Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Mind Over Mind Edits

One of the best parts of getting published, I believe, is having a thorough editing of your manuscript. I learn a lot about my writing style and the mistakes I make, and how they impact the readability of my books. I'm always a better writer for them.

Such is the case with Mind Over Mind. This was my first novel, sold to Dragon Moon after 10 years of making the rounds. I was thrilled that they wanted it, but I'm even more thrilled with the attention the editor, Gabrielle, gave the manuscript.

One of the biggest things she noted, content-wise, was my tendency to start with a present-time action, then go back into a flashback of some past event not mentioned before. I knew I did that, and I always had a reason. Usually, I considered the flashback event too minor to mention except in how it impacted the present scene. However, Gabrielle felt that most of the time what I was doing was slowing down the pace of the action, where with some rewriting, I could indeed address the flashback as a real-time event, improve the pace and make the present scene I was writing flow more easily. Reading her comments, I saw that she was right.

She made careful note of which scenes in particular could benefit from the real-time approach, and as I worked them, I started to understand her logic and how it applied. Plus, she fired up my imagination--something I was a little afraid about at first, because it had been so long since I'd been with these characters.

As a result, not only is Mind Over Mind a better book, but I am a better writer.

Here's an example. Please keep in mind that there may be further revisions before the final product comes out:


"Hey, Ydrel, are you awake?"

Ydrel grunted without looking up. He didn't have the energy to move from the reclining lawn chair where he’d been dozing for the last couple of hours, and he knew that the slightest movement would send daggers of pain into his side.

The Master had called him again the night before, breaking though his weakened shields as if they weren't there. He hadn't even spoken, had just set new monsters upon him. They were mostly human, but had only depressions where their eyes, noses and mouths should have been. At first, he'd fought mostly a defensive battle. His shields were weakened and he had no ley line from which to renew them. The hits soon broke through, painful blows that he knew would reveal themselves in the waking world, He began to fight back then, growing more and more desperate. When one monster smacked his arm hard enough to make him drop his sword, he reacted by reflex, striking out with his mind rather than his body. The creature arched and fell.

"Yes!" the Master shouted.

Startled at what he'd just done, Ydrel dropped his guard. Another creature plunged his blade deep into his side.

The pain threw him into the waking world.


Ydrel found himself in the land of mists, disoriented, shivering, his sword in his hand and a cramp in his side. He turned a slow circle until he saw the Master
"Let me go," he moaned. "I don’t want to fight today."

The Master didn't even answer, simply faded into the background as the monsters approached. Gray things, with depressions where the facial features should have been. Alien but weirdly familiar. This time, instead of their arms ending in blades, they had hands which held swords. I can knock the blades from their hands, he thought. Then when I have a safe minute I'm using all my power and leaving--

The sword was gone from his hands.

"What?" he breathed, then felt the Master's command: YOU DO NOT NEED THIS PROP. YOU ARE THE ONLY WEAPON YOU NEED.

The monsters advanced.

"No!" he shouted to the Master. "I don't want to do this. I want to go home.Leave me alone!" He cast about for a ley line. Were there such things in this world?

One of the creatures swung and he ducked. The others waited, but not from some cliché of honor. There were letting him warm up; soon enough, they would come at him at once, and not in some choreographed demonstration fight.

He couldn’t find a line. Again he ducked another swing then stepped to the right just in time to avoid a blow. The movement made the stitch in his side flare.

"Just let me go!"


If only he had his sword. There was energy in it. Anything else? Not the sky, the fog, not even the barren ground.

But the monsters?

Energy flowed from living things, Joshua had said. His mother had poured out her energy to heal him once. Could he work it the other way around?

One jerked forward with a stabbing motion and he grabbed its arm. Instead of tossing it aside, however, he imagined himself a sponge, pulling, absorbing. When he felt the first energy, like cool water, he suddenly thirsted as he never had. He grit his teeth, pulled on the energy, felt it swirl around him, it filled his head, dizzying and glorious.

Ydrel came to himself and found all eight monsters collapsed in the mist. Why were they there still? Always before, they faded when he'd struck the winning blow. He knelt and shook one, lightly at first, then harder.


He whirled and saw the Master, shining as if he'd absorbed the life energy of the beasts.

"Are they dead?"

The Master smiled at Ydrel with pride.

"Were they alive?" Ydrel demanded, even though he wasn't sure he wanted to know. "Were they real?"


Suddenly, twelve monsters replaced the eight.

"Were they real?" he demanded. Had he done it again? Had he killed? A sob escaped his throat.


"No!" He didn't care if he got lost, if he died. He was leaving this place. The creatures had sacrificed their life energies and he was going to put them to good use. Ignoring the advance of the new enemy, he closed his eyes and chanted. "I'm going back to my body. Back to the asylum. Back to Joshua and Sachiko and safety--"

One of the creatures scored on his side as he faded out of existence.


Gabrielle said...

Definitely, I think that you undervalue some of your flashbacks! I'm glad to see some of those interesting moments get "promoted" from backstory that passes too quickly and turned into real-time scenes.

I think it really helps your story, like in the case of the example you've given here. :)

Karina Fabian said...

Thanks, Gabrielle. I really appreciate all the time you took to go over the manuscript so well.