One Liners

So I read all of SAW IT COMING out loud. And honestly, I didn’t make too many changes, reordered some paragraphs, added some ‘thats‘ back in, took out a few adjectives or adverbs that were unnecessary. It was pretty streamlined anyway…this is the sixth revision.

BUT, there is one line that makes me crazy — the very first line in the book. The first two paragraphs read like this:

Sam collapsed onto the cot. Its aluminum frame shifted under his weight, threatening to dump him onto the concrete floor. He was too sick to care.

The Thai soup he’d eaten for dinner was spicy going down, and molten lava coming back up. His nasal passages burned with the acrid scent of regurgitated shrimp and red peppers.

It used to be this:

Sam was sweating.

He took off his soggy shirt and threw it across the room. He couldn’t see where it landed, but from the audible splat assumed it hit the cinderblock wall.

I really like the second version better. The image of Sam sweating, peeling off a soaked shirt speaks to me. I rewrote it to get to the action faster — and it does — but I feel like I’ve lost something in the process.

Here’s your lesson for the day: You can edit too much.

I think I’m at the point where I need to send this off to my beta/copy editor and be done. Any one else ever experienced this? OR, is that I’m just antsy to start the querying process? I know that can be a big mistake if your ms isn’t really ready.


  • Susanna Leonard Hill

    Both versions are good, but I like your revision better. It really does get right into the action. It also starts stronger. “Sam was sweating” doesn’t have the same punch.

    You can definitely edit too much. And you have to remember that whatever version you send out, your reader (presumably) hasn’t seen all the others. They will take the version you give them at face value and they’re not comparing it to other versions. If you know what I mean… 🙂

  • Trisha

    I agree – overediting is a risk!

    I really need to read my novel out loud. The thought intimidates me though 😉 I think that can wait until I’m ready for line editing.

  • Constance

    I agree with the reading out loud. I just have to wait till the boys are out of the house or they tease me. I havn’t let them read my work so far.

    I’m only writing not editing, but i still find reading the chapters out as i go helps me to clarify where i need to go next.

    As for over editing – yes i guess you can, but my first draft is so haphazard i’m sure no amount of editing is too much. I change it so much after the first draft.

    i like both of the sentences you have up there, i guess it just depends on placement.
    “Sam was sweating” isn’t the most fantastic opening line in my opinion, but i agree i love the soggy shirt going splat.

    Best of luck

  • Alison Miller

    I totally agree – I edited my first ms to death – to the point where I felt I lost so much of what I originally wrote. I used to read mine out loud to my daughter (she’s almost 12) and that was so eye-opening for me.

    Fellow crusader and new follower! Nice to meet you!

  • Diana

    New follower. Hi *waves*

    I edited the heck out of my first novel and took a bunch of stuff out. I read it again, some time later and put a lot of it back. Take a step away from it, let it simmer, and then come back to it. change the font too, that helps. good luck

  • Shari

    It’s so hard to know when your ms is really finished. I sent mine off when I felt like there wasn’t anything else I could do to make it better. And that’s after it’d been looked at by several others. But I have since then decided to make some more revisions on it. So, I’m not really any help at all, am I?

  • Sari Webb

    I need to try the reading aloud thing. Catch my run on sentences and adverbs.

    I think I like your original sentence better too, minus the ‘Sam was sweating’. I don’t think it’s the strongest opening line. Maybe to keep the soggy shirt imagery you could say something like: Sam took off his sweat drenched shirt and threw it across the room…

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