Since no one had a go at the editing exercise, I thought I’d have a go myself. I soon realised why no one had had a go. There was far too much of it! Sorry. Lesson learnt. If I should offer such an exercise again, I’ll reduce the word count.
Below is the portion of the extract I tackled. I reduced 1500 words to 725 – so trimmed it by half. During the process I used the following criterion, as well as checking for flow of narrative:
Cut out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Simplify names – use only one for each person. Remove extraneous words, e.g.: ‘Hansor nodded in reply to the question, and offered him the second’s chair’ can be shortened to ‘Hansor nodded, and offered him the second’s chair’ without losing meaning.
Remove ‘that’ wherever possible. Delete extraneous exposition – e.g., Hansor’s reason for being in charge of the ship.
Here’s my new version.
“All conversation stopped and every face turned to his as the door irised open, admitting Garth Mayla onto the bridge. He glowered back at each one in turn and stepped further inside.
To his surprise the Judge Jeffries – the Judiciary fast-attack vessel he was on – had already accessed the entry cullis and made its transit into abspace. According to the main screen. She was already travelling at several powers to the speed of light. She was displayed there as a pulsating symbol in the centre of a moving 3-D grid. Scrolling icons running down both sides indicated a string of status conditions that changed second-by-second.
‘Bored, your Lordship?’
Garth glanced at the speaker – Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Hansor – and shrugged, turning away from the uninspiring view.
‘I feel a little redundant’ he admitted.
‘It’s a short trip, sir.’ Hansor reminded him, ‘Two weeks at the most. Then we’ll take the shorter trip back.’
‘Through Deadman’s Handshake?’
Mayla joined Hansor at his command desk.
The policeman nodded and offered him the second’s chair. Mayla eased his long frame into the seat while Hansor called for some refreshments.
‘So, what’s she like?’ Hansor asked.
‘My wife? Beautiful, as always,’ Garth said. ‘As are all royal handmaidens, of course.’
He had just come from a stolen visit to see Chari, who, along with three others from the royal household, had been loaned out for this mission.
Hansor was taking a calculated risk, behaving in so familiar a way with the Emperor’s right-hand man, but Garth had to respect his boldness. Hansor had no doubt been instructed stand his ground – not a good position from Hansor’s point of view, considering Mayla’s Prime Prerogative status.
Hansor clearly hadn’t anticipated Mayla’s reply, though, and he turned away with an embarrassed smile.
‘Oh, I’m sorry! You were referring to our mutual responsibility?’
He leaned on the arm of his chair, tilting towards the policeman, and lowered his voice.
‘You know I’m not at liberty to discuss that,’ he said. ‘But if I were, I’d say that she was fairly attractive. Very young, blonde, blue-eyed…’
‘And she’s going to cloister herself away on Sarn?’
Their ‘mutual responsibility’, Chrystal Andres, was ensconced in the executive wing of the attack ship. Her forthcoming role in the Sarn Brotherhood was a mystery to everyone involved in this over-resourced operation, Imperial or Judiciary. Little wonder the two men found it an easy common subject.
Garth nodded. His job was to accompany the Sarn woman to the Preceptory. but he had never imagined such a female role existed within the austere Brotherhood, and to his mind she didn’t seem old enough to bear the title of Mother or Superior. He just hoped she knew what she was letting herself in for, whatever it was.
Hansor took a cup from the tray which had just arrived from the galley. Garth did likewise, nodding his thanks to the steward. The tea was too minty for his taste, but he was grateful for it anyway. He settled back to observe how this strike-ship was run. Even as an officer in the emperor’s Opal Guard, he was usually restricted to the troop section when travelling aboard a military interceptor.
Since both the Sarn Order and Emperor Antalia were using Garth’s title to gain access to the peacekeeper ship, he felt no qualms in using it access the bridge, whether he was welcome or not. Besides, the whole point of having a military figurehead on board was to slacken the legal protocols while they traversed this notorious region of space. His presence on the bridge should be mandatory.
‘Ship ahead, sir,’ one of the bridge crew said. ‘A sloop, I think.’
Hansor set his coffee cup on the narrow surface in front of him. Although he was a policeman, not the interceptor’s commanding officer, he was in command while the captain was absent. Dealing with people committing crimes was Mark Hansor’s role, and the more organised the crime, the more hands-on he became. Mayla guessed he was frustrated by this diplomatic excursion, which was probably keeping him from work he no doubt regarded as more important, and for which he was far more qualified. No surprise, then, when a little ship, so far from regular trading routes, piqued the policeman’s interest.
‘Any registration?’ Hansor asked. ‘ID flags?’
The man on sensors shook his head.
‘Looks like the registration lapsed some months ago. Two glitches in the bow field which might indicate torpedo ports, but nothing else I can detect.’
‘Are they transmitting a Badge of Marque?’
Another negative reply.
‘Hmm.’ Mark gestured to the comms tech. ‘Raise them on jump.’’ “