Hello everybody, today we have a piece titled ‘Footprints’ by Sorji is Editing the Words on Writing.com.
A snowflake fell on the sidewalk. Then another landed in the grass. Some landed on the car and on the branches of the tree in the front yard. I know because I had been watching when it all began that morning. There was something magical about it. Aside from the fact that it was Christmas eve, it was also the only day I knew for certain my mother would be visiting.
There’s little to correct in this paragraph; the author is striving to build an atmosphere with their description and pacing that description to suit the atmosphere, an atmosphere that in turn supplements the core emotional narrative of the paragraph. Their effort results in partial success, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. One of the facets that could be improved is the word choice (‘landed’ is a bland verb, which means it doesn’t help build the desired magical atmosphere) but that’s not the core problem. My best guess at the moment is that it has something to do with the absence of narrative for the description itself. The author hyper-segregates the various items snow falls on (This is an attempt to control pacing.) but they don’t distinguish any of the sentences. There’s no progression so they all ring the same note instead of building upon each other. This stymies the potential of the sentence more than subtracts from the result, but it’s still something to keep in mind while writing. (I’m 93% sure this is the correct answer, but I could be wrong, and the real problem will occur to me out of nowhere at some future date. This has happened before. I edited a story and something just read off, I gave my best guess and let it lie, but wasn’t comfortable with my ultimate opinion. 2 years later [no joke] I recalled the story and pinpointed what the flaw was.) digression aside, there are also a few minor efficiency comments.
First, I would combine the first two sentences, removing this particular ‘landed’ and cultivating a bit of rhythm. —A snowflake fell on the sidewalk, then another in the grass.—
In the second sentence, there is another slight rhythm misstep and more general inefficiency. The misstep is using ‘some’, which is the wrong continuation since it changes sentence style. The first two sentences have a specific number style where ‘some’ is a general style. This subtle change disconnects the sentence. I would use ‘more’, which while also ambiguous in the exact number, references the previous sentences, thereby connecting them. —More landed on the car, dusting it white, and in the branches of the front yard’s lone tree.—
Obviously, significant changes have been wrought. The general inefficiency I mentioned above is the ‘of the’ which can often be converted to a possessive (I.E. ‘tree of the front yard’ to ‘front yard’s tree’.) The other changes are more about building the atmosphere; the addition of ‘dusting it white’ gives the snow a little more physical presence since it’s affecting the world, but it also cultivates a lush and vaguely idyllic image, furthering the atmosphere. The second addition is ‘lone’, which serves to clarify the imagery but is also an evocative word, infusing the sentence with emotion. A happy accident is the symmetry of the ‘lone’ tree and our narrator’s loneliness. The exact wording of ‘dusting’ will probably need amending for maximum effect, but for now it suffices. (Also, ‘dusting’ is a distinctive word, and thus makes the sentence more interesting without complicating it.)
Now for sentence four, (I know because I had been watching when it all began that morning.) This sentence provides us with a few possibilities, one of the those being the conversion of ‘when it all began that’ to ‘since.’ I hesitate to do this because I believe the slower, softer, sentence better serves the atmosphere, and the ‘since’ also removes all ‘color’ from the sentence, rendering it purely serviceable. A slight iteration I prefer is —I know, because I had been watching it fall since morning.— This version is a little shorter but still not rigid, and it’s also more personal. The original phrase ‘it all began’ conveys a sense of grandeur because of ‘all’, but that feels ever so slightly stretched because ‘all’ actually refers to one action broken into several iterations of the same action (snow falling) but it’s the wrong emotional context for this scene, which is quiet, beautiful, lonely. Something grandiose is none of these things. My second iteration does a little more to emphasize the loneliness by making the scene small and personal because it is our narrator interacting with the snow 1-on-1 as opposed to 1-on-much.
Now for the final sentences, (There was something magical about it. Aside from the fact that it was Christmas eve, it was also the only day I knew for certain my mother would be visiting.)
I’m Addressing both of these sentences because I aggressively dislike that period. It breaks the flow, separating the magic from Christmas and the mother’s return, and in the process dispels the momentum that had been building. With that in mind…
— There was something magical about it, more than the fact it was Christmas eve; it was the only day I knew for certain my mother would be visiting.—
I combined the sentences to preserve the rhythm, switching to ‘more’ over ‘aside’ since it’s a continuation rather than a contradiction, and then cut the ‘that’ as unnecessary and cluttering. I inserted the semi-colon to soft-separate the last sentence, emphasizing it without disrupting the flow too aggressively. I cut the ‘also’ as unnecessary, but also because it de-emphasized the last sentence slightly.
