January 14, 2011
7:00 AM | Posted by C.J. Ellisson | | Edit Post
Welcome to the second addition of PiFF! Every week I hope to showcase another writer who has a story they're eager to share and how editing can help make it stronger. Some will be further along in experience than others, but all of them are open to one important thing - improving their craft.
This editing pass we'll be working on the craft of writing. Not copyediting or content. We'll be focusing purely on formatting, grammar, word choices, sentence structure, coherence, and rhythm within the piece.
And without further ado, here is Teri Anne Stanley's piece:
Cold plastic slapped Hank’s face. He opened one eye just in time to see a pink flipper about to nail him again. “What the fu…?” He held his hand up to protect himself and peered over his fingers at a small, blonde mermaid. She was sitting on a stool, leaning back on her hands to support herself for the next blow.
The mermaid was about 7 or 8, Hank guessed. She wore a baggy purple swimsuit and pink swim fins. Her mer-legs were fused with an ace bandage that had seen better days. When she saw Hank looking at her, she leaned forward and put her mer-tail on the floor.
Hank tried to focus bleary eyes and scrambled to remember where he was.
“Are your eyes bleeding?”, asked the little girl. She leaned towards him, then back quickly, pinching her nostrils. “I’m going to get you some Trident. Mom says if I forget my toothbrush, I should chew gum to make my breath not so yucky.” She stood and hopped away on her mermaid tail.
Hank tried to sit up to see where she went, but his brain threatened to pop and his stomach rolled, so he lay back and closed his eyes again. What the hell? He had no idea where he was. His feet were bare and he wore only cargo shorts, which seemed damp. Oh God, please don’t let me have pissed myself.
“Here,” The little mermaid was back, patting him on the arm. He peeked at her and she held out a pack of gum and a juice box.
Hank pushed himself up on one arm gingerly, taking the juice box and sucking at the straw. Good. Add a little vodka and this might even get him vertical. She held the gum out, brooking no argument. He took a piece, unwrapped and chewed it slowly. “What is your name?” he asked her. Normally when waking up with a strange female, it wasn’t a good idea to admit you didn’t remember her name, but in this case, he didn’t believe he was breaking any drunken morning after rules.
“Ariel, duh,” said the little girl, settling back on the stool and fiddling with the elastic bandage around her ankles. “I know who you are. You’re Hank the Drunk Cop. My mommy said you need some major help but Uncle Dave said you would be okay since they saved you from drownding and that all you needed was some sleep and you’d be fine. You don’t look fine. And I don’t think you should be friends with Lord Simon the Sour anymore”.
"Who is Lord Sim--huh?" Hank decided to focus first on the last unknown person in that list.
"Lord Simon the Sour," The kid, Ariel?Really? said, with patient condescension. "The bad guy on the bridge. He's not very nice."
Only one thing the kid said made sense. He was not fine. He'd sworn he wasn’t going to do this anymore. He thought he’d had his last drink three months ago. But then he and Rick went to the ball game, and the sun was so bright and hot and the Reds were so bad that it seemed that just one draft beer would be fine. Shit. Not again. But then hell, he’d already lost everything, hadn’t he?
Remember, when working with any editor you take what you like and toss the rest. You are not required to accept all edits as law.
Total word count was 550 words. I cut 18 off the total, even with my additions. Here is the edited version, complete at 532 words. My suggested changes are highlighted in blue, editorial comments are in [brackets] and appear at the end, and dark green indicates her original words (cut from their location and put in a different spot):
Cold plastic slapped Hank’s face, waking him from a fog. He cracked one gritty eye to see a pink flipper raised to nail him again. “What the fu…?” He held a hand up to protect himself and peered over his fingers at a small, blonde mermaid. She sat on a stool, leaning back on her hands ready to deliver her next blow.
The mermaid looked about seven or eight years old. She wore a baggy purple swimsuit and pink swim fins. Her mer-legs were fused with a ragged ace bandage. When she noticed Hank looking at her, she ceased her assault and put her mer-tail on the floor.
Hank tried to focus while scrambling to remember where he was.
“Are your eyes bleeding?” asked the little girl. She leaned toward him, then back quickly, pinching her nostrils. “I’m going to get you some Trident. Mom says if I forget my toothbrush, I should chew gum to make my breath not so yucky.” She stood and hopped away on her tail.[CJE1]
Hank tried to sit up to see where she went, but his brain threatened to pop and his stomach rolled, so he lay back and closed his eyes again. What the hell? He had no idea where he was. His feet were bare and he wore only cargo shorts, which seemed damp. [CJE2]Oh God, please don’t let me have pissed myself.
