Sample Scene Edit

Anne C. Miles > editing > Sample Scene Edit

I’m going to show what I’m doing in my revision process because I think it will be helpful and it will serve as a reference for when I forget what I’m doing. I’m using Revising Your Novel, First Draft to Finished Draft by Janice Hardy.

NOTICE:  This is NOT The first chapter in the book. And yes, I know there is a LOT of exposition and narrative summary. I get a little bit of a pass because this is Fantasy and it’s a bit more accepted in that genre. But YES I will be pruning and weaving it in where I can. Apparently this gets dealt with later in my guide’s system (the book mentioned above). Also please realize this is only my first and second pass. I’m journaling the process. Will update this post as I work through it. Also, am posting for reference, not asking anyone to edit this for me. Thanks!

In the first pass I’m mostly reading this out loud to myself and fixing anything glaring. Working toward clarity.

Session One, Edit the obvious suckage.

“Stars and stones, man,” roared Jerome from across the crowded dining hall. “Where have you been?”

Trystan stifled a guilty grin as he approached the trestle table that held the remains of the noon meal. He still wore one of his velvet surcoats and lace-edged undershirt. Of noble birth and already granted Master Bard status in his home country, Trystan was being groomed to receive his official Master’s status from the Bindery Bards as well. Until then, he performed many of the duties and attended journeymen’s classes, occasionally teaching. He wasn’t quite a journeyman, but he had never made his journey.

The Bindery would not fully acknowledge him Master until he did.

“I’m kept slaving morning till night. Pickell’s ballad must be perfect!” he mimicked, gesturing grandly to the heavens. But by the Warrior’s stones, the tune is finished. It is as glorious as I can make it.”

“What will be perfect is not being in the chorister rotation next week,” Jerome grumbled. “Master Standish has assigned me three more manuscripts to copy, and he expects them by Tunesday.” He plucked a heel of a loaf from the table, shoved it at Trystan and pulled him to his feet. “Come on. We’re late.”

Trystan choked the crust down, running after the journeyman Bard. They navigated through the labyrinth of vaulted hallways and parqueted staircases with the ease of long practice and arrived at the teaching arena just before the bell, sitting on the velvet-cushioned benches provided. The arena was octagonal in shape, vaulted stone like most rooms in the Bindery. Narrow tapestries punctuated by arched stained-glass windows warmed the room.

“We trade in melodies and myth. History, teaching, crafting, entertainment and intrigue. These are the Bard’s calling,” announced Master Player Sondheim Terre, his rich voice sounding from downstage right. The tall, grey-haired Master crossed the stage as he spoke, his midnight-blue Masters robes swishing across the polished wood in accompaniment to his words. “However, there is another type of music which can not only touch the heart, it can quite literally cause a storm. Today you will discover the difference between songs and the Song. This class is one of the most important you will ever attend as journeymen.

“You’ve heard about the dewin, those music-mages of old. Dewin sounds like “divine” because when the Song was whole these mages held the power of gods, of life and death. They went mad when the Evil Wyrm fought the Storm King at Ceffyl Brenin, the World Tree. Likely you all know a hundred ballads that tell the tale, how instead of healing, they killed.
“Since the War of the Wyrm, only those who make lifelong vows to serve the Conclave learn to touch and use the Song. Magic.”

Master Terre’s blue eyes sparkled as he waved his hands, mock-casting a spell. He paced across the front of the stage, warming to his topic.

“Today we shall discuss that most secret mystery: How to avoid using the Broken Song even though you’re a Bard and therefore sidestep the madness that comes with it. To do that, you must know how to touch it.”

Excited murmuring broke out among the students. A hand shot up from the front row.

“Yes Conor?”

“We aren’t dewin. We don’t have the inborn talent to use the Song by merely singing, so why would we go mad?”

“Excellent question. But then do you think your fellow musicians who take their vows of celibacy, truth and baldness,”–he tapped his thick head of hair, raising his bushy eyebrows and paused to let the inevitable laughter pass–”are all dewin? Yet Conclave acolytes and Cantors use the Song. They heal, they protect and yes, they defend when necessary. All with the Song. All without going mad, without being dewin. How is that possible? Anyone?”

The hair on Trystan’s arms stood on end. He’d both dreaded and anticipated this lesson. As a foreign student, he had already been instructed thoroughly in this subject. These lessons were taught to all young children in his homeland by the dwarves. He had quickly discovered that Bindery teaching sometimes conflicted with what he had learned from his tutors in Pelegor. Disclosing the differences often did not end well.

He decided to feign complete ignorance. His hand went up.

“They use special instruments?”