This leaves us with …— A snowflake fell on the sidewalk, then another in the grass. More landed on the car, dusting it white, and in the branches of the front yard’s lone tree. There was something magical about it, more than the fact it was Christmas eve; it was the only day I knew for certain my mother would be visiting.—
This reads pretty well for the most part, so we’ll continue with the next paragraph.
I pressed my hand to the glass of the window and watched the mist form around my tiny fingers. I wondered how long it would take my hands to get big enough to fit snugly into the gloves she had brought me the previous year. I was only six years old when I received them, and it had been almost a whole year. I removed my hand from the glass and gazed upon the hand-print I’d left. I enjoyed it for a few moments, watching the cold slowly shrink it then wiped it off with the sleeve of my sweater.
For the first sentence we have just efficiency changes. The phrase ‘to the glass of the window’ is needlessly specific, most windows are made of glass, rendering the first part pointless. We’ll also switch the leftover ‘to’ for ‘against’, since that’s just a more pleasant word. After that I would delete ‘the’ from ‘the mist.’ — I pressed my hand against the window and watched mist form around my tiny fingers.—
For the next sentence, more efficiency cuts and one problem I can’t quite resolve. I would reduce ‘get big’ to ‘grow’, because it’s one word, reads smoother, and is the exact thing the author wishes to convey. I would reduce ‘into’ to ‘in’ because it reads better in my opinion. (Why will be expressed momentarily.) Next, the ‘had’ is unnecessary since ‘previous’ locates these events in the past. I would also reduce ‘the previous’ to ‘last’, since its cuts a glue word.
This leaves us with — I wondered how long it would take my hands to grow enough to fit snugly in the gloves she brought me last year.—
The flaw I can’t quite resolve, and why ‘in’ reads better, is the echoing ‘to’. They echo because of their proximity and their hard sound. We could delete ‘grow enough to’, but that’s of debatable value. It’s meaning is most likely understood passively but spelling it out does make it feel more real and childlike. (We could also delete ‘snugly in’ if we were so inclined, although that doesn’t resolve our current quandary.) I think this will ultimately come down to personal preference, or more significant edits than I am authorized to perform.
Progressing with the next sentence (I was only six years old when I received them, and it had been almost a whole year.) The problem with this sentence is that the second half is entirely unnecessary, we know it’s been a year since the author just told us in the previous sentence. But we can’t just delete it because it orphans the first half of the sentence, and it doesn’t marry well to its predecessor or successor. The solution I see is to delete ‘last year’ from the previous sentence.
— I wondered how long it would take my hands to fit snugly in the gloves she bought me. I was only six when I received them, and it had been almost a whole year now.—
I deleted ‘years old’ as unnecessary for comprehension or rhythm, but I think this requires a slightly more significant alteration. The child’s age here is irrelevant, it has no narrative bearing on the story or the gloves, which means it’s the author telling us rather than the story. Thus, I might suggest something more like…
— I wondered how long it would take my hands to fit snugly in the gloves she brought me, it had been almost a whole year now, and I had turned seven(also).—
Obviously, I’ve changed the means by which our narrator’s age is conveyed but, more importantly, by shifting the focus from her being six to her turning seven we change the information so that it feels like a continuation of ‘a whole year’, another reason why the gloves ‘should’ fit. The ‘also’ can be implemented to emphasize how she views turning seven as another reason the gloves should fit. If the author feels it’s necessary.
There is another benefit to this structure, it changes the paragraph so every sentence doesn’t start with ‘I’, which can read repetitive. (This is a danger for all sentences, not just those starting with ‘I’.)
Next sentence! (I removed my hand from the glass and gazed upon the handprint I’d left.) Just a few cuts, starting with ‘from the glass’. I think the meaning is understood, so we don’t need this. I’d also delete ‘I’d left’ as unnecessary or potentially replace with ‘lingering’ before ‘handprint.
Final sentence. (I enjoyed it for a few moments, watching the cold slowly shrink it then wiped it off with the sleeve of my sweater.)
Here, a comma is necessary after ‘it’, and I would reduce ‘sleeve of my sweater’ to ‘sweater sleeve’.
All of my edits.
— A snowflake fell on the sidewalk, then another in the grass. More landed on the car, dusting it white, and in the branches of the front yard’s lone tree. There was something magical about it, more than the fact it was Christmas eve; it was the only day I knew for certain my mother would be visiting.
I pressed my hand against the window and watched mist form around my tiny fingers. I wondered how long it would take my hands to fit snugly in the gloves she bought me, it had been almost a whole year now, and I had turned seven. I removed my hand and gazed upon the handprint. I enjoyed it for a few moments, watching the cold slowly shrink it, then wiped it off with my sweater sleeve.—
That’s everything for today.
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