I took a while to decide which draft to start from. This one is not completely embarrassing, so I will start with this draft. My plan is to show where I started from, then go through my question list and show how I edit the scene as I go. Finally, I will post the current (and pretty close to final) draft of the scene. This will take several posts to get through, so let’s get started. Here is our troubled piece of writing we will be starting from:
Mirian stood in front of the altar in the temple’s worship hall, excitement causing her to bounce up and down slightly on the balls of her feet. Prophet Neijen stood on the opposite side holding a small knife out towards her, handle first. As a healer at the temple of Ailiah, she was required to offer a blood sacrifice to the goddess every week. Unlike the other healers, Mirian looked forward to the weekly ritual. Behind her, Mirian listened to the rustling of the crowd shifting impatiently in their seats. The daily worship ceremony was closed to the public, but the weekly service was open to visitors from the nearby village who came to offer their prayers and petitions.
The others had already cut their fingers and dripped a few droplets of blood into the bowl on the altar. With that small of a sacrifice, it was no wonder they weren’t better healers. Mirian accepted the knife and held it in her left hand. The bone handle balanced the thin metal blade extending three inches from the end. The blade was more of a flattened needle than a knife, thin and narrow, having been designed to perform this one task only. Prophet Neijen took a step back from the altar. Mirian held the blade in the flame of the Candle of Purity on the altar for a moment, letting it lick around the metal blade, heating it quickly. Pulling it back from the flame, she rested the tip against the palm of her right hand, positioning it below her first and second finger, near the fleshy part of her thumb. Closing her eyes and tilting her head back slightly, she felt her exhilaration building. Ailiah’s power surged inside her, anticipating her next move. Mirian opened her eyes, gazing at the statue of Ailiah beside the altar. The thick smell of the incense created a buzzing in her head that drowned out the sounds of the crowd. Mirian inhaled deeply, then plunged the blade into the palm of her right hand.
Mirian’s breath caught in her chest. The burning pain seared up her arm into her brain, then coursed through her body. The first two fingers of her hand curled inward, fingertips touching the knife’s handle even as that half of her hand went numb. Looking down, she watched the blood flow into the cup.
Exhaling finally, she recited the prayer of sacrifice; “May this offering of mine satisfy the need for bloodshed and suffering for this week. May Ailiah bless me with the power to remove the infirmities of those in need. Ailiah’s love.”
For a moment, Mirian basked in the warmth of Ailiah’s love. Her entire arm throbbed angrily with her heartbeat but Mirian barely felt it, the euphoria of making the sacrifice to her goddess washed away any other thought in her mind. Taking another deep breath, Mirian shifted her grip on the knife’s handle and pulled. She placed the knife blade down into the bowl of blessed water and held her hand out to Prophet Neijen. He pressed a bandage on each side of her hand while High Priest Vaktril tied a strip of cloth around both to hold them tightly against her wounds.
As they did so, Vaktril muttered to her “there is no need to penetrate your entire hand. An offering of a few drops of blood is sufficient.” Mirian smiled in return, his weekly admonition having no more effect on her than it ever did. She gave no answer, but turned and walked back to her prayer mat.
Take a read, laugh, and watch this space for the improvement process.