“Trystan proposes an interesting solution.” Master Terre’s deferent bow was only partially mocking. “But no. The instruments you speak of are now as volatile as the dewin themselves and are therefore, forbidden. You may, on occasion, come across one such in the collection of a titled nobleman. Take care and do not, under any circumstances play the thing.”

Trystan blinked. Was Master Terre trying to warn him?

“Could a Crafter accidentally make one?” asked Trystan. He shifted in his seat, pushing away a shiver.

The Master Player Terre arched a brow and stared at Trystan as if he knew his thoughts. He stroked the grey whiskers that cascaded over the top of his loose linen shirt, then half-knelt to answer.

He looks like a Majister, himself, thought Trystan, not for the first time.

“No,” he said, his voice low and pitched to reach only his Trystan’s seat. “We don’t know how to make them. That knowledge was lost with the Majisters. When they disappeared during the War, they took their secrets with them. For the best.”

Terre straightened, addressing the entire group. “Now, how do you touch the Song without a forbidden instrument or the cursed voice of a dewin?”

Thornton Febwump, a third-year journeyman from Teredhe, answered shot his hand up. “Some ancient songs have the ability to activate within the range of certain plants.”

“And why is that, Mister Febwump?” the Master called over his shoulder as he disappeared behind a curtain, returning with a tray full of blooms.

Thornton’s chest puffed out as he answered. “Those plants carry Virtue given by the Cyntae for our benefit and continued prosperity. Cantors use them during their services and as they go about their duties.”

Master Terre nodded and held up a flower for all to see. It chimed softly as he moved it. “This is a tunebell,” he said. “It’s not the only flower with the virtue to activate the Song, but is one of the more common. They are sanctioned, forbidden to be grown outside of a Conclave chapterhouse. Why?”

Jerome lifted his meaty arm with a grunt, “To grow such is a threat against every citizen. Using the Song can destroy both you and everyone around you.”

Master Terre half-bowed. “Indeed, Mister Niall. Lest any of you not fully grasp the point of this lesson, allow me to demonstrate.”

He crushed the tunebell within his large hands and began to sing. The scent wafted over the entire arena, filling it. As it reached Trystan, the Song oozed from his mouth like a wound and the world around him melted with it.

Trystan just saw madness.

Faisant, the fickle spirits that haunted all dewin flickered on every side. Like flames, they appeared, then vanished. Translucent people of all colors and ages screamed, gasped, cried. The world shifted, emptiness yawning beneath Trystan’s feet, and the faces of his fellow students stretched into death-masks with glowing eyes.

No wonder all the dewin went mad, thought Trystan. They can’t know what is real and what is not. I’m ready to run screaming after only moments.
He steeled himself to stay in his seat, focusing on the Song itself. The words sounded foreign. Trystan had no idea what they were. Around him, students murmured in surprise and fear. Some got up and ran out of the arena, hiding their eyes.

The Song stopped. Master Terre let the students catch their breaths before he spoke again.

“Now you have seen as the dewin do. Now you know why all dewin must be purified by the Conclave. The Song is dangerous. We guard our secrets and these plants for a reason. Over the next few weeks we will study the rudimentary skills needed to protect your mind from the Broken Song. We’ll study all the plants that can enhance an aural nexus and learn how to spot a song with the potential to harm. You’ll learn to take every precaution possible to play music that is only that–music. One slip or accident could be your last.”

*text in blue added for clarity 

Session Two, Making Notes

“Stars and stones, man,” roared Jerome from across the crowded dining hall. “Where have you been?”

Trystan stifled a guilty grin as he approached the trestle table that held the remains of the noon meal. He still wore one of his velvet surcoats and lace-edged undershirt. Of noble birth and already granted Master Bard status in his home country, Trystan was being groomed to receive his official Master’s status from the Bindery Bards as well. Until then, he performed many of the duties and attended journeymen’s classes, occasionally teaching. He wasn’t quite a journeyman, but he had never made his journey. The Bindery would not fully acknowledge him Master until he did, which didn’t matter to him. However, it mattered very much to his father and to Pelegor. 

“I’m kept slaving morning till night. Pickell’s ballad must be perfect!” he mimicked, gesturing grandly to the heavens. “But by the Warrior’s stones, the tune is finished. It is as glorious as I can make it.”

“What will be perfect is not being in the chorister rotation next week,” Jerome grumbled. “Master Standish has assigned me three more manuscripts to copy, and he expects them by Tunesday.” He plucked a heel of a loaf from the table, shoved it at Trystan and pulled him to his feet. “Come on. We’re late.”

