If you want to learn how to write more effectively (and if you’re reading this, I assume you do), the hardest lesson you face is learning how everything else you learn fits together. Context controls everything. Techniques that work in one situation won’t work in another. Change one aspect of a scene and you wind up rearranging everything around it. The kind of juggling you have to do to keep up can be mind bending, and it’s hard to learn it from articles because you can’t talk about specific context in general terms.
That’s one reason we started the Editor’s Clinics – so you can see how editorial changes work in their natural habitat. This month, we’re going even further. For last month’s clinic, I edited a passage assuming that it was the opening scene of the novel. Turns out I got that wrong – the author contacted me to let me know that the passage comes from the middle of the book.
She’s also provided some additional context on the story. Dusty got a job on Pat’s ranch and brought Jaelle, his sister, with him, hoping she would be hired as well. Instead Pat, the wealthy owner, was so taken with her that he planned to marry her. Dusty, for his part, has been either solicitous of Jaelle (usually when people are watching) or controlling (when they’re alone).
Then Pat is shot while out hunting. One of the men who was with him has been arrested for the murder. But Bianca, a rookie with the RCMP and one of the first people on the scene, doesn’t believe he did it. (Jaelle was also there that day, but her horse bolted at the shot and she doesn’t know what happened to Pat.) Bianca is running her own investigation and getting to know Jaelle to learn some background. She’s also slowly and genuinely befriending Jaelle, who after the isolation on the ranch welcomes the kindness.
So, with that background, here’s the new edit of the passage. I know it’s a bother, but I’d encourage you to compare it to last month’s version. And you can see clean copies of both versions here. [Read more…]