With each book you write, you take your best shot. What you release into the wide world represents the best you can do. That’s the glory and the heartbreak of writing.
Your book deserves to live. Bring it out of your imagination and share. What if your favorite author had given in to self-doubt and had never put pen to paper? Never came up with the fortitude to publish?
Ah, but Indie publishing tempts the writer to toss words onto the page and call them good. For me, the difficult first draft is only the first step. Then comes the rewrite, the process in which I tune up the story and make the words sing. Here, I’ll show you.
Below is a rough first version of an exchange in Chapter 1. Is it good enough? Not really. There are flashes of fun and snark, but there’s a lot of “telling” too. The cadence isn’t snappy enough, and I’m covering way too much story ground, especially in the first paragraph. Not much description, is there? Yeah, description is my weak point.
He was a young man, but was well on his way to stolid middle age. Without invitation or encouragement he’d babbled on about Rosings and the august favor of Lady Catherine de Bourgh—as if this were a recommendation! Darcy did not know which was worse: the flow of insincere compliments, the nervous smile, or the way his plump hands twisted together as he conversed. No, there was something better. His clumsy attempts at dancing with Miss Elizabeth. Darcy’s lips curved into an unholy smile. That display was not something he’d soon forget.
Darcy increased his pace, making for the stone Folly in the center of the garden. Perhaps he could lose Collins in the shadows. There was no question that the man would take a hint and leave him alone.
Sure enough, the man came on; Darcy could hear his short-legged mincing trot. “Oh, Mr Dar-cy,” he shrilled. “Forgive the intrusion, but–“
Something about the man’s voice told Darcy he was cold and uncomfortable. So much the better. Darcy came to a halt beneath the arch and waited. He offered no word of greeting to the man. The wind was picking up; fallen leaves swirled in and around the Folly’s arch.
“I am reluctant to intrude,” Collins wheezed out, for he was breathing heavily.
Reluctant? The man had crossed the garden at a run! Was he now pretending the encounter was accidental? Not only was he impertinent, but also a liar. Darcy folded his arms across his chest.
Here is the finished version from Chapter 1 of Darcy By Any Other Name. The beginning paragraph that covered too much? That was expanded into the first half of the chapter.
The crunch of footsteps on gravel caught Darcy’s attention; had someone followed him? He turned and saw the white of a clerical cravat. Indeed, he could hear Collins’ reedy voice calling his name.
Darcy increased his pace and crossed the lawn, heading for the stone Folly. Perhaps he could lose Collins in the shadows? There was no question that the man would take a hint and go away.
Sure enough, on Collins came; Darcy could hear his mincing trot. “Oh, Mr. Dar-cy,” he shrilled. “Forgive the intrusion, but—”
The chill air held the promise of rain, and something in Collins’ tone told Darcy that he was cold and uncomfortable. So much the better! Darcy came to a halt beneath one of the Folly’s arches and waited. The wind was picking up; fallen leaves swirled around his feet. Yes, a storm was definitely blowing in.
“I am reluctant to intrude,” Mr. Collins wheezed out, for he was breathing heavily. “Most—reluctant.”
The man had crossed the garden at a run! Was he now pretending this encounter was accidental? Not only was Collins impertinent, but he was also a liar. Darcy folded his arms across his chest.
And Elizabeth thought him condescending? Top-lofty? Impossible to please? Would that she could see his patience and forbearance! For her sake, Darcy would not give Collins the reply his arrogance deserved.
The man gazed at Darcy with a confiding smile. “I cannot think why, but I neglected to inquire earlier,” he said, and paused mid-sentence.
Darcy knew precisely why: because the man was an idiot!
“Is there a message, good sir, that you would like me to convey to your esteemed aunt? I return to Hunsford on the coming Saturday.”
Surely this was the slenderest pretext for conversation! It now occurred to Darcy that the man might be seeking a loan.
Tomorrow’s post? Y is for … hm’m. Haven’t figured that out quite yet! Thanks for reading.
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