Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hillerman's edits

Take a closer look at any 3-6 pages of your choice from any first or second edition of any of Tony Hillerman's works as found on the Tony Hillerman Portal we saw at CSWR yesterday. Look closely at the edits made on the pages you choose and write a post about what those edits suggest to you about Hillerman's creative or editorial process.


  1. I looked at the first draft of The Blessing Way. I looked at it both with and without hyperlinks. The hyperlinks are nice because they explain a lot that a person, especially someone not from the Southwest, might not know, but they are a bit distracting. Anyway, Hillerman's first draft is interesting to read because you can see where he decided that different words fit better or where he should cut unnecessary information. On page four of his first draft he cut an entire paragraph describing a plateau, which already had some description in the following paragraph. It seems like an interesting paragraph, but the paragraph after it does have enough description for the reader to get a good idea of what it is like.

    He adds little words all over the place just in the first few pages. Usually they are pretty insignificant, such as "and then" being replaced with "and promptly," but in one case he replaced the word "washes" with "arroyos." I thought this was a smart change, considering the setting. If I were having a conversation with someone in New Mexico and that person said "washes," it would be a bit unclear what he or she meant, but people saying "arroyos" is clear and natural.

    I know these are mostly small changes, but if you look at the first and second drafts and compare them, the first draft has a lot more markings. We might not think about how many times we've changed our first drafts, especially since we can do so within a few seconds and with no record of the first draft on the computer. Tony Hillerman obviously put a lot of thought into what were just the right words and phrases. I am the same, but of course since I'm typing you guys have no idea how many times I might have made small changes to my original post.

  2. In reading Tony Hillerman’s first draft of Dance Hall of the Dead, I noticed on the first couple of pages that he scratched out words that he didn’t like and replaced them with words that gave more emphasis to the before word if that makes any sense. For example instead of putting he “showed” him he replaced it with “taught”, which I think has a better flow to it and more meaning behind the word “taught”. He does this with several other words. I also notice that as he is going through his drafts he notice words that add details to the subject or sentence and that he doesn’t really need it so he just scratches it right out.

    Another thing I noticed with the typewriter messed up it leaves a trail of letters that overlap and sometimes Hillerman can ignore them, but sometimes he scratches it out. I think it’s because it distracted him from editing and he just wanted to scratch it out so it wouldn’t disrupt him from editing the sentence.

    I agree with what Anna said. I really enjoy reading this first draft and seeing the edits he made. I can kind of imagine what goes through his mind as he is editing this draft and agree with some of his edits. Like I was pleased with the changes and it sounds better to me.

  3. I looked at the first couple drafts for The Fly on the Wall, and saw mostly word deletions or insertions, typo corrections, and general "word re-dos." For example, instead of someone being provided "a pilot and a plane," he was later provided with "a piloted plane." I think this shows Hillerman's editing process includes a lot of streamlining so that the point gets across without a lot of fuss, and translates whatever he saw in his head into something even more readable and understandable by a stranger.

    I also noticed the same thing as Brittany, in that there were a lot of typewriter overlaps that were sometimes rewritten, sometimes not, and I agree that Hillerman probably rewrote them just to keep them from being a distraction.

  4. I looked at the last few pages of "Listening Woman" because I find that endings generally take more thought but less editing on my part, and wanted to see if that was also true of Hillerman. I wanted to compare the first and third edits, but I didn't see any markings on the third edit, so I stuck with the first. I'll try to do this without spoilers, but I can't make any promises because I haven't read the book myself!

    I noticed that he took a few passive verbs and made them more active. He initially wrote "the shape which was the cave mouth," and changed it to "the darkness which hid the cave mouth." This gives a much clearer picture of the setting and gives him a more active verb to boot. He makes other very important and interesting additions, like "Too many rocks to remove to clear the path" becomes "Too many rocks for the white man to remove to clear the path." He knows how to concisely make his sentences more clear.

    On the previous page, he actually does the opposite. He gives the sentences some vagueness. He changes "It was an Army artillery reconnaissance craft" to "It looked like an Army artillery reconnaissance craft." I assume he does this to better fit the narrator's voice, but having not read the book yet I couldn't say for sure.

    Hillerman's edits are more concise than mine; he cuts quite a bit out, but I don't see him adding nearly as much in to replace it. His additions mostly have to do with clarification (though not always). I wish my edits were this clean!


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