Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Look at Editing

In the post before last, I discussed the fact I'm editing Spectacle AGAIN. What I thought I'd do today is show you the progression of Spectacle's beginning to give you an idea of how my editing works.

When I first began writing Spectacle, the working title was "The Comet" (original huh?), and it began like this:

“At 4:35am Mountain Time this morning, an observer at <…> in New Mexico identified a comet thrown off its normal orbit…”
“Sources say that the comet, that scientists have name Freya, is on a collision course with earth…”
“Freya will strike the earth on July 27th, 2005. The estimated size of Freya is x miles in diameter. That is roughly a quarter of the size of and is expected to strike with enough force to cause not only the extinction of life on the majority of the planet, but also to knock the earth out of its own Orbit – insuring the death of anything that remains…”


This was a total rewrite. (Please note the places where I left a spot for things I had to research.)

Then I renamed it and tried again. This is the opening for "The Doomsayers". (Don't ask. Let's just be happy the title changed.):

“Good evening, ladies and gentleman. It is Friday, May 1st. I am Alex McKenzie standing in for Craig Jamison, and this is GBC Nightly News. What would normally be a day of celebration for coming of spring has turned into a day of hopelessness and dread for coming summer months. Tonight, the news on everyone’s mind is that of Freya and her rapid descent toward Earth. At this time, I have no new reports of her course and I’m sorry to say, no new reports of anyone in the scientific community stepping forward with a plan to divert this disaster. The news tonight is on the catastrophic behavior of individuals worldwide. As we have reported, following the announcement that the comet, Freya, was headed toward Earth and that she would in fact be a global killer, terror became the norm and anarchy now reigns in many parts of the world. I am sad to have to bring you this latest piece of distressing news. Tonight, Paris is in flames. Over the past few days, a mob has been slowly moving across the city leaving death and destruction in its wake. Yesterday we reported their failed attempt to bring down the Eiffel Tower. This afternoon the crowd reached the Louvre, that most famous of the world’s art museums, and began with the destruction of the pyramid constructed in 1989. Falling shards of glass killed at least two members of the horde and several other people were trampled to death in the crush. The assault on the museum then escalated with the killing of three security guards who attempted to barricade the doors using furniture from within. Once the mob had gained entry, the carnage was overwhelming. Our crew on the scene reports that when historians attempted to save such famous artifacts as The Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, they were beaten to death by the screaming mob. I regret to say that neither artifact survived the initial melee, and we hold little hope that anything of value made it to safety before the Louvre was set ablaze. We go now to John Clanton on the scene in Paris. John?”

Single paragraph. The beginning paragraph from hell, right? If you start your book like this, please remember - you aren't Dickens.

The next incarnation was named "Scaremongers". (Don't bother. I know the word is supposed to be Fearmongers. I was trying something. Yeah, yeah. That's the ticket. Trying something...)

“Good evening, ladies and gentleman. Welcome to GBC News. It is Friday, May 1st and this is Alex McKenzie standing in for Craig Jamison.”
The woman in front of the camera sat rigidly for a moment looking as if she would rather be anywhere else than sitting there reporting the news. Slowly her professionalism took over and her harried expression was replaced by the steel gaze of a hardened reporter. Staring directly into the camera she began. “What would normally be a day of celebration for the coming of spring is instead a day of trepidation for the coming summer months. Tonight, the news on everyone’s mind is that of Freya and her rapid descent toward Earth.”
Briefly she closed her eyes as if she were fighting a twinge of pain coursing through her. “Unfortunately, at this time, I have no new reports to offer you on her course and I’m sorry to say, no new reports that anyone in the scientific community has stepped forward with a plan to divert this disaster. The news tonight once again is on the catastrophic behavior of individuals worldwide. As we have reported, following the announcement that the comet, Freya, was headed toward Earth and that she would in fact be a global killer, anarchy reigns in many parts of the world. I am sad to have to be the one to bring you the latest piece of distressing news.”


Finally I change to Spectacle - and I'm still not sure if I'm keeping that name. Over the course of many many MANY revisions, the beginning remained essentially the same, so I won't bore you with all those repetitions. Instead I will give you my 2004 draft beginning (when I thought I was really finished with the book).

“This can’t be happening.”
Looking down at the copy she had just been given for the night’s broadcast, she still couldn’t bring herself to believe the things she was reading—the same types of things she had been reporting for the past two months. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right about all of this and she ran a shaking hand through her hair as if the action would erase the unease in her mind. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a flash of movement and she turned to see the profile of a woman on a monitor just off the set.
“The woman looks tired,” she thought to herself.
Alex’s eyes focused on that image and, despite the fact that she could hear the music that signaled the beginning of her broadcast, all other thoughts were driven from her mind. Alex couldn’t seem to think of anything other than the woman on the monitor and how very tired she looked. In front of her, Alex could see the camera flicker to indicate that she was now on-air and out of the corner of her eye she could see the woman on the monitor straightening to speak.


And lastly, here is the current and hopefully actual beginning for Spectacle (aka Fear Itself):

“We’re on in two, Alex.”
Looking down at the copy she had just been given for the night’s broadcast, Alex couldn’t bring herself to believe the things she was reading—not that any of it was new. The world was falling apart.
Although she’d been reporting on the same types of things for the past two months, she still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right about all of this. As if the action would erase the unease in her mind, she ran a shaking hand through her hair.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught a flash of movement and on a monitor just off the set, she could see the profile of a woman. Her long black hair was perfectly coiffed down to the last strand, but it hung limp around her pale face. Her slender fingers trembled over the papers in front of her, and the corner of her mouth quivered as if she were on the verge of tears.
At the edge of her consciousness, Alex could hear the lead-in, but she couldn’t seem to focus her thoughts. The camera in front of her flickered; she was now on-air. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the woman on the monitor straightening to speak.


I'm not saying the last version is perfect, and I'm not looking for critique at this point. This is merely to show a progression for editing from one version to the next. I hope it helps someone out there, and if not, you at least found the journey interesting.

2 comments:

Tia Nevitt said...

I found it fascinating. It is a great opening, in my opinion.

ChrisH said...

Beginnings, beginnings! It's crucial to find a start that works for you and, more importantly, the reader and you're there, well done. And thank you for sharing in my good news.