The joys of editing
I’ve been dealing with various technical issues about publication this week, including some of the residual issues from my original self-publishing. The only part that actually has to do with writing is some minor revisions to The Last Man in the World for the new edition being published this fall.
My editor asked me to change part of one scene, which seemed minor enough, but it made a major change in tone. The surprising thing to me was that it made the scene afterwards seem changed, even though it was the same. So now I’m thinking about how scenes affect each other and experimenting with different approaches.
Here’s the changed scene. The change isn’t until the very end, but I’m putting in the whole scene for context. The change is in bold.
Afterward he rested his hand on her waist, looking at it intently.
Uncomfortable with his eyes on her, Elizabeth said, “If you are hoping to find something, there is as yet nothing to discover.”
“Yet you think….”
That stray lock of hair was dangling over his forehead again. She brushed it back gently with her fingertips; then, recalling the times she had wanted to make this small gesture but had feared his rejection, impulsively kissed him. He looked at her with surprise.
“It is too early to know for certain, but I have reason to think it may be the case.”
He began to trace small circles over her stomach. “But you are… well?”
“I am well.” She wished she understood him better. His sudden terseness seemed to cover something, but whether it was pleasure or not she could not tell. Still, she did not want him to be disappointed if it proved a false alarm. “I will not know until it quickens, if it does. Until then I can but guess.”
The corners of his mouth turned down. “When will that be?”
She was tempted to laugh, but sensed this was not the moment to tease. “I cannot predict it, I fear.”
“I do not like to wait.” He sounded almost petulant.
Since there was no other answer she could give apart from the one which clearly displeased him, Elizabeth decided to distract him from the issue. Gathering her courage, she ran her hand provocatively down his chest and scattered light kisses across his chest and neck, as he had done to her so effectively earlier. When her lips reached his ear, she whispered, “Some things may prove worth the wait.”
Darcy tugged her closer to him, his arm encircling her, but before he could kiss her, a knock came at the door. It was followed by the sound of Ferguson clearing his throat. “Mr. Darcy, Lucy tells me that Mrs. Darcy’s breakfast is ready for her in your sitting room.”
Elizabeth hid a smile. Clearly even her shocking presence in the master’s room could not stop Lucy on her appointed mission. “Thank you, Ferguson,” she said, hoping she sounded as confident as the mistress of Pemberley ought.
She would have arisen then, but Darcy seemed disinclined to remove the arm that was holding her to him, so she rested her head on the comfortable solidity of his shoulder, feeling the slow rise and fall of his chest. If he found nothing embarrassing about their situation, she would try to take her cues from him.
“Do you prefer to breakfast in your room as a rule?” he asked.
“No, but I have done so the last few weeks, since Lucy feels it her duty to ensure that I eat well each morning.”
“The decision should be yours, not Lucy’s.” He seemed to miss the point of her teasing.
She kissed the corner of his jaw, enjoying the roughness of the slight stubble on it. “I know, but in truth she is right. My strength is better if I eat something before facing the perils of my toilette.”
He released his hold on her. “Then I must not keep you from it.”
She wondered if she should invite him to join her, or whether he would view that as an imposition. Perhaps a compromise position would be safest. “No doubt there is enough tea for two, if you would like a cup as well.”
“Perhaps so.” But he did not move from his position on the bed as she sat up and found her shift once more.
She quickly replaited her hair, aware that his eyes were following her. If only she could read his mood better! She could not tell whether he felt any of the closeness she did, but she could hope for it. She stood, casting him a smile over her shoulder. “I will ask Lucy to bring another cup, then.”
He turned back the bedcovers. Elizabeth automatically averted her eyes until he had shrugged into his green silk robe. He seemed to feel none of the discomfort she did. It would take time to accustom herself to her husband’s ideas of intimacy.
Darcy followed Elizabeth into the sitting room, where Lucy had laid out Elizabeth’s breakfast on the small table in front of the fire. Elizabeth was pleased to notice there were two cups.
Lucy looked questioningly at Elizabeth as she seated herself and began to pour out the tea. “No need to worry, Lucy; I have already informed Mr. Darcy as to my possible condition.”
Lucy’s shoulders straightened. “Very well, madam.”
Elizabeth handed Darcy a cup of tea. “Lucy has been a veritable tyrant in your absence, constantly insisting that I eat and rest. I suspect her of keeping a whip in the dressing room in case I misbehave.”
Lucy’s mouth dropped open in shock. Darcy laughed. “Well done, Lucy. I am glad to know my wife has been in capable hands.”
Barely managing to regain her aplomb, Lucy dropped a quick curtsey. “Thank you, sir,” she whispered, looking as if she wished to flee the room.
Elizabeth took a sip of her tea. “Lucy even threatened to report me to Mrs. Reynolds if I did not eat.”
“Now that is a fearsome threat, if you have ever seen Mrs. Reynolds in anger. It was a matter of great relief to me when I grew too tall for her to turn me over her knee.”
Elizabeth laughed at the idea of such a sight. “Surely you were never disobedient, Mr. Darcy,” she said archly.
He smiled slowly at her, a private smile, it seemed. “On the contrary. I am sure Lucy could tell you stories she has heard.”
“Stop tormenting poor Lucy.” Elizabeth placed a slice of bread on her plate. “Lucy, I will ring for you later, once I have convinced Mr. Darcy to torment Ferguson in your place.”
