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"Is it blood? She is, after all, a murder mystery writer."
Blood? No. It's red ink. And, yes I am a murder mystery writer. More importantly for this blog post, I'm a murder mystery reader.
I'm not an Episcopalian. I'm not a Pastafarian who believes in the Great Spaghetti God. I'm an Editorian. An Editorian's tenets are simple. 1. Write. 2. Submit to an Editor. 3. Submit to another Editor, and another and another, as many as it takes. 3. Trust your reader. Cut unnecessary words.
Oh, yes. And number 4. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! (Thank you Henry David Thoreau.)
"But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about the draft." Well, no. Not the draft. Apologies to Arlo Guthrie.
Editing! That's what I want to talk about.
I'm reading Fatal, the newest John Lescroart novel. If you've read any of my previous reviews of his books, you'll know he's my favorite crime novel writer. Not because of his writing style, but because of his characters -- Defense Attorney Dismas Hardy and Homicide Investigator Abe Glitsky and their various and sundry friends and relatives.
Lescroart's stories are sufficiently salted with twists and turns to keep me reading and clues sprinkled here and there to keep me guessing.
His twelfth Dismas Hardy novel Betrayal was a change up. Much of the first part of the book took place in Iraq with no mention of Hardy or Glitsky. But I kept reading and finally they showed up.
This Lescroart book is ominously touted as a "stand alone" novel. I'm afraid that may mean that the Hardy/Glitsky crowd won't show up.
So I'm on page 74. This is the scene. Two women, Kate a housewife and her cop friend Beth, are having lunch in a downtown San Francisco restaurant. "But suddenly, from outside in the main hallway came the booming sound of an explosion, followed quickly by two others, and then a volley of pops, like strings of firecrackers." This could be improved. It should start off slow and confusing as the situation really would have been -- From somewhere came a booming sound. Then two more and a volley of pops like strings of firecrackers. In the amount of time it takes the reader to read the word 'suddenly' the suddenness is lost. Kate and Beth don't yet know what is happening or where it's coming from. An explosion is not what one would think of in the middle of a meal in a nice restaurant.
The next paragraph reads "Both women turned toward the restaurant's entrance where now they heard another enormous explosion, then more of the popping sounds, accompanied by the completely unexpected, terrifying, and unmistakable noise of people screaming." Both women? Really? I thought we were reading about the Ohio State Marching Band. Turning toward the restaurant's entrance they heard another explosion, then more popping sounds and people screaming.
Of course the screaming is unexpected, terrifying, and unmistakable. All unnecessary words that slow the action. Now they're starting to think explosion.
Next paragraph: "Then Beth was on her feet, reaching behind her back for her service weapon, which she realized too late that she never carried on their walks. Swearing, she turned, looked back at her table. 'Get up! Get up!' she yelled at Kate. 'Let's go!'" Short sentences! Short sentences! The reader should be getting short of breath at this point. Beth leapt to her feet and reached for her service weapon. It wasn't there. It was in its lock box at home. She looked back at Kate. 'Get up! Let's go!'
There is no need for attribution for the dialog. Who else would she be yelling at. There's no need to even say she's yelling. That's what exclamation points say.
Then page 75 is more of the same -- too many words, too many prepositional phrases, too much telling. All ending in the phrase "as thick smoke wafted its way into the room."
At this point I slammed my open-palm down on the dining table, making my own explosion. Wafted? Wafted?! What are we talking about here? The scent of jasmine wafting across the veranda? Give me a break! There is a terrorist attack going on and we're being fed thick smoke wafted?
I don't think so. Hemingway, Hemingway. Where for art thy mot juste?
Ah, well. I've still got to read further. Can't stop on page 75. Dismas and Abe may yet show up.