On Editing

Once the first draft is complete, that’s when the real work begins! As some have said, the first draft is for the writer, while the final draft is for the reader. That’s a huge difference!

I can tell you that when I finish the first draft, it is pretty clean. My style is to read the previous day’s chapter, edit it, shift things around, whack other parts altogether, and clarify in terms of making it more interesting. This does two things: 1. it helps in the overall editing I do after the first draft is written; and 2. it places me in the setting and atmosphere, sometimes the character, I’m going to write next. I also use a Word add-on that edits what I’m writing in real time. It is ProWritingAid.

I try to do a chapter a day. That’s my goal, and I usually hit it, though there are times of the year when I might go several days without writing. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel good to me, and I can honestly say I have a “need” to write. I have written in previous posts that for me, writing is like giving birth. From the idea to the publication, it takes nine months to a year. I think that’s fairly typical of most writers, though some produce faster than others. CAUTION – don’t compare your speed to other writers. You have to do what is comfortable for you. If you write fast, great. If you write slow, fine. The important thing is to write.

Back to editing, it was at some point in the first draft of Betrayed that I rearranged a chapter. I moved one of the ending chapters to the front, almost like a prologue. Here is the first chapter of Betrayed:


            It was still. No breeze. The air, dead, smelled of red dirt and decay. A hawk circled overhead, cawed once, and glared at him. At least Brian thought it did. He wondered vaguely if it was an omen, a message from the spirit world George often talked about. A warning, perhaps. Fitting if it was, Brian thought. If they survived, he would ask him.

He lay prone in the dirt and glanced behind him. Brett was not visible. That was good. He wanted his brother safely behind the big boulder. Hidden.

Brian wasn’t afraid to die. He just didn’t want to die. Not yet, anyway. Fifteen was too young. However, he made a promise to watch over George and Brett, and that he would do. If it came to it, he would protect his two brothers any way he could, including sacrificing his own life.

            The morning he made the promise, he didn’t think much of it. George was independent. Always had been. Brett was stubborn. Yet, Brian said he would do what he could, and though it wasn’t exactly a promise, he had given his word, and he had always kept his word.

            On the long trek to the mesa, Brian had thought about life and death. It was not the first time death had crossed his mind. He had watched his twin brother die. Brad bled to death from multiple gunshot wounds and died in a stranger’s arms. After his death, Brian’s mother shot his father, and then shot herself.

Brian ended up alone. Alone, except for Jeremy, who took him in, and made him his son just as he did for five other boys.

            He knew death. It didn’t scare him. He never worried about it. If it happened, it happened.

            However, he wasn’t ready to die, and he didn’t want to die.

            At the same time, he had made up his mind that he would do everything in his power to make sure Brett and George would live.

            No matter the cost.

As I said, originally, this chapter was one of the last chapters in the book, but I moved it to the first words to be read because I wanted it understood that in many respects, Betrayed is mostly told through Brian’s eyes. There are other characters in the book: George and Brett, Brian’s adopted brothers; Rebecca Morning Star, George’s life-long friend and love interest; Jamie Graff and Pat O’Connor, two detectives who are friends of the Evans family; and FBI Agent, Ronaldo Reyna. But the story truly belongs to Brian, which is why I made the decision to move him front and center in the book.

The second chapter was actually supposed to be Chapter 13 or 14. I don’t have the original first draft- long since deleted. But it was changed to the second chapter as I began to write one night after reading the previous night’s work. I felt I needed to introduce one of the antagonists in Betrayed. It also sets the tone and gives an ominous feel to the reader. If nothing else, the reader is puzzled and bewildered because of the sudden shift. However, when you read the two chapters together, the reader has a sense of where the book is headed. Here is the second chapter:


Several Days Previous

            They stood in the driveway of an expansive ranch home made of brick and glass that was out of place on Navajoland. When one had money, one could build whatever one wanted and as big as one wanted it. It was big and beautiful, almost obscene in comparison to the abject poverty most of the Dine’ lived in. There were several of these monstrosities dotting the desert landscape, one competing with the next in size and expense. No matter. He had money and power, and used both to his advantage. He liked what he had. His only disappointment was that he didn’t have more.

