Editing Fantasy – Words are Wind

A friend “book-bombed” me the other day. By that, I mean that she sent me a book she just read through the post and labelled it – a w e s o m e. I dropped all my other reading material in favour of this newly acquired and well-thumbed tome – The Night Angel Trilogy Book 1 – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. (Thanks Lex, you rock!)

The Night Angel Trilogy

trust the reader

It came out in 2008, and a cursory search online tells me that it has a bit of a following. I’m about a third of the way through thus far, and the characters and the world are really well developed. There is some great use of language, imagery and scene setting. But I find myself frustrated as I mentally edit the book as I read. At the moment it’s good, but it could have been great. An example below:

Chapter 9

The following is told from Solon’s point of view. The scene has been set. My editing is as per the strike through

               “Men!” Logan said to the guards loudly to cut her off. “Lady Gyre is tired and overwrought. Escort her to her chambers. I’d appreciate it if one of you would watch her door this night in case she requires anything. We will all dine in the usual room in the morning.”

               Solon loved it. Logan had just confined his mother to her chambers and put a guard on the door to keep her there until morning, all without giving her an avenue for complaint. This boy will be formidable.

Trust the reader. Show don’t tell. The reader knows that this (the language that has been struck through) is what Logan’s done, he’s just said it. Brent Weeks didn’t need to repeat what he meant all over again. I find it really frustrating and distracting, because this sort of clumsy language is repeated throughout the book. It’s almost as if there should have been one last pass of editing that was never done. I am enjoying the depth of the story and the characters, and may well end up reading the full trilogy. But at the moment, it is only my friend’s recommendation that pushes me through the frustration to believe that the book will deliver.

lessons learned

This is a book that has been published by a major publishing house. I’m not sure that it means that their level of editing is inadequate, or it’s simply a lesson to all us unpublished authors that we need to get our level of editing right before our work is submitted.

For me, Brent Weeks’ world is inspiring, because there is so much depth to it. It encourages me to focus on my back story, and world building. But it also reminds me that I need to edit like hell and be ruthless with cutting material. Every word needs to fight for its right to be in my novel: Four and Twenty Blackbirds


9 responses to “Editing Fantasy – Words are Wind

  1. Unless its a copying error, I’m not sure I like the first sentence either:

    “Men!” Logan said to the guards loudly to cut her off. “Lady Gyre …”

    maybe my coffe just hasn’t kicked in, but it too me three tries at the prose between the quotes to put it together. Better choice of words and some punctuation may have helped:

    “Men!” Logan loudly, cutting her off, “Lady Gyre…”

  2. I have this series on my list to read. Will have to think about.

    • I wouldn’t necessarily write off the series. I may well read the whole trilogy (will report back), it’s just that some of the clumsy phrasing has me pulling my hair out. The writing could have been elevated to a higher level. Gutting. Absolutely gutting.

  3. Guess I should take the log out of my own eye. Can I try that again?:

    “Men!” Logan said loudly, cutting her off, “Lady Gyre…”

    More. Coffee. Please.

    • Hooray for coffee. I agree with your edit. The language could be so much tighter. So vexing, especially when the plot line is so good.

  4. Enjoy, Sophus! The Night Angel trilogy is one of my favorites of all time.

    • Thanks Artorious. I will try to ignore some of the more lumbering turns of phrase. I really like the characters and the world that Brent’s created.

  5. “Trust the reader!” Amen. Unneeded exposition and explanations slow the story to a crawl. We all have beta readers, right? If something isn’t clear, someone will bring it up before we go to print.

    Science fiction and fantasy in particular seem to tempt writers to over-explanation. I don’t need to know every last detail of Garthoovian Bonecrusher’s life cycle and physiology–it’s big, it’s got sharp teeth, and it’s between the hero and the exit–I’m good with that. Let’s get with the swashbuckling and skip the xenology seminar.

  6. Pingback: Beyond The Shadows | The Page, the Sage, and the Mage

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