Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Anonymous's line edit

I'm not sure who this is, but Anon, this bud's for you. :)

Causing a maelstrom of thrilling sensations that ignited her heart to race and her eyes to close and head to fall back against the mattress. Neck arching... stretching and straining, while her fingers dug into the sheets, seeking and clenching, crumpling the soft threads of the linen in the grasp of her brutal surrender. Desire, hot and fierce, concentrated almost painfully, sweetly, between her thighs. “I...can’t...I can’t--,”

‘You can breathe, Baby. I’m here. I’ve always been here ready to catch you as you fall for me.’

I am always having to delete ellipses. My own great vice is dashes. But Theresa is down on ellipses, so as I edit, I hit on those two. Of course, a few strewn throughout a book might work, but if you have more than a few, well, think about how they "feel" as your reader reads. An ellipsis (...) means fading out. A dash means an interruption. They shouldn't be a default, but rather used specifically in those instances only, and you know, you ought to go back and try a period or comma and see if it makes much difference. All publishers these days are trending more an more to typographic simplicity, so if you can, go with the usual punctuation. :)
Causing a maelstrom of thrilling sensations that ignited her heart to race and her eyes to close and head to fall back against the mattress.
Well, you know I'm going to point out that this is a fragment, and the annoying participle kind (Causing). :) What is causing? If you want to go with a fragment, you still need to have the antecedent there somewhere in the paragraph (before the fragment, that is). Your editor is going to change that to a sentence, so why not do it yourself and maintain control?

His touch caused...
His voice caused...
Her fear caused....
Her mother caused...
The earthquake caused....

I like the word "maelstrom". It's one of my favorite words, actually. Yes, I have favorite words. (Lilting. Stormy. Whimsy. Alternate. Traitorous.)

The cause of an event does matter!

Also, you're overmodifying here. There's sort of a tipping point for modifiers, after which each one detracts from all the others. Maybe two? In this case, you have a strong verb (ignite), so don't diminish that by piling on the adverbs and adjectives. Also you have "ignite her heart to race". I think you could INCITE the heart to race, but "ignite" means to set on fire, so "ignite her heart" is about it-- nothing on fire is going to race. You're imbedding a metaphor in that verb (I like metaphors imbedded in verbs), but a verb metaphor has the same rule as other metaphors-- you have to honor the symbol there. "Ignite" means fire, not race. So keep the rest of the image coherent with that metaphor, or change the metaphor to fit. So:
The something or other caused a maelstrom of sensations that ignited her heart. Her eyes closed and and her head fell back against the mattress as (something happened).
You can have both the poetic rush towards sensation and sentences that make sense. Really. Why not try first the sense-way, and then modify it to make it more exciting? There's a lot you can do within the rules, so try to do that, and then do the modification to achieve the additional effect you want.

Neck arching... stretching and straining, while her fingers dug into the sheets, seeking and clenching, crumpling the soft threads of the linen in the grasp of her brutal surrender.

Again, how much is lost when you put in the little bit that makes this a sentence? Your editor probably is going to do it. :)

Here you have a lot of verbals, which is interesting because verbs imply action. Too often in emotional or erotic scenes, writers descend into nouns and adjectives-- concrete visuals. But of course, verbals have more of a motion there, and can be fun.

I think you might be overdoing, but erotic scenes often tend towards the excessive. Notice that you are OUTSIDE her, not inside her. I mean, if you had a camera in there, all this would be recorded-- because this is her action, what her body is doing in response to the feeling. I'm just pointing that out. I don't know what you're going after. You are describing what her body is doing in reaction, not what the lover's body is doing in action. Just pointing that out.

Now let's try it as an intact sentence, and minus the ellipses:
Her neck arched, stretching and straining, while her fingers dug into the sheets, seeking and clenching, crumpling the soft threads of the linen in the grasp of her brutal surrender.

I'm not in love with the doubled participles (stretching and straining-- sort of redundant). And is her neck doing that? I don't much like the rhythm of all those participles. I do like "brutal surrender," because the oxymoron is illustrative. All those strong verbals, however, detract from each other-- arching and stretching and straining and dug and seeking and clenching and crumpling and grasp and surrender (neither a verb here, but a verb word). What are the important words there? If you couldn't keep them all, which would you get rid of? I'd get rid of "stretching and straining" as they add nothing but a bit of alliteration- after all, if a neck arches, it's also stretching and straining.

I think long sentences tend to work well in an erotic scene, btw, but think of the rhythm of lovemaking... you might put a short sentence in there too, to mimic the rhythm.
Desire, hot and fierce, concentrated almost painfully, sweetly, between her thighs. “I...can’t...I can’t--,”

I like that "painfully, sweetly," but that's getting lost in all the rest. How about getting rid of the hot and fierce? Or put them in front of the noun? Less is more. Think about what conveys what you want to convey, and don't bury it.

