Jigsaw Jones Edits, Warts and All

Last Friday I handed in the first draft of Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Skeleton’s Secret. In series publishing, things move quickly. Because the manuscript ran a little long — and because I’m far from perfect — my editor, Matt Ringler, returned the first draft with some comments, suggestions, and cuts. This is all normal operating procedure. My job was to then respond to Matt’s editorial comments and send a revised manuscript to him, which I have already done. None of this is genius; just basic revision. And, I should add, with more tweaks to come down the road.

Here are four brief sections, showing Matt’s suggested cuts in red, and my changes in green, which were made on top of Matt’s. I want to be honest here, show my mistakes, flubs, blunders, and weak sentences. Possibly this is instructive for any teacher working on writing in the classroom. Hopefully this post demonstrates the importance of a strong editor, the value of revision, and how much we need all the help we can get! Cutting is almost always a good thing.

1

ORIGINAL VERSION w/ EDITS:

Mila pulled on the strands of her long black hair. She was a good listener. That made her a good detective – and a good friend.

I continued, “Everybody has their party at the Putt-Putt Emporium,” I said. “Everybody — except for me.” Laser Tag rocks. Plus get soda and pizza!”

“Did you try whining?” Mila suggested.

“Of course,” I said. “I complained for a week.”

“How about begging?”

“That only made things worse,” I said.

“Worse?” Mila echoed.

“Yeah, my dad wanted to strangle me at one point,” I said. “And he’s not really the strangling type.”

“Good thing.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said.

“But you’ll still celebrate your birthday, right?” Mila said.

“Sure, we’ll have cake and presents,” I said. “I’ll pick my favorite dinner. But let’s face it, Mila. Laser Tag would have been way cooler.”

Mila shrugged. “I’d rather have a sleepover, watch a DVD, and paint my toenails.”

* * * * *

REVISED VERSION:

Mila was a good listener. That made her a good detective – and a good friend.

“Everybody has their party at the Putt-Putt Emporium,” I said. “Everybody – except for me.”

“But you’ll still celebrate your birthday, right?” Mila said.

“Sure, we’ll have cake and presents,” I said. “I’ll pick my favorite dinner. But let’s face it, Mila. Laser Tag would have been way cooler.”

Mila shrugged. “I’d rather have a sleepover, watch a DVD, and paint my toenails.”

2

ORIGINAL VERSION w/ EDITS:

Reginald walked down a long hallway. We tagged along behind, our stocking feet sliding on the cool tile floor. We made two lefts and a right at an old grandfather clock. As we walked, I thought about Reginald. Sure, he was the richest kid I’d ever met. Spoiled, too. He had everything a kid could want. And maybe he did eat too many cucumber sandwiches. But he was always a good friend. Mila thought he was lonely. She Mila was probably may have been right. She often was.

Reginald stopped before a white door. He pressed the tips of his fingers together. “I’m awfully glad to see you two. My Auntie Griselda is visiting from La Jolla. She’s very proper. I have to be on my best behavior. It can be a little . . .” His voice trailed off.

“Boring?” Mila suggested.

“Indeed, yes, rather,” Reginald confessed.

* * * * *

REVISED VERSION:

Reginald walked down a long hallway. We tagged along behind, our stocking feet sliding on the tile floor. We made two lefts and a right at an old grandfather clock. As we walked, I thought about Reginald. Sure, he was the richest kid I’d ever met. And maybe he did eat too many cucumber sandwiches. But he was a friend. Mila thought he was lonely. She may have been right.

Reginald stopped before a white door. “I’m awfully glad to see you two. My Auntie Griselda is visiting from La Jolla. She’s very proper. I have to be on my best behavior. It can be a little . . .” His voice trailed off.

“Boring?” Mila suggested.

“Indeed, yes, rather,” Reginald confessed.

3

NOTE: In this scene, Jigsaw is at Reginald Pinkerton Armitage’s house, where Jigsaw just borrowed a “Spy Ear,” a listening device that magnifies sound. Faithful blog readers might recall my whimsical desire to have someone — anyone — fart in a Jigsaw Jones book. Even when I dreamed of it, and wrote it, I knew it wasn’t right for Jigsaw. But still: I had to get it out of my system.

On our return trip to the front door, I switched on the Magnifying Spy Ear to see if it really worked. Thump, thump, thump. The sound of our stocking feeet pounded on the floor like small explosions. Then I heard a faint popping sound. Like this: poof.

“Um, Reg?” I asked. “Did you just . . . toot?”

“Certainly not!” he protested. “Armitages don’t, as you say, toot..”

“You don’t? Never, ever?” I asked.

Reginald stood ramrod straight. ““It’s not something an Armitage does.”

“Nobody in your family, huh?” I said. “That’s amazing.”

Poof.

There it was again. And this time, the sound was loud and clear. Even Mila heard it – without the Magnifying Ear.

Reggie fumbled with his eyeglasses. He dropped them to floor, picked them up again. His face turned a deep crimson. (That’s a ten-dollar word for red.)

I titled my head, waiting.

“Not so bad, is it?” I asked.Reginald’s eyes widened. He grinned. “I liked it!”

Poof, poof, poof.

“Okaaaaay, Reg, let’s not get carried away. It sounds like we’re in a shooting gallery at the carnival.”

Mila snickered, and so did Reginald.

“A carnival, that’s rich,” Reginald said. “Please excuse my manners. But it does feel rather good, doesn’t it?”

“I daresay,” I said with a smile.

* * * * *

REVISED VERSION:

On our return trip to the front door, I switched on the Spy Ear to see if it really worked.

[NOTE: Ha– so much for Little Toot! But I enjoyed writing it, even though I knew it was destined for the scrap heap. At this point, we added a brief exchange where Jigsaw overhears a conversation between the butler and Gus the driver.]

4

ORIGINAL VERSION:

When I need thinking time, I usually pull out a new jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, I didn’t have new ones. I did a couple of easy 100-piece puzzles, but my heart wasn’t into it. As a detective, I liked to take action. Do stuff. Make things happen. But there wasn’t much I could do. I had to sit back and wait for the riddler to make a mistake.

* * * * *

REVISED VERSION:

As a detective, I liked to take action. Make things happen. But there wasn’t much I could do. I had to sit back and wait for the riddler to make a mistake.

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