You are about to see the next scene

“No transition is the best transition”, E.A. Rauter used to say when teaching me and other future editors the craft of writing.

If you have something to say, say it. If you want to change the topic, do it. Never waste your audience’s time and attention by announcing that you are about to say something.

“Keine Überleitung ist die beste Überleitung”, is what Rauter actually said. But what is “Überleitung” in English? I was torn between “bridge”, “connection” and “transition”, so I looked it up and found the advice of internet inhabitant Courtney. While Courtney knows her vocabulary she is clueless about good writing.

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“Good writing is characterized by transitions from one topic to the next”, she says. The opposite is the case, Courtney! If you were about to direct a movie, would you fade in signs saying “You are about to see the next scene”?  No, hopefully. You would make cuts instead.

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The author likes to build bridges between paragraphs, between sentences even, and he wants writing to be fluent (after months I am still unsure what he means when he uses the f word). Tomorrow I expect a fight about this, and this time I need to make a stand in order not to damage the already questionable beginning of the manuscript.

Originally he wanted to begin the first chapter by explaining the universe and the circle of life, then his galaxy, then the landscape on the hero`s planet, then the anatomy of the hero’s race. 50 pages at least before the story actually starts. I tried to explain that we should do it the other way around: Focus on a remarkable, surprising detail first, wrap an episode around that and then successively roll out the universe he created. “No”, he said and rejected the two possible alternative beginnings I outlined. He has created a universe, put a ton of effort into developing races, machines, landscapes, and of course he wants to show to the world what he has done. I get it.

But this one I couldn’t let go. The beginning is where you either catch the reader or lose him.

At least I managed to prevent a disaster. He has a prologue now in which he can reflect about the universe and life in general, and he managed to cut this part down from 20 pages to less than one. I was proud of him. Still, there were the overdescriptive anatomy and landscape parts left. In order to loosen them up, I suggested to mix them with a different plot and switch between the eternally prowling hunters in the steppe and their people in the village who actually do something.

Between the steppe and village parts I indented – cuts. He erased the cuts and wrote transitions, announcing “we are now switching from the steppe to the village” and such. I erased the transitions and indented cuts again. This time they stay.

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