Posts Tagged ‘regency romance editing’

Learning from the Rough Draft, Part 2

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

My last two postings have focused on the value of a complete first draft—one that records the writer’s every fleeting thought during the writing process. The first-draft-writing period is not the time for whittling away text and paring down ideas. That winnowing process will happen later, during an edit. The first draft should be filled with glorious excess—all possible characters, descriptions and ideas—because some of these will be good enough to survive until the final draft.

The following is an unedited description from a rough draft. Its author wrote a longer Regency romance, from which I extracted this paragraph. Below the description is the same passage with bracketed, italicized and underlined editorial comments to indicate the author’s thought process in a later edit of the rough draft.

Something about the room—maybe its scent—made Drusilla think of wealth. She had known wealth like that before, back when she was secretary to the Viscount. At that time/in those days she had perched on a velvet chair in front of a carved, inlaid walnut desk, her plume poised over the thick parchment as she waited for the words to flow from the Viscount’s honeyed lips. She would smell the thick, perfumed air exhaled by the hothouse peonies on the exquisite Turkish side tables. The Viscount’s footsteps thudded dully/sounded thick and soft on the hand-tied/hand-knotted wool rugs that ran the full length of the room. His letter opener gleamed in the sunlight that spilled creamily over his wooden desk. The Viscount paced like a sleek panther among his solid objects/in his expensive jungle/in his wood-paneled jungle.

Drusilla Now, Drusilla looked around the chamber in which she found herself./Now, Drusilla found herself in the chamber of the Duke of Ashton. Filled with French furniture and marble appointments, it exuded the air of wealth she had first noticed. However, the chamber lacked the sense of danger—albeit, mother-of-pearl-inlaid danger—she had known in the Viscount’s quarters.

The following is the same passage with the author’s bracketed thoughts.

Something about the room—maybe its scent—made Drusilla think of wealth. [Change this sentence to “The fragrant room made Drusilla think of wealth.”] She had known wealth like that before, [Change to “She had known that kind of wealth.”] back when she was secretary to the Viscount. [Cut the word “back” before “when she was secretary.”] At that time/in those days [Keep “In those days.”] she had perched on a velvet chair [Change “chair” to “stool.”] in front of a carved, inlaid [Cut “inlaid.”] walnut desk, her plume poised over the thick parchment as she waited for the words to flow from the Viscount’s honeyed lips [Change “words to flow from the Viscount’s honeyed lips” to “the Viscount’s dictation”]. She would smell the thick, perfumed air exhaled by the hothouse peonies on the exquisite Turkish side tables. [Change this sentence from passive to active: “As the Viscount spoke, the peonies on the Turkish side tables exhaled their hothouse perfume.” ] The Viscount’s footsteps thudded dully/sounded thick and soft [Would the adjectives “thick” and “soft” ever apply to the dashing Viscount? Change this description to “footsteps thudded heavily.”]on the hand-tied/hand-knotted [“hand knotted”] wool rugs [“carpets,” not “rugs”] that ran the full length of the room. His letter opener gleamed in [What about “seemed to slice through?”] the sunlight that spilled creamily over his wooden desk. The Viscount paced like a sleek panther among his solid objects/in his expensive jungle/in his wood-paneled jungle [“in his wood-paneled jungle”].

Drusilla Now, Drusilla looked around the chamber in which she found herself./ Now, Drusilla found herself in the chamber of the Duke of Ashton. [Change to “Now, Drusilla found herself in the Baron’s private office.” The Viscount should have the higher peerage rank.] Filled with French furniture and marble appointments, it exuded the air of wealth she had first noticed [Change to “an air of wealth that had, at first, reminded her of the Viscount”]. However, [Change “However” to “She realized now that.”] the chamber lacked the sense of danger—albeit, [Cut the comma.]mother-of-pearl-inlaid danger—she had known in the Viscount’s quarters.

After this first edit, the draft reads something like the following. (The story will go through more edits before its final draft.)

The fragrant room made Drusilla think of wealth. She had known that kind of wealth when she was secretary to the Viscount. In those days, she had perched on a velvet stool in front of a carved walnut desk, her plume poised over the thick parchment as she waited for the Viscount’s dictation. As the Viscount spoke, the peonies on the Turkish side tables exhaled their hothouse perfume. The Viscount’s footsteps thudded heavily on the hand-knotted wool carpets that ran the full length of the room. His letter opener seemed to slice through the sunlight that spilled creamily over his wooden desk. The Viscount paced like a sleek panther in his wood-paneled jungle.

Now, Drusilla found herself in the Baron’s private study. Filled with French furniture and marble appointments, it exuded an air of wealth that had, at first, reminded her of the Viscount. She realized now that the room lacked the sense of danger—albeit mother-of-pearl-inlaid danger—she had known in the Viscount’s quarters.

Please send me your thoughts and comments about this rough draft. I would love to hear from you.