Editing is hard. As writers, we want every word we write to be perfectly used; etched in stone.
Sometimes we must break the rock.
Below are examples of my edits for my latest short story with brief explanations as to why I made the changes. I hope these examples will be helpful to my fellow writers and readers within the Void.
I must make one exception with the examples below: they apply to a short story, less than 2,500 words. If you’re working on a full-length novel, these examples won’t apply.
- They start to walk.
- EDIT: They started walking.
- Taking the advice of Chuck Wendig, I read this sentence out loud, and “They start to walk” sounds awful to me. Thus, to make not only a tense change but to improve the writing as well, it was changed to “They started walking.”
- The world about my jolted.
- EDIT: The world about me jolted.
- Watch out for these. I find them all over my work during the editing process. I note this edit here because the original version “The world about my jolted” made it through three version of the story before it was caught. Even though my mind sees “my,” it still read “me.”
- I could now see he was a man.
- EDIT: I saw a man.
- Short stories require only the essential words. Nothing more. In the original version of this sentence, it contains a lot of extra wording which isn’t essential. The only thing I’m trying to communicate is simply, “I saw a man.”
- My arm reached for one of the needles.
- EDIT: I grabbed a needle.
- Similar to Example #3, “reached for one of the” can be changed to “grabbed” and have the same meaning.
- I could see relief flood over him.
- EDIT: Relief flooded over him.
- As the speaking narrator, I see everything in the story. It isn’t necessary – it isn’t essential – for me to tell the reader what I could see.
- Sometimes I used to think maybe I’m not the last of humanity.
- EDIT: I used to hope I wasn’t the last of humanity.
- The original version of the sentence has too many words and has terrible flow when read out loud.
- One was red, meaning the camera was recording, and one was green, which meant my signal was maybe broadcasting somewhere.
- EDIT: One was red: the camera was recording. One was green: my signal was broadcasting.
- Similar to Example #6, there’s too much for the mind to keep track of when reading the original version. Only the essential words should be included.
- I turned the recorder off.
- EDIT: I turned off the recorder.
- The word “off” seemed to read better within my mind when put after the verb. If a reader disagrees, please let me know.
- The swelling of sadness behind my eyes was fighting to break free, but still held them back.
- EDIT: The swelling of sadness behind my eyes fought to break free, but I held it back.
- The words “was fighting” can be shortened to “fought.” When I’m writing prose and just trying to get words on paper, these are the types of sentences often found within the first draft.
- What was going to happen when I passed over the event horizon?
- EDIT: What would happen when I died?
- This required a bit of explanation. The previous sentence – not shown here – also contained “event horizon” which was redundant, however I wanted to use “event horizon” within the paragraph. The first goal of this edit was to eliminate this redundancy. The second was this: we die when we pass the event horizon. Sure, there’s a lot we don’t know about black holes, but it’s reasonably assumed death is part of the process of crossing. I wanted to show the gravity – that being the end of life – of entering a black hole.