This post is about editing a first draft. Anyway, about the way I do it. You can compare the product of the first edit (this post) with the unedited first draft (last post).
Note: as with any of my other posts in this section of my blog, it may contain spoilers to my writing. So proceed at your own risk.
In my last post I discussed my routine of reading aloud my previous piece of writing as I edit it. I had contemplated recording myself doing so, but then I realised that it would a very dull recording full of “Oh damn – that does just not work” and similar. Anyway I read it out aloud to myself trying to get a sense of the rhythm. I actually changed some perfectly fine sentences simply because the beat did not fit well with what went before and what went afterwards. I guess it’s the singer in me.
As I read out aloud I jotted down notes on Notepad about aspects of the story telling that did not feel right. Foremost among these was the feeling that the two main characters in the scene – Elder Kaudos and Elder Kadmeos – felt a bit two dimensional. Even stereotypical: silly old man and grumpy old man. I tried to fix that by elaborating upon Gaudos’ cluelessness with women (already mentioned) and the reason Kadmeos was grumpy (he had been making a pot of tea that was now likely to go cold).
I also look for opportunities to replace adjective-noun or adverb-verb combinations with one word that means the same. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I think that is a recent habit (as in past few years) I gained from watching videos of lots of writers discussing their own use of words.
My next dilemma was that I had not really described the environment very well. The thing was, when I started adding description the pace of the storytelling slowed down. I wanted it fast. So I have decided to move the description into the second scene.
I think that is all I have done in this edit. There will doubtless be more edits, but as of now I feel sufficiently content to move on to the next scene.
Anyway, here is what this scene looks like following my first round of editing.
Bubbles belched up from the crimson depths of the Carnal Pool. The whoosh and plop of them surprised Elder Gaudos who up till now had been composing an ode to epistemology. For reasons only known to himself he felt such a work would impress widow Gumption. Maybe even achieve that desired invitation to tea where he could share his speculations upon solipsism. Gaudos may have been a canny philosopher but none would credit him with insight where women were concerned.
â€˜Gods be praised!â€™ he whooped in an accent three decades from Lipton. Then, arms raised and waving, the old man raced sixty yards down one length of the red waters and then a further hundred yards down the next. His target was the office of the Pool Wardens, of which he himself was one.
â€˜A birthing! A birthing!â€™ he cried. His voice echoed as did the patter of his sandals upon the wet veined marble.
Elder Kadmeos, Gaudosâ€™ fellow Pool Warden, was making tea at that moment. Pink light tumbled through the large circular window onto the tiny bench where Kadmeos stirred the contents of his old turquoise pot. He heard Gaudos before he saw him, then shook his head and peered out. The man looked quite ridiculous running like that. Kadmeos sighed and limped from the office into the vast Pool Chamber. His tea would be cold by the time this was over, he could just sense it. Damn!
â€˜Are you quite alright?â€™ he queried, delivering his sternest frown. Elders were supposed to be dignified. And here, the Carnal Pool, where gods became flesh, the Elders should be especially dignified.
â€˜Bubbles. An absolute fountain of them. Exploding from below. Plop! Plop! Plop!â€™ Gaudos huffed and puffed happily as he gabbled. Face lit up. Alive with movement. Joy. Nevertheless he managed to express each â€˜plopâ€™ with succinct resonance. Round tones.
â€˜Exploding eh?â€™ Kadmeos sneered, scanning the now calm crimson waters. â€˜Plop, plop, plop.â€™ The man is a fool.
â€˜Veritably,â€™ grinned Gaudos.â€™Could even have been more plops.â€™
Kadmeos sniffed, filling the sound with as much disdain as he could muster.
â€˜OK then, let me witness this plopping frenzy.â€™ Kadmeos rolled his eyes as he spoke. â€˜And youâ€™d better not be wasting my time. I have a pile of paper work that needs completing.â€™
This last comment was not particularly true. Rather it was an agreed-upon fiction that had been passed down through generations of Pool Wardens to justify all manner of derelictions of duty. Elder Gaudos gave it no thought. Why should he? One day he too would choose to utter those words and what a great day that would be. Gods be praised.
The two men hurried back to that part of the Carnal Pool where the bubbles had first erupted.
â€˜There!â€™ exclaimed Gaudos, pointing at one patch of crimson.
Kadmeos shook his head. â€˜Nothing. I see nothing.â€™ He spoke the words quickly as if by doing so the entire incident would just be over and he could get back to his tea while it still harbored some warmth.
â€˜Sharpen your eyes, man! A shadow. A shadow. Beneath the waters.â€™
Once more Kadmeos shook his head. This was preposterous.
Something round emerged from the waters. It bobbed and threatened to submerge again. Was it?
Kadmeos cursed. â€˜Get the damned gondola!â€™
Gaudos peered across the pool to where the small black boat floated moored to one of the great marble pillars supporting the Dome of Blood. His eyes widened slightly. There was no way that he would make it there in less than a minute. And then he would have to steer the damned thing back across the pool. No that was not going to happen. A birthing could go mighty wrong in such a time.
Kadmeos heard and felt the splash as his colleague dived into the crimson waters, his robes now a discarded pile.
â€˜Donâ€™t go drowning you old fool,â€™ he yelled, his face screwed up. â€˜I know you boasted you were once a pearl diver but you were younger then. A lot younger.â€™
But Gaudos could still swim. Verily so, reaching the floating form in very little time. Then, with powerful strokes, the old man dragged the figure back to the side of the pool, a pink froth trailing.
â€˜Here,â€™ commanded Kadmeos, leaning over the poolside, his hand stretched out. Fingers clasping.
Gaudos heaved the form up out of the water towards his fellow Elder. Kadmeos stumbled as the weight transferred, narrowly avoiding a watery embarrassment, and with great effort pulled the naked young woman up onto the pool side.
â€˜A girl!â€™ His voice held shock and shame. The former because the pool had produced a life. The first in his tenure. And shame because she was naked before him and his inner lusts had stirred, even if for just a moment.
â€˜A lass she is,â€™ agreed Gaudos. Still floating, he laughed in triumph. A god reborn in his time here! Who would have thought it?
Laying her gently down, Kadmeos fetched Gaudosâ€™ discarded robes to protect her modesty and to keep her warm. Shade was a cold city and the waters of Shade, be they the teal of the canals or the red of the Carnal Pool, were crisp at the best of times.
What was that? Kadmeos asked himself as something else caught his eye in the crimson waters. Could it be?
â€˜Gaudos, back out there at once. Another birthing.â€™
Gaudos grinned and swam back. Even at almost eight decades he was a brawny man. â€˜A marvel,â€™ Kadmeos muttered to himself as he watched his colleague power through the water. â€˜Not very smart but definitely a marvel.â€™
â€˜This oneâ€™s a lad,â€™ called Gaudos as he returned.
A lad he may have been, but a strapping one indeed. It took all Kadmeos had to heave him from the waters.
Gaudos pulled himself out, his loin cloth sopping.
â€˜Quick, let us get them to the offices. Warm them up.â€™
Both men turned. The girl was now sitting up, the robes half fallen from her. She grunted frantically and tried to drag herself to her feet. Kadmeos rushed to her aid. Her eyes were wild. They scanned the vastness beneath the Dome. Searched the shadows between the Eternal Lamps. Fearful. Panicked.
â€˜You have nothing to worry about, lass,â€™ said Gaudos soothingly. â€˜Youâ€™ve been reborn into a place of sanctuary.â€™
Unfortunately at that moment all hell broke loose.