Sunday, 11 January 2015

Making the Cut

Editing. It's a grim business.

I'm currently working on the second edition of Unreliable Histories - a modestly restructured version that, I hope, addresses some issues that were bothering me. On the positive side, it's meant that I've had a chance to slot in a few extra jokes that occurred to me after publishing the first edition on Amazon, and it also afforded me the opportunity to break some fairly long chapters into smaller, fun-sized chunks.

Much of this has been the result of valuable feedback that I've received from authors such as Will Once (creator of the marvellous 'Love, Death and Tea'), the CLOG group on Authonomy and some respected colleagues on the INCA Project.  There's a lot of experience out there, and some very generous souls, and I think that the new version will be all the better for the changes.

Nevertheless, it's a painful process. One of the objectives I set myself was to cut down the total word count and to reduce or remove sections that led the reader to stray a little too far from the central plot. The second edition will be several thousand words shorter (or should that be 'leaner'?) and should move on at a rather faster pace.

That has led to casualties, however, and saying goodbye to them hasn't been easy. Once such was Captain Perimann Gasp, (whom I introduced as an aside to illustrate the callous, self-promoting nature of the exploration business in which Myrah, my main character works.) Since he will be missing from the next edition, I thought I should give him a little send-off, here on this blog.

This is one edited scene of many...

... exploration was not a career in which the self-effacing, the decent, the shy or the honest could ever be expected to thrive. Perimann Gasp, for example, was a former state governor who, about thirty years ago, turned to seafaring after a somewhat unfortunate misunderstanding involving a stuffed swan and a young courtesan much favoured by several nobles at the regional court. Faced with a raft of bogus charges including sedition, outraging public decency and one logically fallacious count of bestiality, he fled to the Western Reaches, where he quickly proved himself adept at both navigation and cartography. Within just three years, he had mapped almost the entire coast of the Inland Sea, charted the southern edge of the Icebound Wastes and returned with cargoes of gold, precious stones and a surprisingly efficacious cure for frostbite.
 His downfall was not an inability to weather a storm, a lack of tenacity or even his advancing years. What forever quashed any hopes he may have had of attaining a prestigious place in history was in fact the same clear and analytical thinking that made him such an effective voyager. "A predilection for the prosaic" was how many professionals in the industry sneeringly described it. What they meant was that he preferred his names to be accurate and descriptive. Accordingly, if he encountered a fly-infested swamp, then his charts would read "Blackfly Swamp" and if he breasted a ridge to find a high mountain valley dotted with daisies, anemones and campanula, then the chances were that successive generations would come to know and love the place as High Daisy Pasture.
However, the ruling elite was never going to be impressed by tales of forcing a trade route through Bluebell Valley or his exploits on the Plains of the Pony People, so what few friends he had urged him to spice up his names a bit. Sadly for Captain Gasp, such flummery was not in his nature and although he made a few vain attempts, his efforts were greeted with little more than open disdain. His penultimate discoveries - Mount Horrid and the Pass of Possible Danger - went largely unnoticed by the civilised world but it was his naming of an isolated seabird colony, the Isle of Boobies, that finally did for his reputation. As his sponsors drifted quietly away, he was shifted surreptitiously to a rather less public role and was fully expected to fade into seemly obscurity.
As it turned out, though, that was not quite to be his end. Aggrieved and disenchanted, he was last seen heading south in a small cog, vowing to return to the site of his most recent landfall, there to explore the vast seas that lay beyond. As he stood alone on the rear deck of his vessel, the last that people heard of him was his voice, strong and defiant, crying out the name of the little island that he hoped to make his home.

And so, too, Captain Gasp vanishes from the next edition of Unreliable Histories...

He will be missed.

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