“Have you found that kid yet?”

            Two men looked at the red dirt and shuffled their dusty boots.

            “Why the fuck not?” he shouted. His anger grew in proportion to their non-answers.

            “We’ve been watching the girl and her old man hoping they would lead us to him.”

            “That isn’t good enough, goddammit! For chrissakes, we need to find that kid. We don’t have time to sit and watch.”

            He walked away from the two men. With his hands on his hips, he made two quick decisions. He was used to making quick decisions and most of the time, they worked out to his advantage.

            He viewed his small stature as a weakness, as something he couldn’t control. It angered him, so his persona was that of a small angry man. Wealthy and powerful, but small and angry. 

“I want the two of you to make sure the No Trespassing sign is strung across the road leading to the abandoned ranch. When I swing by, I expect it to be posted.”

“Yes, Sir. We will.”

“Do it now!” he added.

He turned his back on them again, walked a few steps away and pulled out his cell. He turned back around and saw the two men still standing there.

“Didn’t I just tell you what I wanted you to do?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Both men turned and walked to the pickup they used.

“And find that boy!”

The man wasn’t sure if he had wanted to keep these two nothings on his payroll. He knew of others he could use who were more efficient, smarter, and dependable. Ruthless and lethal if it came to that. They would know what to do to get answers. They would also know what to do with the boy, and anyone else, who got in their way.

He pushed the speed dial and without waiting for a hello, he said, “Do you have any leads on that kid?”

“Not yet. Still looking.”

“There can’t be that many places for him to hide.”

“There are enough,” the voice answered.

“Well find him. You know what to do once you do.”

He hung up abruptly and slid his cell into his coat pocket. He kicked a stone and stared off in the distance. The heat made the red desert floor shimmer.

He had a goal and he wouldn’t be denied.

This chapter gives the reader a sense of what is happening or about to happen, though it is purposely limited. The reader has several questions: Who is the kid? What happened to him, and why does this man want him … what, dead? captured? Who is this man, and who are the two men he’s talking about?

I do what some writers and editors refer to as “head hopping.” This refers to my and other writer’s tendency to write one chapter from one person’s point of view (chapter one- Brian) and the next chapter, from someone else’s point of view (chapter two- some unknown man). It can confuse some readers, but more importantly for me, it speeds the story along. The reader has a sense of urgency and the constant question, “What’s happening next?”

My chapters are purposely short. I call them “Patterson Chapters” because if you read any James Patterson book, he uses the same style: short, concise, but integral to the whole story. For better or for worse, I use Patterson as my model when I write.

Readers tell me they can’t put my books down. For the writer, that’s high praise and I take it as such. There aren’t many “dry spots” that bog the reader down. But it can frustrate the reader because he or she is torn between wanting to read and needing to get work done. Again, a great position for the writer to be in. 

Kimberly Charleston wrote a post to which I and others contributed to on the process of editing. It is a great piece because it gives the writer- the professional and the beginner some great pieces of advice. She wrote: From Kimberly Charleston “On Editing.” Must read for all authors, writers, and those who pen. Expert editors and authors share their perspectives on this critical step in The Author’s Journey. https://loom.ly/SQI8fZM

As always, thank you for following me on this journey. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, so please use the comment section below. For your convenience, I’ve included the link and book blurb for my book, Betrayed, just in case you might be interested.

Betrayed: A Best Thriller’s 1st Place Award for Crime Fiction! Maxy Award Runner-Up! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! Top Shelf Award Winner!

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://www.amzn.to/3l2S28l

Also Available in Audio Book, as well as Paperback and Kindle/Nook!

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