If you haven’t taken advantage of a professional editor, it’s amazing what you can learn especially if you are trying to break in. I’d like to share an excerpt from my first chapter and I will cringe every time this post gets a view, so embarrassing.
Here is my pre-edit from page one and I felt it was solid. I was actually querying this and getting little response, now I know why. First version is 112 words.
Haylee rubbed the corner of her eye adjusting her contact in the process. She winced feeling the lens slide further out of place. Haylee moved in front of a round face mirror opening her eye to readjust the lens but she blinked not seeing her own eyes in the mirror.
Haylee watched as the reflection showed a single man in a hooded jacket and handkerchief tight across his face pull out a pistol and point it toward the receptionist.
Haylee whipped around toward the reception desk ready to dive for cover. She took two quick steps toward the bank of chairs before stopping seeing no gunman in the room.
Here is what my editor did to it. The notes are difficult to decipher from a photo but the header photo is the actual edited page. Most editors are online now but mine is an old college professor who has been reading and editing for decades, I owe him. This what it looked like post scrub. Second version is 88 words.
Leslie rubbed her eye, adjusting her contact lens, wincing. She focused on a round mirror opening her eye wide to readjust the lens. But her eyes didn’t return her gaze. Instead the mirror showed a short man in a hoodie with a handkerchief stretched tight across his face. He pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the receptionist.
Leslie spun around toward the desk ready to dive for cover. She took two quick steps toward the bank of chairs but no gunman was in the room.
Which version do you like more? It may not seem like much but I’ve reduced the word count, added clarity, upped the intensity, and lost nothing about the story. Even if you can’t afford a full edit get one chapter done and learn from what they show you. You can catch your own patterns and make your story tighter and more engaging for readers.
- Use action over description to ‘show’
- Ex: ‘began /started to’ need to just do it
- Use simile or metaphor to explain
- Use verbs to ‘show’ meaning
- Remove the obvious and only show things readers can’t assume
- Don’t repeat things
None of this is new and I thought I was doing it right. But it took a clear eye to see what I was missing. So, if you are at the point where you look at your words and can’t find anything to fix be sure to check with an editor before sending it out. I blew my chance with several of my favorite agents because I queried too early.
Don’t be like me. Have a professional editor check your manuscript first.