Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Editing, Day 3--Verb Choice

BGs, some good comments from yesterday. Thank you. Ron, waytago for starting the thread on the ACFW forum—hope it weaves well for you all. :)

We’re going to jump right in with replacing the weak verbs pointed out yesterday with stronger ones. Two things to note:

(1) The verbs I’m choosing are not the only good choices, of course. But they should give you an idea of how using punchier verbs helps the scene’s action.

(2) There are quite a few remaining issues with this scene, but as much as possible right now I will only replace the verbs and leave everything else as is. (Except for the SA changes, which we’ve kept.) In this way, with each technique we tackle, you will be able to see how that technique alone further enhances the scene. This step by step, one-technique-at-a-time approach is unlike edits you’ll see anywhere else, which tend to cover all sorts of issues at once.

Having said this, sometimes I’ve had to change the paragraph a bit in order to use a better verb. Other times, I left the original verb alone for now.

Okay, here goes. New verbs are in red, with original (red) verbs put in parentheses.

In an instant, he spun her whole body around, and her shoulder pummeled into Spirit. The horse panicked and jumped away, ripping the reins out of her hand.

Vince’s fist landed on her cheekbone, and she spied (was vaguely aware of) the horse bolting out the door before pain shot through her head and she stumbled. (she felt the pain and stumbled.)


Vince hurtled himself (was) upon her. He grabbed a fistful of her jacket and yanked her to her feet. “It’s time you learned something, Darling.” He stuck his face in hers, his stale cigar breath assaulting her. “I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

She squeezed her eyes shut (closed her eyes), gasping. If she resisted, he’d make it worse. “Vince, please, don’t.”

“You pitiful excuse for a woman.” He hit her again, a swift bash on her left temple. The blow blackened the room, fuzzed its edges. She fought against the dizziness. (made the room turn black around the edges. But she didn’t lose consciousness.)

Vince threw her (let her crumple) to the floor. “Worthless piece of trash.”

She plead with her eyes (tried to look up at him). “If you just leave me alone . . . I . . . I promise I’ll never tell a soul what you did. Just let me go. Why won’t you let me go?”

He dragged (picked) her up by the jacket again and shoved her against a stall door. She groaned as pain shot through her back. He’d pushed her against the metal latch.

“Oh, it’s too late, Christy. I’ve given you more than enough chances.”

“Please. . .”

He backhanded her across the face. She crumpled (fell) to her knees, clutching her nose as warm blood dripped into her fingers.

“I don’t know what I ever saw in you. You’re certainly nothing to look at.”

She peered (glanced) up at the caricature of his once handsome face. How could she ever have loved this man?

Vince pulled a wad of rope out of his jacket pocket. “Not even worth the air you breath.”

That’s when the truth seized her. He’d played with her. Now he would kill her (she realized the awful truth. He wasn’t just doing this to frighten her. He intended to kill her), and every ounce of survival instinct she had kicked in. She searched for a weapon. Bale of straw. Horse comb. Bottle of saddle soap. Shovel. She locked onto that. It leaned against the wall by the door. Could she crawl fast enough?

Vince kicked her in the thigh. “Get up.”

Christy struggled (started) to rise in a slow, defeated way, but the second she gathered (got) her feet underneath herself, she lunged for the door, and the shovel. Grasping it with both hands, she willed her eyes to focus on Vince, and hurled it at his head.

The shovel smacked Vince (met its mark) with a revolting thud. Vince’s hands flew to his face, and he moaned as he sagged to the floor. She froze, shocked she’d actually wounded him. What was she doing? She had to get of here! Move!

Christy ran. Into the yard, past the pickups. The house! Get to the house! Lock the door. Maybe she could grab a gun (could figure out how to use one of those guns) before Vince could break in.

And then she spotted (saw) the most beautiful creature in the entire world, Spirit, a snowy apparition posed (standing) in the middle of the yard, waiting for her. For a split second she wavered (hesitated). Should she race for the house or gamble on mounting (try to mount) the gelding in her woozy state (when she could barely see straight)?

Vince forced her choice (decided for her). He burst from (appeared in) the barn doorway still clutching (holding) his head, his eyes ablaze. She could not reach (wouldn’t make) the house.

Adrenaline propelled her to Spirit, and she frantically gathered the reins, struggling to get her foot in the stirrup.

She threw a look backward (Glance behind). Vince streaked (was running) toward her.

Clutching Spirit’s mane, she summoned all her strength, and launched herself upon his back. (pulled herself up, and made it!)

I admit this edit was not easy to do, because there are so many other things I’m itching to change. You may see things, too. In fact, now that the verbs are stronger, other weak points of the scene may leap out at you when they didn’t before. But let’s allow these verb changes to suffice for now. You can see how these changes alone help you visualize the scene better.

Next up—action/reaction sequence.

Read Part 5


Cindy Q said...

What a great lesson. Thanks for sharing.

D. Gudger said...

What a difference.

Kjersten said...

Learning muchly, but what happened next? ;-) Did she get away?

Megan DiMaria said...


I am addicted to your blog! Thanks for the NES and now for the lessons. You're a peach!

C.J. Darlington said...

Kjersten: Ah, you'll have to wait until the book is published to find out. :-) Okay, maybe I'll spill the beans a little. Let's just say Christy gets away only to face something even worse.

Jason said...

This is great practical workout for us. Thanks!

2 questions:
1. Can you overdo it? I would think that it could get corny if you went over the top. Or is that possible?
2. There are one or two sentences that seem wordy now. For instance: "and she spied the horse bolting out the door before pain shot through her head and she stumbled." Am I wrong in thinking this?
You're right, of course, the action does move along more. But do those 2 questions play into it here? (I realize you're doing a partial edit, so that may be the problem).

Domino said...

This is the perfect way to learn the discipline of rewriting. And, boy, do I have a lot of rewriting to do now. Great timing! This is what I needed.

Lynette Sowell said...

Wow, good stuff. Thanks! I guess a good thesaurus will come in handy. :)

Hope said...

Boy! I fell behind on my blog reading but am enjoying catching up. Anxious to take a red pen to my WIP, too. ;) Thanks for these terrific lessons!

Rafaela said...

Thank you so, so, so much for this.
I usually skip the editing part because I just plain hate it.

Now... it's becoming a little more attractive.


Thank you!