As for the ellipsis, well. Please not after "I". And a dash is a terminal punctuation mark like a period, so no comma after that.

‘You can breathe, Baby. I’m here. I’ve always been here ready to catch you as you fall for me.’

Couple quick fixes. Go consistent with quote marks-- you have American in the sentence before (double marks) and British here (single). Go with what the publisher goes with. If you're submitting to a US house, that's double marks.

And "baby" isn't capped unless it's her name or nickname-- we don't cap endearments.

I like that "catch you". The sentence feels too long, however. I've always been ready? See if you can trim it. That "as you fall for me" is interesting, but "as" implies a longer time period, and you are talking about a moment-- she falls, he catches. So see if "when" works there. I don't know.

I like the "I'm here," but I think if you have that, you need a comma in the next sentence (if you keep "here"). That might get rid of the sense that it's too long:
"You can breathe, baby. I’m here. I’ve always been here, ready to catch you as you fall for me.’"

I don't much like unattributed dialogue unless it's in a paragraph with the speaker doing action (as in the first paragraph). There's something unhinged about dialogue without attribution. It's fine in a passage of dialogue, but to me, a single line of dialogue just hanging there feels sort of incomplete. So I hope you have "he" (or "she"-- her lover could be a woman, of course!) in the next line or paragraph.



Anonymous said...

Since the Maelstrom is a famous whirlpool, you still have a mixed metaphor if you have it ignite something. I'm not sure its really a good match with incite either.

Edittorrent said...

That makes it especially important to NAME THE SUBJECT that causes all those mixed metaphors! I really want to meet this guy. (G)

Jaymi said...

Ah.....(oops, too much?) Hello erotica.

I just took some wonderful advice-

Everyone who recieves a line edit should buy a book from eRedSage.com for $1.50.-

I am a long winded reader. I wont even pick up a book if it is less than 350 pages, but wowza, I bought Hight Voltage and loved it. It was short and fun to read. I must say it was also much more tasteful than I imagined an erotica novella could be.

Seems like I have found a new love in short novellas.

Anonymous said...


Are you SURE you're not sure?

Riley Murphy said...

Jaymi, Good for you!
You should try Addiction or The Doctor Next Door, Forbidden Fruit, Nameless Surrender. Man, I could go on and on, they're all good. And um, I'm glad you found a 'New Love'.

Edittorrent said...

Jaymi, I'm delighted to hear that. I may tell Calista to come over hear and read your comment. It will make her day.

And, if I may toot the Red Sage horn a bit -- we try to avoid that on the blog, but I can't resist this once -- we strive for elegance in all our stories. It's possible to be incredibly sexy and still preserve good taste. Your comment makes me think we have hit the mark, so that makes me very happy.


em said...

I found myself rushing while I read this, like the words carried me to do this. Is that weird? It was like my heart was racing. Was that the point, Anon?
Alicia, do you know who wrote this? What's with the: are you sure, comment?
And, I bought a book too:). It was one of Liane's. I can't wait to read it.:)

Calista Fox, Author said...

Okay, so here I am and laughing hard at the irony of this post! First, off--thanks so much to Jaymi for the compliment and beautiful critique of HIGH VOLTAGE! This book has a very special place in my heart, and it means a great deal to me when it resonates with readers!!!

Second... I am an ellipses queen! Aren't I, Alicia and Theresa??? LOL (Please don't take away my ellipses, please don't take away my ellipses, please, please, please! LOL)

Anonymous said...

Calista: I too like my dots. Typing them gives me time to think.LOL


Malestrom: as a noun is a powerful whirlpool - famous one? Not sure. I do know the ORIGIN is Dutch, from maalen 'grind, whirl' + stroom 'stream'. But there is this to consider:
Malestrom: a scene of confused movement or upheaval. Interesting.

Calista Fox, Author said...

Thanks for the vote, Anonymous!

I developed my love of the ellipses from Herb Caen, the "three-dot journalist" who wrote for the SF Examiner and Chronicle. I was an avid reader up till his death and I just loved how the ellipses spaced out his commentary.

Um, does that justify my three-dot-overusage, my dear editors?? LOL

Edittorrent said...

Ellipses, Calista? What ellipses?

Whenever I see a lot of ellipses, I think of a heroine wasting away from consumption, too tired... to finish... a ... sentence.... Kind of hard to envision any ellipsis character as very active. But of course, I just wrote an email and the recipient wrote back to tell me that I use too many dots. It's contagious! Dot fever!