“And richly he deserves it,” muttered Darcy.
“What has Ferguson done?” Elizabeth was amused by his petulant look appearing once again. Lucy stole the opportunity to disappear out the door.
“Nothing of importance, though he is no doubt training Lucy in the fine art of subtle insubordination.”
“There was nothing subtle about Lucy’s insubordination. She stood over me and glared until I ate.”
He frowned. “Why did you need to be convinced to eat?”
Elizabeth busied her hands spreading the jam on her bread. It would probably be too much to tell him it was because she was afraid she had lost him. Fortunately, there was an easier excuse at hand. “I believe it is not uncommon for ladies in a delicate condition to find food unappealing for a time. Fortunately, it seems to be improving now. Lucy barely needs to insist any longer.”
“Are you certain? Perhaps I should send for a doctor. I do not wish to take risks with your health.”
His look of concern, with that lock of hair again drifting over his forehead, was endearing. His worry, no doubt, was more for his potential heir than for her, but still, it warmed her more than tea ever could. “I do not believe there is any need for a doctor, and I am reluctant to draw attention to the possibility before I am certain of the outcome.”
A shadow crossed his face, but he touched her shoulder gently as he said, “I hope you will inform me if it worsens again. If there is anything that might provide you relief, you have only to ask.” He kissed her cheek lightly before departing through the adjoining door, leaving Elizabeth alone once more.
For comparison, here’s the original ending:
He frowned. “Why did you need to be convinced to eat?”
Elizabeth busied her hands spreading the jam on her bread. How could she tell him it was because she thought she had lost him? Last night he had spoken only of desire, not of affection, and earlier he had said he did not wish to hear of love from her. It was a cold reminder after the warmth of a night in his arms, but it was well known that it took no particular affection on a man’s part for him to take his pleasure in a woman. “It was a passing phase,” she said finally.
Darcy tightened the belt on his robe. “I am glad it is past. Until later, then.” He departed through the adjoining door, leaving Elizabeth alone once more.
So, a tentative step forward instead of a step back. I think it’ll fit in well with some of the other changes I’ve made, reducing some of the time I spend dwelling on Elizabeth’s unhappiness. Or maybe it’s just that I’m in the mood for happier scenes now!
And now it’s back to business, working on making Without Reserve more available again (this was much easier to do when self-publishing!) while making The Rule of Reason less available. I made RoR available in book form on lulu.com months ago, but never took the step of publishing it because it’s not a free-standing work, mostly just interesting to some of my original readers. For some reason, Lulu has now made it available on Amazon, even though it’s not supposed to be, while Without Reserve, which is supposed to be available, isn’t. Sometimes I can’t win!
Abigail! I was just reading this section of LMitW two days ago! The world of editing confounds me, but as long as it’s getting closer to publication, I’m a happy camper.
Any hopes for an update to Morning Light anytime soon? (pretty plz!) 😀
Abigail, I read the change and wondered why the publisher would want it included unless it was believed that Darcy really would not have accepted a short vague statement of “passing phase” and wanted more of a real plausible reason.
It still reads very well so just as long as it gets published and works, I’m glad for you.
This is one of my favorite stories.
I should have said something about why the editor requested the change. She felt that D&E should have a moment of warmth rather than more misunderstanding at that point because the readers have already suffered through so much pain and deserve a reward. Okay, so she didn’t quite say THAT, but it’s the general gist.
As for Morning Light, it’s in my agent’s hands (this is where I need an emoticon for thumbs twiddling). I really want to get moving on that!
I love this change. In Elizabeth’s answer about not eating, we get the sense that she is sparing Darcy’s feeling. Well done.
Do you have a potential publication date for Morning Light? Can’t wait to see it!
Believe it or not, I was reading this story today, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the changes you’ve made to this scene. I found that it actually bothered me a little bit that Darcy and Elizabeth, after just having made such huge headway the night before with their intimacy – emotional as well as physical (even if they both believed the other’s interest was little more than that, and certainly not love) just took a few steps back at the breakfast table, especially considering that if Fergusen hadn’t interrupted them, they would have been making love once more. The original scene just seemed to end so abruptly, with Darcy rising from the table and leaving Elizabeth in order to begin his own ablutions for the day. This abruptness, however, was not something that jumped out at me the first few times I read the book – there are so many other elements that I get absorbed in with this wonderful story. I feel that this new ending is a much more natural progression, though. Elizabeth recognizes some of Darcy’s warmth and concern, but as a concern for his heir and not herself – something so many husbands were conscious of back then, some far more so than they were their wives. And as another reader mentioned above, it also shows Elizabeth consciously sparing his feelings with her answer to him with regard to why she did not care to eat. I love your resolution.
I like the redone version of this scene. This particular scene stood out in my memory as one of the most painful scenes, and I couldn’t think why Elizabeth wouldn’t just tell him she was so heartsick over the thought of losing him she lost all desire to eat. This softens their exchange.
Just got through reading another book about these 2, and it was so boring, it wasn’t Abigail! (In fairness, I probably shouldn’t disclose the title or author). Your stories have so much tension and chemistry. I wish you’d never stop writing.
Abigaile, I have read all six P&P variations. I am actualy on my third or forth round. I love them that much. I can’t wait to read Bounds of Decorum. I know it will be great if you write it.