>Brief, precise, unexpected

>25,782 words

Here’s an example of the kind of sentence-level editing I was talking about in my last post. This is a passage from chapter 1 of The Spiral Skull.

Before editing

Pyx opened his eyes, and saw sky and glaring sun. Ribbons of cloud surrounded the sun, thickening even as Pyx watched. The cloud was tinted yellow, rich with toxic sleight. Not surprising. Sleight had a way of creeping up when you least expected it. Almost as if it was seeking you out. Even the sun could be caught by surprise.

Pyx let his head flop sideways. Desert stretched into the distance, flat and white and featureless.

Featureless but for one thing: far away on the horizon was balanced a pillar of fire. It was orange, flecked with red. The top mushroomed wide, spreading until it merged with the gathering cloud.

After editing

Pyx opened his eyes and saw a glaring sky. Cloud ribbons wrapped the high sun, thickening even as Pyx watched. The clouds were tinted yellow, rich with toxic sleight. Not surprising. Sleight had a way of creeping up when you least expected it. Almost as if it was seeking you out. Even the sun could be caught by surprise.

Pyx flopped his head sideways. Desert fled into the distance, flat and white and featureless.

Featureless but for one thing: far away on the horizon, a pillar of fire balanced. It was orange, flecked with red. The top of the pillar mushroomed wide, spreading until it merged with the gathering cloud.

I know what you’re thinking: not much difference. Oh, but there is. What I’m searching for is brevity, precision and the unexpected word. Losing ‘sun’ in the first sentence drops a repetition and gives me brevity. ‘Wrapped’ is more precise than ‘surrounded’ in sentence two, which is tighter in many other ways too. ‘Desert fled’ is less predictable than ‘Desert stretched’. And so on.

The above passage is currently the opening to the novel. That may change though. There’s a character who doesn’t turn up until quite late in the story, and whose POV may be just right for a prologue.

What do you think?

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