Em, no, I don't know who wrote this. There are like four anons in the queue. Hope it's not the same one. But I do know "anon" is a very prolific poet. (G)


Anonymous said...

Alicia: I am the original Anonymous who submitted the lines. I’m also Anon, 9:21am and 9:40 pm - the others were someone else.

Reading what you wrote:

--too tired... to finish... a ... sentence....

All I could think of was how very ‘Captain Kirk of you’ - VERY funny (btw), and it will probably cure me of the dot ‘itis’ thing I had going on. Thank-you.

Calista? Did Alicia use the same scared straight tactics with you? And hey, if she did, did it work?

Um, prolific poet?! I ‘resemble’ that comment!

Do you know who I am now?:)

Disclaimer: I really meant ‘resent’ but to be funny I replaced it with resemble.

And, in my lines submitted, when I used single quotation marks - it was because I didn’t know how the ‘freaking’(another clue) italics worked to show a character’s thought – but hey, one day I will master this computer, right?

And back to the original posted lines. Was I the only one paying attention? Didn’t you want fragments? Something fun to play with and work with? I dug deep for what I posted. I was coughing as I stooped to blow the dust off of those pages. What? You want to know how deep I dug? Alexandra Kendall, deep. She read that eight page extravaganza (it’s true - that sex scene was eight pages long - man, that girl- I’m talking heroine here - was lucky, eh?) fourteen years ago and Ms. Kendall gave me eleven check marks and a really great comment- two exclamation points even. (Sigh).

Then, her editor went through it and sent it back to me with a list, as long as my arm - with notes that looked like, well, hieroglyphics and I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to do with it. So, I put it in my drawer and thought about it for a very, very, very long time.:D

Holy crapatolla, Batman! You gotta know who I am now, right? :)

Unknown said...

Murphy? Is that you? I have to go back and read the lines again.

Maybe not.


Unknown said...

If I go by the lines posted I'm inclined to think it isn't you. Yet looking at the above comment? This has to be you.
Do you write poetry?

Riley Murphy said...

Poetry? No. You can bet your bottom dollar though, that if I could wax as successfully as “The Anon” (do ya think it was one guy;)?) I’d be plastering my name all over my work. I’d claim those suckers by signing my name in bright red ink. No black magic marker. Scratch that. I’d use a glow in the dark neon green paint so that even in the darkest hour of the night, my name would be visible for anyone to see. Because I have to tell you, this Anonymous thing is for the birds.

Unknown said...

LOL! So does this mean it is you?

Riley Murphy said...

Oh, for cripes sakes! YES!:D

Unknown said...

I knew it!!! You are very surprising.

Wes said...

Murphy, you scamp!!!! Very clever. Many of us call this guerrilla marketing. Well done.

AND Jaymi, great idea. In fact I tried to order a book (last of the big spenders), but I hosed up the process somehow. I'll try again.

em said...

I want to say two things about this. First of all, I LOVED the way this was written, like the reader got carried away in the scene. I think I mentioned in earlier comment that my heart was racing:). Second, I am glad that you posted this anonymous. I probably would have read it with a bias. I always expect you to be funny and this was anything but that.
Here's the weird part. I think I feel different about you now. In a good way, that is!:).

Riley Murphy said...

I'm glad that it's in a good way:).

I actually posted this thinking that I had already learned or knew what I had done wrong with this, so I thought it would be helpful to have Alicia go through it so other people could see the problems (the only thing I really changed from the original version was that I added that fragment - hey no one else was about to do that) but then I read her comments and I was like, "Holy shit, I get it!" I never really question ‘the why’ of why I do the things I do, and that's not good because if you understand ‘the why’ you can improve on it. So when she pointed out that this block was OUTSIDE the heroine that was great! I pulled out those pages and for the first time ever I saw a pattern to my style, when writing sex scenes. I always thought of the scenes as building to an almost slow crescendo, then a break or interruption, (usually the gorgeous hero whispering something that pulls the heroine out of her deep POV) that transitions to the OUTSIDE of her/them for a frantic paragraph or two where there is hurried or passionate movement disconnected, followed by another break or disruption similar as before which transitions back into the heroine’s deep POV. I even noticed that I tend to finish my scenes with this kind of break again, that allows a transition into the hero's POV. All this time and I never noticed it. But now that I have, and I see it clearly I can make it better. Tighter. I’m really happy about that.:)

And um, for the record? No one can be funny all of the time. Just ask my kids. They don’t think I’m funny. Nope. To them I’m mean old Mom who crushes their hopes of a new car or their dreams of traveling to Europe for the summer to backpack with their friends. Poor babies!;)