Equating me with their like. Changelings have forked tongues.” He stuck his out, his words spitting around it. “See, not forked. All rounded and pink-like.”
Was this conversation happening? Were all demons like this? Since when did they wear tailored suits? When you spent your life avoiding them it was difficult to know.
“If you aren’t connected to the Ministry then you’re freelance. Just another demon hungering to feed off a partial’s gift.”
“Wrong again. Well, kinda. Oh, your gift is sweetness itself, but I work for the big man with the mechanical plans and he’s not wanting me to touch your sugary self.”
This was too much for one day. “The big man? And who in all of Carrdia is that?”
“Can’t say. Just making an offer.”
He grinned and his tongue flicked at the back of his teeth. “Sure enough.”
“Does no one I talk to get to the point? What offer?”
“He, as in the big man, wishes to enlist your aid”
She grit her teeth. “Good gosh. My aid doing what?”
“Helping him overthrow the Ministry.”
“He’s a Keeper?”
Greeze cackled. “Oh no. Not at all.”
“Tell him to join the Keepers if he wants to help.”
“Not likely, your wonderfulness. The Keepers are weak. Not worth his time. Well, except for you. You have skills.”
“Skills? What skills?”
He pointed to his head. “What you have up here.”
“Not interested.” She backed down the street and he didn’t follow, but the grin remained.
“You can think about it.” He wagged his finger. “But don’t take too long, your exquisiteness. The big man is of an understanding inclination, but his patience has limits. You’re either with him or you’re, well, a liability.”
“You’re threatening me?”
“Well now, that depends on where your skills take you.”