I Need Your Vote on Cold Steel (Spiritwalker Monday 33)

In honor of USA’s election day, a vote.

I am in the process of going through the copy edited manuscript for COLD STEEL. This is part of the production process that takes a book from manuscript to printed (or formatted e-book) finished copy.

After I write and revise a novel, I send the revised manuscript to my editor. She (or he) reads through it and requests editorial changes. We discuss any questions I have, and based on his/her comments and our discussion, I revise again. Typically, s/he will read it through one more time, and I’ll make a second round of changes, although usually this round deals less with major revision and more with details and those last bits of scenes that need burnishing.

This finished, final version enters production. One of the first things that happens is that the manuscript is sent to a copy editor. The copy editor’s job is to read carefully for grammatical and punctuation errors, for typos, for consistency in naming and details (does the character have brown eyes on page 34 and hazel eyes on page 213?), and for adherence to house style (Oxford comma, yes or no?). As well, a good copy editor will catch more subtle inconsistencies as well as confusing or illogical passages and may ask for clarification of descriptions or scenes that don’t quite make sense or aren’t communicated clearly.

The copy edit is also the last place the writer can, if necessary, made changes straight into the manuscript without having to worry about changing the line or page length. Once the typesetting and layout of a printed book is complete, it is expensive to change the layout if there are significant changes. Changes made at the proofreading stage are, therefore, frowned upon. That is why it is so important to make use of the copy editing stage to do any final cleaning up and polishing.

I have just completed my first pass through the copy edited manuscript.

Some writers have horror stories about egregiously bad copy editors who did such a bad job on the manuscript that the poor writer had to spend days “stetting” (stet==to let stand [the original]), and that certainly does happen. In my case, I have a very good copy editor, and the book you read will be better for her/his work.

But that’s not my question. My question is for you, the readers.

A brief aside: What follows may constitute an extremely mild spoiler, so if you hate and loathe all spoilerish things, don’t read on. However, if you don’t mind, no worries.

As you know, the Spiritwalker Trilogy is narrated by Cat Barahal. She has a chatty and sometimes snarky way of speaking, likes to exaggerate, and is often amused by the vagaries of human nature. She may even speak in redundancies, although I try to limit that. The most important thing about her “voice” is that it has a distinctive rhythm.

So here is my question, on which I ask you to vote by stating your opinion in the comments.

Which version do you prefer, with the understanding that it is Cat speaking, that the person she is speaking of she in general has a positive opinion of, and that in the moment she is speaking she is amused not annoyed?

A) the man did develop a bit of a cocky swagger as we approached the men waiting to sit down to eat.

B) the man did develop a bit of a swagger as we approached the men waiting to sit down to eat.



ETA: I have since revised “the men waiting to sit down to eat” to “the waiting dignitaries.” Just FYI

82 thoughts on “I Need Your Vote on Cold Steel (Spiritwalker Monday 33)

  1. Oh, cocky swagger, definitely. I mean, yes, one could argue that swaggering is inherently cocky, but rhythmically I think it sounds better.

  2. Cocky swagger means the guy is inherently likeable. Insolent swagger means the opposite. Swaggers come in different flavors. So it’s not really redundant.

  3. Cocky swagger sounds much better, I think. To me it would be an over exaggerated swager, something James Franco like… I’m picturing. That would appear amusing to me.

  4. The cocky swagger. It’s a tiny additional detail which does make a difference in perception.

  5. Now I am going to be different from everyone else. I am the wordiest person going, and I like to embellish, but for me since swagger screams ‘cocky’ you don’t need both, even in Cat’s voice.

  6. I prefer- “the man did develop a bit of a swagger as we approached the men waiting to sit down to eat.”

    I tend toward minimalism (usually). Also, I imagine “swagger” sort of in the hip hop sense where a person would describe someone’s swagger as “his/her swagger” rather than “his/her cocky swagger”

  7. option A, definitely. Cat doesn’t seem the type (in my head) to miss an opportunity to call someone cocky.

  8. ‘a bit of a’ negates the extra oomph that ‘cocky’ gives ‘swagger’ –at least in my inner cinema.

  9. I definitely think the “cocky swagger” has more of the right tone, comical yet affectionate. I know words shift meanings with the generation, and to some of us who are older that means like a bantam rooster, but even in a writing class I did a long time ago my classmates put a sexual connotation to that term. I think from the context it doesn’t read that way, but I can understand why there is some sensitivity about it.

  10. I’m for cocky swagger too.

    In fact, being french, I did not know those two words, but even before I checked with the dictionnary, I thought it sounded better (a better rythm or something like that).

