Friday, May 14, 2010

Revising 13

...been revising a particularly troublesome chapter which my editor has deemed, "In need of a lift." (Whatever that means:)

13's been giving me fits. Keeping me up at night. The root cause behind my displaying the personality of a wolverine around Wife-Dearest and the Offspring, (not a music group.)

In any event, I thought I'd toss an excerpt to the wolves and see how it gets chewed upon. Feel free to say your peace...and as always, thanks for reading.


The orange tabby greeted me with an air of indifference as I returned from school, my cheeks numb from the biting wind. Winter was the only time of year when the cat's fur coat resembled something worthy of a pat. Perched on the hood of the Charger, no doubt in hopes of an engine still simmering from recent use, it took on the shape of a Browns's pom-pom, its protective fluff thickened for the season.

He offered me a slight tilt of his head as I stood before him, backpack slung over my shoulder. A pair of amber eyes, beautiful and deceiving at the same time, studied me, unblinking.

I'd tried sneaking him inside several times, but he always refused, turning tail and lumbering into the cold as if to say, "Come on kid, what do you think the coat's for?"

Katie and I had always considered him our cat, but chances are, so did every other kid in the neighborhood. He simply wandered up to Katie one summer afternoon, looking as if he was suffering from mange and in need of some lunch. He tried to purr for better effect, but only resulted in coughing out a balled up clump of grass coated in phlegm.

While we'd never officially named him, he seemed to react to a particular phrase from each of us. For Katie it was, "Aww, pretty kitty." For Dad it was usually, "Get outta my way."

I sensed a savvy intelligence when in his presence and not playing a prank on him. A yank of his striped tail or a snowball to the back of his head. Something in those eyes, bright like fired candlewicks in the dark. It was in the way he often looked at me. Like he knew what was happening to my family.

I reached out and stratched an orange tuft behind his ear. He leaned forward, eyes softening at my touch. If he did know of my family's crises, he wasn't talking about it. Which made him the only one...


Roland D. Yeomans said...

That was a lovely moment, Elliot. Without seeing more of the chapter it is hard for me to give specific advise.

When an agent or publisher says "this needs a lift," they usually mean forward movement. A term Dean Koontz and Stephen King both say means that the hero is proactive in some way, moving closer to a goal and the trouble which that entails.

A rule to follow that helps me is that the main characters{protagonist & antagonist act ; the secondary characters react. The protagonist stumbles, falls, learns. The antagonist simmers, burns, acts, and learns nothing. And that difference is why the protagonist prevails and the antagonist fails.

I might write "Something in those eyes of his. I shivered. Those eyes.

They saw me but swept past me down far roads that a boy like me had never walked. As if they saw past me into dusty centuries, understanding mysteries I never would. Did they see colors boys like me never knew existed? Did they see how things in my family had gone so wrong, how they could be set right again?

If so, those eyes weren't telling me."

Hope this helps in some small way, Roland.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

Retitle it 14.

Carolyn V. said...

Has your editor given you any idea of what they want to make it they way they want it? I hope they gave you some kind of advice. =)

Crimey said...


Rolland covers some good points above, this reflection regarding the cat must move the story forward. There's a lot of opportunity here to add in the ingredients to really have your narrator's opinions/hopes/dreams/fears/needs/wants stand out.

Best of luck, the writing is quite nice.

Piedmont Writer said...

It's beautiful Elliot. I love the cat! But I think Roland's right, the cat has to somehow move the story forward and his suggestion was a good one.

OR, if that doesn't work, do what Tracy said.

Jemi Fraser said...

You've got some good advice here. You can always tighten and trim to essentials if you want a faster pace - although I like the details :)

Elliot Grace said...

Thanks for the advice everyone...

Roland, even in helping others, your writing is one of a kind. "Did they see colors boys like me never knew existed?" ...fantastic visual.

Tracy, hop from 12 to 14 like the floors of a hotel? Considering the energy I've spent on this thing...might be worth the risk.

Crimey, yes, the cat is a late entry...they love it and want it on the prowl a bit more throughout.

Thanks for the compliment Anne:) They want more cat...and I'm a dog person, figures.

Thanks for reading Jemi:) I sometimes wander off while writing, adding colorful nothingness simply for the fun of it. Perhaps they've decided, "enough of that."

Elliot Grace said...

Carolyn--David's like that. An editor armed with few words, subtle hints of what he's aiming for without simply telling me what he wants. Sometimes I feel like Daniel from The Karate Kid, sorting through Mr. Miaggi's riddles. It's cool though. He wants me to figure it out on my own, thus earning my stripes along the way. Thanks for reading, CV:)

Lola Sharp said...

I'm with Roland and Crimey...there's wonderful opportunity here.
I'd tighten it up, pruning away that which slows the pacing.
If you have already introduced the cat prior to this scene, I'd limit the description of its fur etc..
Dive deeper into the kid's head/fears/shame etc.,how he perceives the cat see's him and his family, maybe how he envies the cat's freedom/wisdom. But keep it concise, always moving the story forward. Less is often more.

I enjoyed it overall. :)

I hate revisions. I have so many writer friends that enjoy it, the perfecting, blah blah. I find it endless and tiresome. By the time I've reread and revised a chapter a few times and still not happy with it, I'm ready to torch the damn thing and do a ceremonial death dance around its flames.

I love the rush of the first draft, maybe even enjoy the second pass. After that, I'd rather stick a dull, rusty fork in my eye.
Good luck, my friend.

Mark Anthony said...

Try using the scene to illustrate the protagonist's state of mind - what does reflecting on a cat say about him? What was a reflection then becomes an integral part of his characterization. Otherwise, good stuff. I immediately dug the tone. Good luck~

Anita said...

Personally, I like it a lot.

Ben Hutchins said...

Me... I'm with you Elliott. I'm a dog kind of guy. I hate cats. That being said, I have a daughter who is in love with the Warrior Saga (by Erin Hunter), which is a series of books ALL about cats--just in case you're looking for some additional inspiration :)

I agree with what has been said. If this were the first part that I had to read, I'd probably stop - - but having seen the kind of writing you are capable of, I'm sure I'd be hooked by now and just deal with the cat thing. Make the scene move for us non-cat lovers ;)

Good luck.

Elliot Grace said...

I've been MIA for a few days and returned to find wonderful advice from my fellow writer/critique friends from across Internet Land. Thanks so much to you all for your input:)

prashant said...

I hope they gave you some kind of advice. =)
data entry work from home

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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