“Here,” The little mermaid returned, patting him on the arm. He peeked at her as she held out a pack of gum and a juice box.
Hank pushed himself up on one arm gingerly, took the juice box and sucked at the straw. A cool, tangy citrus slid down his throat. Good. Add a little vodka and this might even get him vertical. [CJE3]She held the gum out, brooking no argument.
“What's your name?” he asked while unwrapping the gum. Normally, upon waking up with a strange female, it was never a good idea to admit you didn’t remember her name. But in this case, he didn’t believe he violated any drunken morning-after rules.
“Ariel... duh,” said the little girl with an exaggerated expression. “I know who you are." She settled back on the stool and began fiddling with the elastic bandage around her ankles. "You’re Hank the Drunk Cop. My mommy said you need some major help but Uncle Dave said you would be okay since they saved you from drownding. That all you needed was some sleep and you’d be fine," she said, quite emphatic. "You don’t look fine. And I don’t think you should be friends with Lord Simon the Sour anymore”.
"Who is Lord Sim—huh?"
"Lord Simon the Sour," The kid said, with patient condescension. "The bad guy on the bridge. He's not very nice."
Only one thing the kid said made sense so far—he was not fine. He'd sworn this wouldn't keep happening. He thought he’d consumed his last drink three months ago. But then he and Rick went to the ball game— the bright sun and heat combined with the Reds playing so bad... well, he figured one draft beer would be fine.
Shit. Not again.
Hell, he’d already lost everything, hadn’t he?
[CJE1]I'd like to see you interject some sound into the piece - the smack flap of her flippers on the deck and what he may be hearing on this boat
[CJE2]Is he cold? What time of year is it?
[CJE3]This inner comment reads odd when we find out later he's sworn off drinking.
Closing thoughts and suggestions: While I really like what you've done and you're opening with a really fun scene, I'm not so sure it will grab a reader. You may want to experiment with some beta readers and see what they think as I'm only one person. There's a great book called The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. While I'm not sure the whole book is worth reading, there were some excellent pointers it contained to make sure you hook your reader in five pages (and we only worked on the first two here, so you have some wiggle room to hook them).
You mentioned either in a comment or an email, forget my mush brain memory, you were concerned you started your work off with a cliche. I wouldn't be too concerned right now. If the story grabs a reader it grabs - no matter how it hooks them. But if the cliche isn't working, and I'm not saying yours doesn't, then you may need to rethink your beginning.
I sincerely hope I helped you see exactly what's working in this opening and where you need to re-work things a bit. Like I said, I think it's a really fun beginning.
For the readers who liked the excerpt of Ms. Stanley's NaNo story, or who want to cheer her on as she pursues her dream of publishing a full length novel, you can find her at these locations:
Thanks so much for participating in Pay it Forward Friday, Teri Anne! Next week we have Tammy Carter sharing part of her work in progress with us! To have your writing considered for one of the upcoming PiFF spots, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And remember people, pay it forward in all areas of your life. You never know when you might need to be on the receiving end of someone else's kindness.
** And for any of you new and just stopping by, please be respectful in your comments. Snark and slams will be deleted, leaving you once again searching for an outlet to vent your sexual frustrations into angry comments directed at total strangers who never did anything to you.
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About this blog:
"Who the heck is this C.J. chick?"
Sure, you may not have heard of me and that's okay. I may not have heard of you either ;-) But ask yourself this one simple question -- What were you doing in January 2009 and had you ever written one word of fiction?
I can tell you where I was and what I was doing. I spent days in doctor's offices and sitting at home the rest of the time, wondering what I was going to do with my time now that my property management and Realtor business was on hold for the foreseeable future.
That's right, I never wrote a fictional piece before and I never thought I could be a writer. My background is Art, Chemistry and Business… not English, Journalism, or Creative Writing.
Now, I'm an award-winning bestselling author of contemporary fantasy. In under three years. And I have over 10,000 followers on facebook. Do you? 'Cause if you do then you probably don't need my help. ;-)
Side Note: I use an editor for all my books (several in fact), but not on my blog posts. So if you see errors, try to be nice and overlook them.
Please comment on the posts you find helpful -- I look forward to getting to know you!
- 2012 (9)
- PiFF with Oliver Sayers!
- Pay it Forward Fridays with Tammy Carter!
- MLK Day - "What are You Doing for Others?"
- A Little Down Today...
- Pay it Forward Fridays with Teri Anne Stanley!
- Sex Toy Tester Reporting for Booty!
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- Pay it Forward Friday: Lani Rhea!
- PIFF!! Pay It Forward Fridays!
- 2010 - A Year in Reflection
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