One way to improve as a writer is to improve as an editor—an editor of our own work. So, we're going to take the time to put our skills to practice. Right now, we'll learn how to spot weaknesses in copy. This way we'll be better equipped to recognize it in our own manuscripts, and it'll jumpstart us on the details of "craft."
Please show us how to improve the following opening taken from a historical novel (488 words). This is from my own work and I messed it up real good for you. "Ouch." In the end, I'll show you the final draft. Trust me, it's much better! Yes, this is my pride speaking.
Be sure to read the How to give feedback link for pointers.
Looking forward to your responses!
IRON AND THE STONE
The Master's Wall
Rome, 76 A.D.
David walked very quietly along the dark street. Those terrible soldiers had taken his parents. The soldiers had dragged them out of their home.
Now David was following them. Where would the soldiers take his parents, he wondered. He felt like crying. He felt so scared.
Maybe he could get help, he thought. The family friend, Manius, might be able to help. David knew Manius would know what to do.
Voices echoed through the dark street. David stopped in his tracks and pressed his back against the wall of a nearby apartment. He shivered with fear. He saw a shadow. A rat ran across the large stones through the empty street. David jumped.
David sighed with relief, then he slowly peaked around the wall. His whole body trembled and quivered as he gripped the brick wall of the apartment. That's when David saw that three soldiers were standing over his parents in the small street.
One of the soldiers pushed Mamma forward. She tripped and fell against Abba who caught her, and she held on with her fists to his tunic. Abba helped her up and held her against him, but another soldier jerked them apart.
David felt very angry. He hated the way those soldiers were treating his parents. They acted like his parents were criminals, but they weren't.
David saw a soldier whip out chains and jingle them in front of Mamma's face, laughing. David could tell his mamma was scared of that mean soldier. But he didn't know what to do.
David heard the soldier chuckle as he knelt to bind Mamma's ankles, while another soldier held her arms securely behind her back. It hurt and she bit her lip to keep from screaming.
David hoped Abba would do something. Abba had to save Mamma. But now Abba's arms were bound behind his back.
David continued to watch as the soldier locked the shackles into place on Mamma's ankles. The bad man then ran his fingers up Mamma's leg, pulling her stola up to reveal her thigh. "Nice," the soldier said softly.
"Let her go!" Abba screamed and pushed away from a soldier. "She has nothing to do with this!"
David watched the third soldier run over and hold Abba back. "Oh, really?" the soldier said. "That's not what we heard." He motioned toward the man touching Mamma and shouted, "Aulus, shouldn't convicts pay the full penalty for their crimes?"
"Oh, yes," Aulus whispered. He smiled and continued to touch Mamma, to touch her in places David had never seen Abba touch her. He touched her too much and he touched her everywhere.
Stop, he thought. David clenched his teeth. Stop touching her right now.
The mean, wicked, burly soldier's hands touched her all over her. It scared her.
David knew someone had to stop him. But no one else was around to help.
No one but David, so he ran straight for the soldier. "Get away from her!"
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