Tuesday Edit: Before And After

The first one or two times I make editing passes on a book, scenes tend to get longer. This is because I’ve found that if I keep going back and fleshing out earlier scenes as I think of more stuff, the book never gets finished. Here is an example, from a scene that introduces a character new to the story in part two of Shards:  Brennendah, a scientifically-minded Rittandic whose job is to study the Æther, also known as the void, which is gradually consuming the region where the Rittandics live.  (This loss of territory, known as the Unraveling, is what gives the territory—the Ravels—its name.)  Here is the original paragraph, followed by the revised version:

Original Revised
When he had first begun this project some years earlier, he had spaced the poles inches apart and it had taken over a year for each to fall; now he was spacing them by the foot, and they vanished in months. The process of dissolution was accelerating. Things were coming undone. When Brennendah had inherited this project from the previous monitor, a neuter named Kihantroh who had resigned in a cloud of vague disgrace, he had, like his predecessor, spaced the poles a finger’s-width apart and it had taken months for each to fall; but of late he had been putting them an arm’s-length apart, while the time it took for them to disappear remained unchanged. This day, when he had ventured down to the very end of the earth to check on the pole closest to the Æther, to measure the distance of soil left between it and the abyss, he had expected to be recording information for number one hundred seven—each marker was identified by a stamped metal plate permanently affixed to its top—but he had found that number one hundred seven did, in fact, no longer exist, and the nibbling mist had already eaten its way some distance toward its next victim. So instead, he got down on his hands and knees and measured the margin that remained to the doomed number one hundred eight. After that, one hundred nine would be the only one left.

The dissolution of the land was accelerating. Things were coming undone much too quickly.

And they were running out of poles.

Of course, this is not to say that I never cut anything.  Readers of Dragon Stones may recall the character of the wizard Orioke; he, in fact, used to be a point of view character, with a number of scenes all his own, just like T’Sian, Tolaria, Diasa, Ponn, and Adaran.  I cut them all.  (Sorry, Orioke.)  But that usually doesn’t happen until the last one or two editing passes, when the book starts to look a little bit bloated.  Part Two of Shards is already at least twenty pages longer than Dragon Stones (and almost half again as long as Shards), so there are no doubt scenes, and possibly entire characters, who are destined for the cutting room floor.  I just don’t know which ones they are yet!

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