Do you ever grapple with wordiness in your manuscripts? Below, J. Arlene Culiner shows you a before-and-after from her romantic mystery book, The Turkish Affair, demonstrating the importance of tightening your manuscript.

 

J. Arlene Culiner’s Behind The Rewrite

The section I’ve chosen to present is from my romantic mystery, The Turkish Affair, published in January, 2020, by The Wild Rose Press. The earlier version needed tightening—it was too wordy. I knew I could cut and the story would be more interesting, especially since the phrases I wanted to eliminate had already been said in previous chapters.

Also, I knew it was better to imply certain things, not hammer them home. I changed words as well, using others I considered more effective .

 Earlier Version

“Okay then.” His voice was surprisingly tender. “If I promise not to probe into your past, do I have the right to ask one question?”

Her sigh was one of resignation.

“Can I trust you?”

The answer to that was simple enough. Despite the rumors that had destroyed her life. She nodded. “Yes. Of course you can.”

His smile was radiant. “Good.”

She stared at him helplessly, at his strong, angular features highlighted by the merciless sun.

“That’s crazy. You’re willing to take my word for it? I could be lying.”

He slipped a finger under her chin, forced her to meet his gaze. “No way. Not with a face as expressive as yours.”

***

“I’m telling you everything I know,” he began.

She nodded in assent, but her reluctance was almost palpable. Still, he needed to push on. Confide in her, for some crazy reason he couldn’t yet understand. If only he didn’t enjoy being with her so much, he thought. If only he didn’t admire her fierce independence. Or the sight of her, sitting forward, lips slightly parted, elbows on her knees, listening to his every word. It gave him the strange feeling they were, in some strange way, a matched pair. And allowing in emotions like that, left him vulnerable. He knew that. And he just didn’t care. Not anymore—not for the moment, anyway.

wordiness

Edited Version

Here is the same version with the things I decided to cut or words I wanted to change, or words I added because they were better (where I made changes is in bold)

“Okay then.” His voice was surprisingly tender. “If I promise not to probe into your past, do I have the right to ask one question?”

Her sigh was one of resignation.

“Can I trust you?”

The answer to that was simple enough. Despite the rumors that had destroyed her life. She nodded. “Yes. Of course you can.”

His (word added) smile was radiant. “Good.”

She stared at him helplessly, at his strong, angular features highlighted by the merciless sun.

“That’s crazy. You’re willing to take my word for it? I could be lying.” (line change)

He slipped a finger under her chin, forced her to meet his gaze. “No way. Not with a face as expressive as yours.”

***

“I’m telling you everything I know,” he began.

She nodded in assent, but her reluctance was almost palpable. Still, he needed to push on. Confide in her, for some crazy reason he couldn’t yet understand. If only he didn’t enjoy being with her so much, he thought. If only he didn’t admire her fierce independence. Or the sight of her, sitting forward, lips slightly parted, elbows on her knees, listening to his every word. It gave him the strange feeling they were, in some strange way, a matched pair. And allowing in emotions like that, left him vulnerable. He knew that. And he just didn’t care. Not anymore — not for the moment, anyway.

I decided to eliminate this last paragraph entirely because it was boring, repetitive, and wordy. I also wanted to change the point of view, and do it more effectively than I did in the early version—just putting in the three star separation wasn’t good at all. Something more obvious was needed, so I wrote in a change of scene. Doing so, gave me the opportunity to add to the atmosphere and deepen the sense of place.

Final Version

“Okay, then.” His voice was surprisingly tender. “If I promise not to probe into secrets, do I have the right to ask one question?”

She nodded with resignation.

“Can I trust you?”

The answer to that was simple enough. “Yes. Of course you can.”

His returning smile was radiant. “Good.”

She stared helplessly at the strong, angular features highlighted by the merciless sun. “That’s crazy. You’re willing to take my word for it? I could be lying.”

He leaned forward, cupped her chin in his hand, and met her gaze evenly. “No way. Not with a face as expressive as yours.”

***

An hour later, the sky was a gleaming dome white with heat, and only the deeply indented coast with its myriad inlets promised respite. Renaud rowed steadily toward a cove where waves were gentle and a few pines had secured a toehold in the inhospitable terrain. Slinging the rowboat’s line over a sharp boulder, he held out his hand to Anne, then kept her fingers coiled around his for as long as he could. If only he didn’t enjoy being with her so much. If only he didn’t admire her fierce independence, or the sight of her, now settled comfortably between abundant shrubs of fragrant myrtle, her lips slightly parted, elbows on her knees.

Yes, I think this final version really does work. I hope you think so, too. Thanks for letting me present these edits. It’s a fun subject!

Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?

The Turkish Affair by J. Arlene Culiner – Love and danger at the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu. Priceless artifacts are disappearing from the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu in Turkey, and the site director has vanished. Called in to solve the mystery, archaeologist Renaud Townsend is hindered by both his inability to speak the language and the knowledge that the local police are corrupt. His attraction to translator Anne Pierson is immediate, although he is troubled by her refusal to talk about the past and her fear of public scandal. But when murder enters the picture, both Anne and Renaud realize that the risk of falling in love is not the only danger.

More About J. Arlene Culiner

Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.

Opportunities For Writers

Are you an author interested in writing a Behind the Rewrite guest blog post? Get the guidelines here.

Are you a writer who could use some editing tips? Check out Stacy’s free resources:

Line Editing Made Simple–5 Days to More Polished Pages  – Free e-mail class packed with line editing tips

Shortcuts for Writers: Editing Made Simple Facebook group – Download the guide, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb in Unit 1.)

How To Name Your Characters: Tips Every Fiction Writer Should Know – Check out this extensive post on naming your characters, an informative video tour of 7 character-naming sites, and a free PDF guide that summarizes all the information.

Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – Learn how to streamline the editing process in this affordable, self-paced online course that will empower beginner and intermediate writers to think like an editor so they can save time and money. A steppingstone to hiring an editor.

Free Line Editing Class

Could your manuscript use trimming and polishing? Sign up for the FREE email class: Line Editing Made Simple - 5 Days To More Polished Pages. You'll get bite-sized lessons and assignments to help you kick-start your line editing. Sign up now!

free editing class

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
%d bloggers like this: