A good friend and writer I look up to, J.R. Murdock, asked me on twitter how my editing was going and said he'd be curious to see examples of my changes. I give you the old and new beginning to my novel. My original tells you a lot about the character, but takes a long time to get into some conflict and dialog. It's what we writers call an info dump. A lot of set up, a lot of details, and most of it is not needed. In my new version I tried to take all I wanted to say and compact it into one quick paragraph, then get right into some conflict and dialog so I have characters interacting. Let me know what you think of my changes, and as always thanks for stopping by and reading.
Most people love Fridays; Trent Smithton hated them. Those afternoon hours that drag on for everyone else, lingering just before the weekend, flew by for him. While others felt the clock slow down, he worked like a man on the wrong end of an energy rifle. Trent, with his straight black gray sprinkled hair, hated Fridays; but this Friday would take the cake.
His thin fingers sprinted across the keyboard the fastest in these final hours. He was very aware that he was nearing a stopping point; he would have to go home and leave things unfinished. To Trent there never was enough time in the day. If he could he would work 12 hour days all week, and come in on Saturdays. When his green eyes weren't analizing market trends, or guiding his soft office hands to make stock trades, then he wasn't happy. Sure he had a wife and two kids at home, living the dream; but his heart was in his work. After all, it was his work which afforded his family a nice house and all the things that kept them happy while he was away in his office all day. Except now, due to cutbacks, he couldn't work anymore overtime. So when he noticed that he only had thirty minutes left to finish his work, he cursed the current state of his planet's economy. At least they were going to Tina's parents this weekend. He liked his wife's old man, he had always understood Trent and his drive towards work. "Working is good for a man," he would always say. Trent had promised his wife the family would spend more time together, so he suggested they go visit her folks for the weekend. At least he had something to look forward to, and Grandma's cooking wasn't too bad either. As he pushed those thoughts away to focus on his work he saw something out of the corner of his eye. The light on his office phone blinked, and then made the familiar tone. The sound made him jump a bit. He was still used to hearing phones outside of his office go off all day long, but now there were no calls coming into those cubicles. The office was now barren and silent. He picked up the phone.
"Yes Mr. Tops?"
"Hi Trent, could you come in here for a moment?"
"Sure, I'll be right in."
As Trent entered Mr. Tops's office, the same thought he'd had a million times scrolled through his brain. Even after getting to know the man, this wasn't what you would expect for the VP's office. It was too cheery. Sky blue walls, family pictures covering every surface. It was a room ill suited for its purpose.
"Close the door would you Trent?"
The blood drained from Trent's face. Mr. Tops cleared his throught as he tried to stop the well of emotions from flowing into his voice.
"As you've heard in our meetings Trent, the company isn't doing so well these days."
Trent, usually verbose with positive words to score browny points could only get out,
"It's a tough market out there right now sir."
"Yes that's one way to put it. I'd say it's a dead market out there; it's just killing us. People's faith in the stock market, and their ability to use it to make money, is in terrible shape right now. I don't see things getting any better any time soon. You've got a great track record Trent, and have done well. In all of your performance reviews, we've been honest in telling you, you're one of the best employees we've got. Now you've seen a lot of people being let go here, we've had to make severe cutbacks just to keep our heads above the water, and I know you've helped with that. Keeping your remaining clients as positive as anyone can. But where we stand ... I just can't keep paying you for the good work you're doing for us."
Mr. Tops stopped and looked down at nothing in particular.
"Now I've been dreading this moment all week, I hate this Trent; but the fact remains," his face held a genuine look of sympathy as it looked up to face Trent,
"There's nothing else I can do."
He stopped and looked down again, unable to look Trent in the eye, who's responce was immediate.
"I can't belive this. I'm the best stock broker you've got! I've helped make this company what it is! What do you mean there is nothing else you can do. You can fire somebody else!"
"There is no one else Trent, you know that."
"So, you're going to handle my remaining clients then? You'll probably lose most of them, and..."
"Believe me Trent, I've tried coming up with any way to keep you on, but it's just not possible."
The office grew silent for a moment, and then Mr. Tops spoke again.
"I have however, made you this."
He slid a memory card across his desk.
"It's a personal recommendation from me. There's an explanation of why I had to let you go, and a full report of your excellent service to our company. I truly hope you can find a great job out there Trent. And I hope this helps you. Please encourage any possible employers to call my direct line, I'll tell them all about the great things you've done for us here. Your next employer will be lucky to have you Trent. In the mean time, maybe this will give you a little more time with that beautiful family of yours."
Trent's expression never changed; his eyes didn’t drop to the data card. He stood and walked out the door, leaving it on the desk without saying another word.
Most people love Fridays. Trent Tradesman hated them. While others felt the clock slow down, he raced against his dread of leaving things unfinished over the weekend. He was interrupted by a call from his boss.
“Hi Jim, what’s up?”
“Trent, I need to see you in my office please.”
No hello back, no customary cheerful tone. This can’t be good, Trent thought as he walked past silent empty cubicles.
"Close the door, please."
A bleak pallor swept across Trent's face as he pulled the door shut behind him with an ominous click. Mr. Stipple cleared his throat and leaned forward in his ancient chair as Trent took a seat.
"I'm just going to get to the point here Trent."
"As you know, the company isn't doing so well these days," Mr. Stipple said. He shifted in his chair again. The chair was known around the office as old yeller, because with every slight movement it creaked and moaned like it was crying to be put down. Trent thought it sounded like it wanted to be rolled away to some place where no butt could ever sit in it again. Mr. Stipple’s butt had in it since his first day at the company.
Trent tried to ignore the screams of the chair and said,
"It's a tough market out there right now sir."
"Yes that's one way to put it. I'd say it's a dead market. It's just killing us. People's faith in it is gone, and I don't see things getting better any time soon.”
Mr. Stipple stopped and cracked a measured smile before continuing.
“You have done well here Trent. In all of your performance reviews, I've been honest in telling you, you're my best. Now you've seen all of your coworkers go; we've had to make severe cutbacks just to keep our heads above the water. I know you have helped with that, keeping your remaining clients as positive as anyone could, but where we stand,"
Mr. Stipple stopped and looked down at nothing in particular.
"I've been dreading this all week, I hate this Trent; but the fact remains. . ."
He looked back up with genuine sympathy.
"There's nothing else I can do. I just can't keep paying you for the good work you're doing for us. I've delayed this for far too long; I'm going to have to make this your last day. I'm sorry."
He stopped and looked down again to miss Trent’s immediate response.
"Let me get this straight. You are willing to keep that creaking old chair around, but not me?”
Mr. Stipple’s head snapped back up as Trent continued.
“I've helped make this company what it is! What do you mean there is nothing else you can do? You can fire somebody else! Fire the receptionist!"
"There is no one else Trent, you know that. Even she has to go. I've given her until the end of the month."
"So what, you are going to handle the remaining clients then? You'll probably lose most of them and,"
Mr. Stipple interrupted him.
"Believe me Trent I've tried coming up with a way to keep you on, but it's just not possible. I’ve been over it again and again. I’m sorry."
The office grew silent for a moment. Trent's face began to redden.
"I have however, made you this."
He slid a data card across his desk.
"It's a personal recommendation from me. There's an explanation of why I had to let you go, and a full report of your phenomenal work here. I hope you can find a great job out there Trent, and I hope this helps you. Please encourage any possible employers to call my direct line. I'll tell them all about the great things you've done for us here. Your next employer will be lucky to have you Trent. In the mean while, maybe this will give you a little more time with that beautiful family of yours."
Trent's face looked like a ripe tomato. He stood and walked to the door, leaving the data card on the desk. In the doorway he spun, failing to keep his mouth shut.
"You're making the biggest mistake of your life! This company is doomed without me! The only reason you have stayed afloat this long is because of me!"
He grabbed the door handle.
"Good luck with your retirement ... Mr. Nipples!" he said, and then slammed the door; rattling the framed pictures on the wall.