#20 A sample part of a book
Hello everybody! Today we have a nameless fantasy piece by Free Writer on Writing.com.
The road was beaten, looking as if many had walked upon it but none had bothered to keep it in pristine condition. There were potholes in the road, and each step could create more. Your boots clink against the road, causing cracks every time they make contact. The area around the road was barren, just some dead trees. Nothing moved around you, everything was still. If there was something living, it was probably in its last moments. The air smelt foul, causing you to cough a bit.
Let us begin with the first sentence, which is unnecessarily wordy on the surface but suffers from the more fundamental flaw of seeking eloquence. Obviously eloquence is something to pursue and can be attractive to potential readers, but it can’t inflate the story, which is what happens here. ‘The road was beaten’ is a clear description, conveying an image of a worn path, but what does the rest of the sentence do? It exaggerates the ware and explains it, but those are unnecessary; in the case of exaggerating the ware, simply choose a more accurate word like ‘crumbling’ or ‘ill-maintained’; as for explaining it, the author choses the generic reason, the first assumption someone makes when they see a bad road: it wasn’t maintained. If you’re telling the readers something, you want it to be something they don’t know and won’t naturally assume.
A more technical break down of the sentence is: “looking as if many had walked upon it” just describes the same thing as ‘beaten’ only more literally and with more words, both say the road is well-traveled. “but none had bothered to keep it in pristine condition” is also self-evident in ‘beaten’, though to a lesser degree since ‘beaten’ just indicates a worn state. And ‘to keep it in pristine condition’ can be reduced to ‘maintain it.’
I would rewrite the sentence to something more like —The road was beaten, ill-maintained and riddled with potholes.—
I combined the first and second sentences because the first sentence was too short on its own. This also allowed me to convert the second sentence to an active structure and remove the reiteration of ‘road’. I deleted ‘and each step could create more’ since the author clarifies/mention its again in the next sentence with ‘causing cracks…’
For the next sentence (third) there is a slight overlap with ‘clink against the road’ and ’every time they make contact,’ which refers to the same action, and then there’s the tense switch, which makes it hard to edit. I also don’t like ‘against the road’ because it reiterates the ‘road’ pointlessly in my opinion. The problem is that these form the meat of the sentence, and cutting them leaves us with too short of a sentence. This would normally prompt me to just combine it with another sentence, but it doesn’t work with the subsequent sentence, and only kind of works with the preceding sentence (The ‘your boots clink’ is the problematic phrase here.) The best I can come up with is something like— The road was beaten, ill-maintained and riddled with potholes, crumbling a little further whenever you took a clinking step.—
This cuts the mention of boots, but removes/soothes the tense switch. I also changed ‘causing cracks’ to ‘crumbling’ because I think its reads better; the alternative would be something like— The road was beaten, ill-maintained, riddled with potholes, and every clinking step you took spawned more cracks.— (I chose ‘spawned’ over ‘caused’ just because it’s a more distinctive word, and it reads a little smoother.)
Continuing with sentence 4/5/6 (The area around the road was barren, just some dead trees. Nothing moved around you, everything was still. If there was something living, it was probably in its last moments. The air smelt foul, causing you to cough a bit.)
For this first sentence, I dislike the mention of road (again) and the phrase ‘just some dead trees’ is technically incorrect. It says that the area around the road is specifically a few dead trees. I would swap ‘the area around the road’ to ‘the surrounding area’ and add a verb to the second part, probably ‘populated.’—The surrounding area was barren, populated only by a few dead trees.— (While ‘a few’ is wordier, I do prefer how it sounds to ‘some,’ and it is also more specific.)
After that we have the second sentence, which is literally just saying the same thing twice. (Often times saying the same thing twice is either a tempo choice for impact or a clarification. I think the first of these has negligible value, and for the second just lead with the clarified description.) So we just say it once and combine it with next sentence.
— Nothing moved, and if something was alive, it was probably living its last moments.—
The ‘around you’ is unnecessary because the description has moved to the ‘surrounding area’ so it’s already included. I switched to ‘if something was alive’ because it cuts a word (there) and allowed me to exchange ‘in’ for ‘living,’ which is simply a livelier word (although there are many good alternatives.) ‘Probably’ could go as well but might help the rhythm so I let it be.
For the final sentence, I would just cut ‘a bit,’ which only really adds to the word count. The point of this sentence is to convey that the air smells foul, which it successfully does. The ‘a bit’ just waters-down the impact of that description, which isn’t something I like.
All my edits— The road was beaten, ill-maintained and riddled with potholes, crumbling a little further whenever you took a clinking step. The surrounding area was barren, populated only by a few dead trees. Nothing moved, and if something was alive, it was probably living its last moments. The air smelt foul, causing you to cough.
I don’t really like how this reads; the individual elements are good but they don’t flow well. The first two sentences starting with ‘The X was’ read poorly and the rest feel disconnected from one another.
I would change ‘the surrounding area’ to ‘its environment’ which removes the ‘the X was’ echo and connects the first and second sentence more explicitly. I would also add another description to this sentence, to elongate it for a smoother transition; we’ll want something suitably ‘barren,’ and optimally something that would promote the bleak aesthetic, I’m feeling ‘cracked dirt,’ which alludes to drought while also further stripping the land of life.
— The road was beaten, ill-maintained and riddled with potholes, crumbling a little further whenever you took a clinking step. Its environment was barren, populated only by a few dead trees and cracked dirt. Nothing moved and even if something was alive, it was probably wheezing its final breaths.—
A few more changes here; I removed the commas because I didn’t like how they changed the sentence, and I feel like this builds and maintains momentum better. I added ‘even’ because it smooths the transition, places emphasis of the death of the land (thus further connecting it to barrenness) and connects it more immediately with ‘nothing moved. Then I switched ‘living’ out for ‘wheezing’ and ‘last moments’ for ‘final breath’ because ‘wheezing’ is distinctive, and because ‘final breath’ has symmetry with wheezing that ‘moments’ does not. ‘Wheezing’ is also grimmer than ‘living’ (thus more suitable to the desired atmosphere) and ‘last breath’ just a step more closely related to death than ‘last moments,’ (again, emphasizing the desolate tone.)
I can’t think of anything for the final sentence, there’s not enough material to work with and it’s not particularly related to any of the previous descriptions. But, I also don’t think it’s a particularly egregious misstep and is thus livable.
All edits— The road was beaten, ill-maintained and riddled with potholes, crumbling a little further whenever you took a clinking step. Its environment was barren, populated only by a few dead trees and cracked dirt. Nothing moved and even if something was alive, it was probably wheezing its final breaths. The air smelt foul, causing you to cough.
That’ll be all for today. If you like what you’ve read, consider checking out some of the author’s other work. https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/frenzy2bro
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