  11. Personally, I think cocky swagger is redundant. I also think it’s hard to have “a bit of” a cocky swagger because adding cocky makes it a lot of swagger. They kind of cancel each other out if that makes sense.

    That being said, neither is so crazy that they’d give me pause. I only came up with an opinion because you asked. Not knowing the rest of the paragraph, it’s hard to say whether cocky is necessary for the rhythm. I’m excited for the book either way 🙂

  12. ‘A bit of’ is the point where Cat rolls her eyes, as it were. It is much clearer in context, but if I give the rest of the context then it really will be a spoiler of a sort.

  13. Thanks, everyone. Loving these comments.

    Cocky is winning by a landslide, although the anti-cocky votes are well argued!

  14. Version B for me. Swagger is cocky, and Cat wouldn’t need the extra word, her voice would do it for us. She is so wonderfully sarcastic and cheeky, it’s just there in my head- the tone. (For some reason, I think Cat would be offended by redundancy- has she been fighting it? 🙂

    P.S.- I’m beyond excited that it’s almost done! YAY!!

  15. Definitely cocky. It’s Cat. There’s other ways of swaggering than cocky, and she’s precise (and appreciative).

  16. Based on Cat’s character, as I know it, cocky swagger would be what I hear her say. I think she would definitely have an opinion on the swagger.

  17. I hadn’t thought of it in quite that way, but now that you point it out, I agree.

  18. I’ve never thought quite so much about how many different kinds of swagger there are.

  19. I didn’t actually expect the vote to fall so overwhelming for version A, but that’s totally okay with me.

  20. It’s a little more melody, if you will.

    And that’s really interesting about you thinking the rhythm of the sentence worked better even before you new what the words meant.

  21. I’m amused by how many people so strongly like the cocky swagger as opposed to the regular swagger. 😉

  22. A good consideration. It’s clear, however, that the majority has voted for Measure A. . . .

  23. I’ve realized that what I’m enjoying most about these comments is people’s decided view of what Cat would say.

  24. When I read, I hear the sound of the words in my head. “Develop a bit of a swagger” flows better.

  25. Exactly! If other context doesn’t make it clear, “swagger,” by itself does not have the same flavor as “cocky swagger” to me.

    “Swagger” is more serious, a primate dominance thing. The outlaw swaggers into the saloon. The sailors, fresh from bringing in a prize, swagger past their fellows from less fortunate ships… It doesn’t necessarily connote an interest in violence, but perhaps does imply a readiness for it, if required to defend the social dominance status swagger is used to claim.

    “Cocky swagger” is (as perceived by Cat, anyway) perhaps a bit childish and not necessarily as closely tied to the implied threat of violence as simply an expression of pride (or the need to project pride). Eli Monpress would have a cocky swagger.

  26. She’s been an illuminating character for me to write. My instinct as a writer is always to be a bit too cautious. With Cat, I’ve learned to throw caution to the winds!

  27. Larry, you are not alone in that! However, “cocky” has definitely won the vote.

  28. Ah- sounds like the cocky needs to stay, then. I doubt you’ll win that battle of wills!

  29. You seem to have a landslide election on your hands.
    Definitely “a bit of a cocky swagger” for me. Maybe it’s a British thing, but to my mind “swagger” without any qualifiers is not just opinionated but outright critical, and with overtones of both dislike and despising to boot. Whereas “a cocky swagger” manages to be mocking while acquiring a note of humour (through the mixture of precision and mild overstatement). The humour in turn shows affection, and the diminutive effect of “a bit of” also makes the tone friendlier.
    Thank you for the question, by the way; it’s lovely to think about these choices and how much can hang on every word.
    I’m just sorry I’ll have to wait till next summer (or possibly even autumn, this side of the Atlantic) to read the rest. Sure it will be worth waiting for, though!
    Go well…

  30. Not that it really needs any more votes to win, but I definitely say “cocky swagger”. It is just so much more Cat!
    Also, I get the feeling that she’s referring to Andevai, and she would never hesitate to call him cocky.

  31. Bit late to the party but I’d like to cast my vote for the popular “cocky swagger”. It sounds like something Cat would say. I can’t wait for the book!

  32. Great analysis. That pretty much hits it spot on.

    June 25 is the release date in all World English markets.

  33. I prefer B, but, I am a doctoral candidate that cannot always turn off my edit button because I am in the middle of editing my proposal. This may not work for fiction.

  34. Yes, that makes sense. Cat has a particular way of speaking that often includes exaggeration and amplification–I think that’s one reason (as I mention in the previous post on Cat’s Voice) that the book would have read very differently if it had been written in third person.

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