Trystan choked the crust down, running after the journeyman Bard. They navigated through the labyrinth of vaulted hallways and parqueted staircases with the ease of long practice and arrived at the teaching arena just before the bell, sitting on the velvet-cushioned benches provided. The arena was octagonal in shape, vaulted stone like most rooms in the Bindery. Narrow tapestries punctuated by stained-glass windows warmed the room.

“We trade in melodies and myth. History, teaching, crafting, entertainment and intrigue. These are the Bard’s calling,” announced Master Player Sondheim Terre, his baritone rolling from downstage right. The tall, grey-haired Master crossed the stage as he spoke, midnight-blue Masters robes swishing across the polished wood. “However, there is another type of music which can not only touch the heart, it can quite literally cause a storm. Today you will discover the difference between songs and the Song. This class is one of the most important you will ever attend as journeymen.

“You’ve heard about the dewin, those music-mages of old. Dewin sounds like divine because when the Song was whole these mages held the power of their God, of life and death. They went mad when the Evil Wyrm fought his Son, the Storm King, at Ceffyl Brenin. Likely you all know a hundred ballads that tell the tale, how instead of healing, they killed. After the Storm King’s sacrifice, only one Majister remained, Modric the Wise. He forged the Conclave to guide us all, to seek the Cyntae, strengthening what remains and keeping us safe from the Broken Song. Arcantor Modric guides us still. Since the War of the Wyrm, only those who make lifelong vows to serve the Conclave are trusted to use the Song and its magic.”

Master Terre’s waved his hands, mock-casting a spell. He paced across the front of the stage, warming to his topic.

“Today we shall discuss that most secret mystery: How to avoid using the Broken Song when you play and therefore sidestep the madness that comes with it. To do that, you must know how to touch it.”

Excited murmuring broke out among the students. A hand shot up from the front row.

“Yes Conor?”

“We aren’t dewin. We don’t have the inborn talent to use the Song by merely singing or playing, so why would we go mad?”

“Excellent question. But then do you think your fellow musicians who take their vows of celibacy, truth and baldness,”–he tapped his thick head of hair, raising his bushy eyebrows–”are all dewin? Yet Conclave acolytes and Cantors use the Song. They heal, they protect and yes, they defend when necessary. All with the Song. All without going mad, without being dewin. How is that possible? Anyone?”

The hair on Trystan’s arms stood on end. He’d both dreaded and anticipated this lesson. As a foreign student, he had already been instructed thoroughly in this subject. These lessons were taught to all young children in his homeland by the dwarves. He had quickly discovered that Bindery teaching sometimes conflicted with what he had learned from his tutors in Pelegor. Disclosing the differences often did not end well.

He decided to feign complete ignorance. His hand went up.

“They use special instruments?”

“Trystan proposes an interesting solution.” Master Terre’s deferent bow was only partially mocking. “But no. The instruments you speak of are now as volatile as the dewin themselves and are therefore, forbidden. You may, on occasion, come across one such in the collection of a titled nobleman. Take care and do not, under any circumstances play the thing.”

Trystan blinked. Was Master Terre trying to warn him? He knew in the depths of his soul that he must own one of those instruments. But he also must know what he faced. Would it be feasible to pursue the acquisition? How to go about it? What were the risks? 

“Could a Crafter accidentally make one?” asked Trystan. He shifted in his seat, pushing away a shiver.

Terre arched a brow and stared at Trystan as if he knew his thoughts. He stroked the grey whiskers that cascaded over the top of his loose linen shirt, then half-knelt to answer.

He looks like a Majister, himself, thought Trystan, not for the first time.

“No,” he said, his voice low and pitched to reach only his Trystan’s seat. “We don’t know how to make them. That knowledge was lost with the Majisters. When they disappeared during the War, they took their secrets with them. For the best.

Terre straightened, addressing the entire group. “Now, how do you touch the Song without a forbidden instrument or the cursed voice of a dewin?”

Thornton Febwump, a third-year journeyman from Teredhe, answered. “Some ancient songs have the ability to activate within the range of certain plants.”

“And why is that, Mister Febwump?” the Master called as he disappeared behind a curtain, returning with a tray full of blooms.

Thornton’s chest puffed out. “Those plants carry Virtue given by the Cyntae for our benefit and continued prosperity. Cantors use them during their services and as they go about their duties.”

Master Terre nodded and held up a flower for all to see. It chimed softly as he moved it. “This is a tunebell,” he said. “It’s not the only flower with the virtue to activate the Song, but is one of the more common. They are sanctioned, forbidden to be grown outside of a Conclave chapterhouse. Why?”

Jerome lifted his meaty arm with a grunt, “To grow such is a threat against every citizen. Using the Song can destroy both you and everyone around you.”

