Wordless assent rippled through the crowd as the thrakkoni approached. RJ admired their beauty. Each of them was perfect. Perfect eyes, perfect skin, perfect muscle tone…everything. Their gait was lithe and smooth, and RJ realized as he watched them move as a group without any of their heads bobbing up and down that he was bothered a little by their uniformity. Not only did they all walk alike, but they also all wore the same style clothing. Each, regardless of gender, was clad in trousers over simple sandals with a wrap-around tunic tied at the waist by a cord. He wondered to himself what manner of creature they were. Before he had time to ponder it much, though, the thrakkonis’ long strides brought them to the group, at which point they all stopped, kneeled, and bowed as one, foreheads touching the soft billowing grass on the hillside.
Here's the improved version:
Here's the significant changes. First, nobody really gives a crap what RJ thinks by this point. He was never really meant to be a major character, and after the first scene he's really just a plot device I use to show how little patience Matt has for dumbassedness. So...took him out of the point of view. Also, nobody really cares what the thrakkoni are wearing. You will, later, by the way, when they all strip down for a particular reason, but for now, does their wearing a wrap-around tunic tied at the waist by a cord mean anything to a group of folks who have just landed somewhere strange? Nah. Finally, everybody at this point is wondering what manner of creature the thrakkoni are. Why rub the readers' noses in that wondering?
Oh, yeah, and what the hell is "wordless assent" and how does it ripple through a crowd? Snip...gone.
With all this tightening of wording, then, you'd think the book had gotten smaller. It has, but not by a lot. After ripping excess words out of a quarter of it, ish, it's down by about 100 words. That's it. But that's because I'm adding as I'm taking away. There were several great questions my reviewers asked, and I'm endeavoring to answer them by grafting in short stubs of text at just the right spots. It's harder than it sounds. First, you have to find just the right spot. Second, you have to figure out what the text is that you should graft in, and in my case, I have to keep in mind that I tend to add too many crap words. Third, there's always changes you have to make before and after the addition to make the new text flow correctly in the now-altered conversation. It's tricky and takes a bit of thought, but it's making the story better.
For example, a couple of people asked why Crystal never asked about her daughters' status as demigods. I really hadn't thought of it before; in my deity system, demigods don't exist, so the question never really occurred to me. It would, however, occur to Crystal, who is having this whole deity system thrust right smack into her face to deal with all at once. So I added it, and then moved on to the next question I hadn't thought of. Overall, I'm thinking I may actually end up adding a little bit of length to the story.
The other thing I did just now was add a sex scene. Ick. Not ick over sex, but ick over writing sex. This book isn't a romance novel, and I ain't a romance novelist. Several weeks ago I blogged about the joy of writing about sex, and there really isn't any in my world. But several people pointed out, rightfully so, that I have this couple who's been married for fifteen years, and I toss them into a very stressful situation, and then I don't show a lot of intimacy between them. OK, fine.
But...one of my most commonly-used writing tools is Google; I'll, for example, be describing the color of Sorscha's hair, which is silver, and then I'll realize that I'm saying the word silver way too much. Thus, I open my old friend and type "synonym for silver" and see what I get. It's really quite useful, because instead of using one thesaurus at a time, I'm using several. It just doesn't work really well for some words, like "clitoris." Hey, it's a body part, and it's an important one when you're having (or describing) sex. But it's kind of silly sounding when you use the A&P terms for the body parts in telling a sex story...for me, it reminds me of when my dad gave me "the talk," a few years too late, and described it in terms like penis and vagina. Maybe that works for some, but when I've Googled "how to write a sex scene" that's nearly always one of the prescribed no-nos.
The problem is, I also don't wanna use the Hustler-esque terms. You know what I'm talking about..."little button of passion" or, for the guy, "one eyed trouser mouse." That crap just makes me laugh when I read it. I asked my wife, who has read romance books in the past, and got some ideas for words that are lodged somewhere on the spectrum of linguistic expression between "penis" and "dual-engine pocket rocket," but...this whole business of writing about lovemaking totally creeps me out. I just want to make sure you know that. When/if the book comes out, you'll be reading along and see the short slide into a bedroom scene, and you'll know, "Hey, Evan was creeped out here."