Touchstone copyedit (3)

So the options are:
1. He pulled on a hat and buttoned up his coat, then let himself out into the cool, silent morning, luminous in a way he’d only ever seen in this country.
2. He pulled on a hat and buttoned up his coat, then let himself out into the cool, silent morning, a morning of luminous potential such as he’d only ever seen in this country.
3. He pulled on a hat and buttoned up his coat, then let himself out into a morning of luminous potential such as he’d only ever seen in this country.

The second one, which will probably not surprise those of you who enjoy Mary Russell’s prolix tendencies, was my original version. The third is how my editor changed it, and the first one was my attempt at preserving the flavor while tightening it up a little. Which, clearly, led me to overlook the little matter of a flawed antecedent, a thing I would have caught when I re-checked (I did leave a flag here, which means I’m not finished with it) and thus led to a fourth version.

What I need to do is fire up the laptop and do a word search for “cool” and “silent”, since I have a terrible habit of using the same word again and again. The copy editor (Praise be upon her) is very good at catching those, but only when they’re close together. So if I’ve already referred to a silent morning elsewhere, that phrase will get the chop.

I’ll also need to reread it in the larger context, and see if the pace needs the quicker step of number three, or the leisure reflection of number two.

This is one line in a manuscript with, what, 20,000 lines?

Thank God these sort of questions don’t occur more than once a page.

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  1. L. Inman on August 24, 2007 at 11:57 am

    These posts about copyediting are quite fascinating; I’ve been enjoying them a great deal.

    About the luminous morning, though — and yes, I enjoy MR’s syntax! — I don’t know anything about Mr. Stuyvesant, but the original “prolix” version gives the suggestion that he not only notices the quality of the morning but pauses in his startlement at it. If he doesn’t pause, the streamlined version works fine. If he does pause, perhaps you could just let him out “into the luminous morning,” end the sentence there, and deal with his reaction to it in the next sentence, the one to do with pearls. Like Mole discovering the river in _The Wind in the Willows_.

    And now I’m embarrassed that I’ve actually had the chutzpah to offer advice to a seasoned author…but I’m going to hit the submit button anyway — if it comes too presumptuous, feel free to ignore.

  2. Meredith T on August 24, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Actually, I’m right with L. Inman on this much of this. There is something clunky about version 3 (sorry, Ms. or Mr. Editor). I did not find anything awkward about having “morning” twice — somehow it flowed nicely. Err, yes, I do like Mary Russell’s rather prolix style (what can I say!). Best of luck with this glitz and glamour part of the writer’s life. And harking back a few posts, may one ask who’s getting married? best regards — Meredith

  3. Phil the Badger on August 24, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    I feel that version 1 is quite OK. Yes, when carefully analysed, theres is a flawed antecedent; but when reading it for the first time the meaning was perfectly clear.

    Reading is partly (largely?) a matter of gestalt. A large chunk often a whole sentence or more) is absorbed before being passed on to Central Processing for the extraction of meaning.

    This is even more the case when in media res, rather than being presented with the material in a manner that requires detailed conscious analysis. (So maybe there should be some commas in there; so sue me).

    To sum up; ther is the danger that the text can be over smoothed and lose the author’s original voice.

    Phil the Badger

  4. Joycepa on August 25, 2007 at 5:01 am

    Flawed antecedent and all, I really like option #1! I agree with Meredith T about the clunkiness of #3–it really doesn’t seem like Mary Russell. Whose style, prolix or otherwise, is just fine, as far as I’m concerned.

  5. adyktd2thewrttnwrd on August 25, 2007 at 7:28 am

    Now you just have to ask yourself … how many pages are there? :p

    Must admit rather ashamedly that I forgot what prolix meant and had to go look it up. Had a little laugh when I remembered. Yes, I do like Russell’s prolix tendencies.

    Oh to my point in all of this. I kind of agree with the embarrassment L. Inman feels about giving you advice, but then again, I ALWAYS give advice, even when it’s not needed …

    I like your first version, #2 the best. One confused me (much like the last edit) and #3 was too … not clunky in my opinion but … *struggles to find a good word* blahclump? I really don’t have a word that truly describes what I felt while reading it. Wish you could see my blank facial expressions here, then I think you’d get it.

    I did not think there was enough feeling and emphasis on the morning itself in version 3. It seemed as if the sentence was focusing more on the fact that *he* was going out into a pretty morning, unlike in your original version where it focused more on the fact that he was going out into morning of such “potential.”

    More detail was paid to the scenery than the person himself, which I liked. There, that’s what I was trying to say!


  6. Kerry on August 25, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing all this with us. I’m fascinated by differences in how we all read the same passages — what we bring to them and take away from them. As a lover of cool, silent mornings myself, I will hope to see that phrase in the finished product. If not, I’ll just feel it anyway!

  7. Magpie on August 25, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    I am having trouble leaving a reply. It doesn’t seem to want to let me do it.
    However, one more time.
    I like the second choice best. It evokes movement from inside the house to the outdoors.

  8. admin on August 26, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Hi Magpie–sorry about the problem, it’s just that because of the dread spam monster, this is set up so the first time people leave a comment, I have to approve it. And I wasn’t watching the machine last night. You should be fine now.

    Comment ahead!


  9. Carlina on September 1, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Mmm…I still like the second one and will quote myself again as saying, “I tend to lean towards version 2 more because it seems bettered structured on how the morning impacts the character. I feel how the morning is impacting the character and the wording seems to have a more dramatic effect. That’s my opinion.. Version 3 does move more smoothly, but I felt like I lost the dramatic effect the morning had on your character.” I happen to like MR’s prolix as well. She just sucks me right into her world I tell ya.

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