Master Terre half-bowed. “Indeed, Mister Niall. Lest any of you not fully grasp the point of this lesson, allow me to demonstrate.”

He crushed the tunebell within his large hands and began to sing. The scent wafted over the entire arena, filling it. As it reached Trystan, the Song oozed from his mouth like a wound and the world around him melted with it.

Trystan just saw madness.

Faisant, the fickle spirits that haunted all dewin flickered on every side. Like flames, they appeared, then vanished. Translucent people of all colors and ages screamed, gasped, cried. The world shifted, emptiness yawning beneath Trystan’s feet, and the faces of his fellow students stretched into death-masks with glowing eyes.

No wonder all the dewin went mad, thought Trystan. They can’t know what is real and what is not. I’m ready to run screaming after only moments. But I played Pickell’s lute today without these ghouls appearing. No. I must be able to use such an instrument safely. I will find a way. I will learn. I will seek an instrument for myself. 

He steeled himself to stay in his seat, focusing on the Song which Terre sang itself. The words sounded foreign. Trystan had no idea what they were. Around him, students murmured in surprise and fear. Some got up and ran out of the arena, hiding their eyes.

The Song stopped. Master Terre let the students catch their breaths before he spoke again.

“Now you have seen as the dewin do. Now you know why all dewin must be purified by the Conclave. The Song is dangerous. We guard our secrets and these plants for a reason. Over the next few weeks we will study the rudimentary skills needed to protect your mind from the Broken Song. We’ll study all the plants that can enhance an aural nexus and learn how to spot a song with the potential to harm. You’ll learn to take every precaution possible to play music that is only that–music. One slip or accident could be your last.


Today I’m working on notes. Normally I would be doing the first pass and the notes on the same day.  I’m really busy with the Day Job so I’m only working for short bursts right now. And yes I added more exposition. Headdesk. Don’t worry about for now. Also, Ernie Cline just about ended my concern on that point. If I need to exposit I shall.

Notes:

What is Trystan trying to do in this scene?

Trystan literally just left a composing session with a local noble where he became personally acquainted with one of the forbidden instruments mentioned in this class. He played it. So he has an obsession with owning an instrument and is plotting to get one, keenly listening to the Master’s lecture and working to get as much info as possible because he Wants A Lute.

Why? (motivation for above goal)

The Song that he heard when he played the lute satisfied desires he didn’t know he had. It touched him deeply and now he must have one. It’s a bonafide obsession, because he knows that he is starving (he didn’t know before) and this is the only way he knows of to meet the need.

What’s in the way of him doing it? The Song is broken. If caught, he will be imprisoned or worse. Also he could go mad, though he doesn’t think he will. Nothing happened when he played that lute, other than giving him this thirst. It wasn’t like this session. He needs more information.

What goes wrong/right?  The madness he sees doesn’t match what happened when he played the starbound lute. It’s clear to him that he’s being warned, therefore Terre must suspect that he has come in contact with Pickell’s lute. He becomes aware of the real danger of madness, the extent.

How does it move the story forward? Trystan learns what he needs to, becomes convinced that he can use such an instrument if careful

What important plot elements are in the scene? How the Song works, Trystan decides to risk it and get a starbound lute.

Thoughts:

oh wow. I have a lot in my head not on the page. Make sure the above points are clearly expressed in the scene. Right now they are not.From my guide: If you’re unable to answer any of these questions, that could indicate you’re missing some of the goal-conflict-stakes plot mechanics.

Hardy, Janice. Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft: A step-by-step guide to a better novel (Foundations of Fiction Book 3) (p. 39). Janice Hardy. Kindle Edition.

Actions and choice made: Trystan goes to class about how to use Song safely as a musician/Bard, all the while plotting to procure a magic lute of his own. He determines what the risks are and decides to go for it.

I need to reference this choice directly, haven’t done that yet. So it doesn’t feel like the story is moving.

I add a little bit to fix it but will come back to it.

 

*Text in blue was added

*text in green refers to goals

*text in red refers to tension

From my guide: If you can’t summarize the action in the scene, that could indicate there’s not enough external character activity going on. Perhaps this scene has a lot of backstory, description, or infodumps in it. Be wary if there’s a lot of thinking, but no action taken as a result of that thinking. Make notes on ways to add the character’s goal back in, or how to possibly combine the scene with one that’s weak on internal action.

Hardy, Janice. Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft: A step-by-step guide to a better novel (Foundations of Fiction Book 3) (pp. 39-40). Janice Hardy. Kindle Edition.


Okay. So I’m done with this scene for now, and will move on to the next, through the book. This is the first step to my structural dev edit. The next step

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