An exercise in editing—from first draft to second

Please, bear with us. The first example is bad. It’s meant to be. The second isn’t much better. This is designed to show the drafting process. Two drafts is never enough. At least, not for us.

Email, me to Sherylyn:  What do you think? Unlikeable?

 

Eliud Frank was building a stark arrangement of human bones when Alaric finally got to his office.

“You’re late.”

He’d got the message at lunch time.  It had taken three hours—two public buses and a maglev ride—to get here.  “No one gave me a time.”

Eliud placed a bone carefully at cross angles to another, stepped back to view the result.

“It’s off-centre,” Alaric said.

“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.”

Alaric shrugged, and watched in silence as his boss’s boss’s boss finished the arrangement.  The pieces had the creamy-white porous brittleness of real bone.  He thought they might be real.

Eliud placed the final piece.  “What do you think?”

It was still off-centre, but Alaric shrugged.  “Can’t say I’d like a bunch of bones in my office.”

“You don’t have an office.”

“Rub it in.” Not that he wanted an office, and he shouldn’t be talking to his boss’s boss’s boss like this anyway, given it was the first time they’d met, but there was something about the man that felt as if Eliud was deliberately provoking him.  Alaric was contrary enough to poke right back.

Where was Tina, anyway?  You didn’t meet with superiors this high up the tree without your own boss in attendance.

She’d probably gone back to their branch office, disgusted with him for being so late.  If that was the case, she should have offered him a lift.

“Survive or fail,” his grandmother had told him, “But don’t think that I’m going to interfere for you.”

So far, he’d been just treading water.

Eliud cracked a smile.  His teeth were the same colour as the bones.  “Hurts a bit, does it.”

No, it didn’t.  What hurt more was being plucked out of a life he’d enjoyed and forced to take a shite job like this because his grandmother had ordered it.

“Konrad Deens,” Eliud said.

That little shite.  “What about him?  I hear he took over his uncle’s business.  Been quite successful.”

“Somewhat of an understatement.  While you’ve been saving the worlds and making music, he’s become the de-facto ruler of three worlds.”

That sounded like Deens.  He’d always been ambitious.

“You went to school with him.”

“He was a bully.  We clashed.”

“Nevertheless, you went to school with him.”

 

Note by the question I ask in the email I’m pretty sure Sherylyn won’t like him.  Sherylyn has final say on characters. If she doesn’t like them they’re either out, or we work on them until she does.

Email reply, Sherylyn to me: Very confusing.

Another email reply, Sherylyn to me: And maybe not so likeable.

 

So we discuss this little piece over dinner.

“I like the bones,” Sherylyn says.  “Otherwise, there’s too many people, I have no idea what’s going on. I don’t even like the swearing.  Who’s Tina? What’s his grandmother got to do with it? He didn’t have an office.”

“I know he didn’t have an office.”

“Well you make it sound like he did.  In the first paragraph.  Also, would he call him Eliud or Frank?”

 

Okay. It needs a lot of work. Sometimes Sherylyn does the edits. But not this time. Partly because it’s only the first page, and partly because she doesn’t have any feel for Alaric yet.

What does she like?

The bones.

So, our next draft becomes:

 

Eliud Frank was building a stark arrangement of human bones when Alaric finally arrived at Frank’s office.

“You’re late.”  The Chief Superintendant placed a bone carefully at cross angles to another, stepped back to view the result.

“It’s off-centre,” came out before Alaric could stop it.

“When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.”

Alaric watched in silence as Frank finished the arrangement.  The pieces had the creamy-white porous brittleness of real bone.  He didn’t know why he’d been called here, and that fact that his own boss—Tina—wasn’t here, worried him.  You didn’t see someone three ranks removed on a social call.

Frank placed the final piece.  “What do you think?”

It was still off-centre, but Alaric shrugged.  “Can’t say I’d like a bunch of bones in my office.”

“Konrad Deens,” Frank said.

“I hear he took over his uncle’s business.  Been quite successful.”

“Somewhat of an understatement.  While you’ve been saving the worlds and getting your face in the tabloids, he’s become the de-facto ruler of three worlds.”

That sounded like Deens.  He’d always been ambitious.

“You went to school with him.”

“He was a bully.  We clashed.”

“Nevertheless, you went to school with him.”

 

Email, me to Sherylyn: What do you think?

Email reply, Sherylyn to me: Better. Still needs more work. Good to see you fixed the office. I like the bones, but are they important? Or are they symbolic? What happened to the maglev?

 

Ready for round three.

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