Living In Revision HELL

coverUsing my unreleased manuscript An Angel On Her Shoulder, I am showing you my techniques for reworking a story into a more readable, more enjoyable piece. It’s 45+ lessons in about 45 days. (To start at Chapter 1, click HERE.)

To view it best, bring up the two versions in different windows and view them side by side to see what was changed.

Then give me your thoughts in the comment section.

 REVISING and REWRITING

Hey, when it ain’t right, ya gotta fix it.

Often revising a manuscript goes like this:

Edit, edit, edit…
TOSS!

We decide the paragraph or phrase isn’t even worth keeping – after we worked on it for an hour!

Here are the steps I took in reworking the opening sentence to chapter 39 of Angel, just for you because you might wonder WHY we do all this, and what difference it makes.

Also, you’ll enjoy that you aren’t the only one who does this.

Here’s the opening sentence:

I frantically called Mallory’s cell phone as I drove through the pouring rain. No answer.

Problem word: frantically. Stephen King says when you use an adverb in storytelling (as opposed to regular writing) you have chosen a weaker way to say your message.

What does frantically calling look like?

Maybe pounding on the cell phone, gritting your teeth… and if your character is driving, that requires some coordination he may not possess in an agitated state. He’s scared.

Imagine him doing it. Gritted teeth is more angry. He’s scared, so maybe his heart is pounding and he’s breathing hard – or not breathing at all

So:

I frantically called

Becomes:

I held my breath and pounded my cell phone

Now what?

as I drove through the pouring rain.

How can we make that dramatic? Here, it gives information. We need drama.

Driving becomes swerving my car

Pouring rain becomes the torrential downpour.

Let’s piece it together and see what we have, then smooth it out.

I held my breath and pounded my cell phone, serving my car through the torrential downpour.

Meh

I held my breath and pounded my cell phone, steering with one hand through the torrential downpour. The wind ripped the steering WHEEL (because wheels on a car, too) from me with every gust. I mashed the phone to my ear as it rang.

So we have an echo: steering. Let’s make the first one different. How about maneuvering?

I held my breath and pounded my cell phone, maneuvering the car with one hand through the torrential downpour. The wind ripped the steering wheel from me with every gust. I mashed the phone to my ear.

(we know it’ll ring, so we don’t need that. If it doesn’t ring, we DO need to know that. Same with his wife – we knew from the prior sentence that you didn’t see here that she is who he was calling)

 

Next: sentence patterns.

I held my breath…

The wind ripped…

I mashed…

 

Too much of this and it will read as dull. We don’t want that, especially in an action scene.

Rearrange one, gerund the other, and let’s see what we have.

Holding my breath, I pounded my cell phone, using my other hand to maneuver/careen/race my car through the torrential downpour. The wind jerked the steering wheel from me with every massive gust. With my phone mashed to my ear, I…

…something. What should we have him do?

Grit his teeth and pray?

Grit his teeth and lean forward, desperate to see anything through the windshield

Holding my breath, I pounded my cell phone, using my other hand to maneuver my car through the torrential downpour. The wind jerked the steering wheel from me with every massive gust. With my phone mashed to my ear, I gritted my teeth and leaned forward, desperate to see anything through the fogging windshield.

Because when you’re wet and it’s raining, the car windows fog up. More stuff for him to deal with. And let’s get rid of one of the MY’s. And reading this out loud, it’s too wordy.

I pounded my cell phone and maneuvered my car through the torrential downpour. Each massive gust of wind tried to jerk the steering wheel from my grip. Holding my breath, I mashed the phone to my ear.

My heart was in my throat. Mallory had to answer. My wet clothes and hair created fog on the windshield. Gritting my teeth, I held the phone with my shoulder and thrust my hand over the glass.

Voicemail.

 

ORIGINAL:

I frantically called Mallory’s cell phone as I drove through the pouring rain. No answer.

THEN HE WILL HAVE AN EMOTIONAL REACTION TO GETTING VOICEMAIL. He is calling frantically to make sure she’s okay. When he doesn’t find out, he would react, ratcheting his anxiety higher.

Pound the wheel. Swear. Wonder aloud where she is or what happened – which causes MORE anxiety.

For the character AND for you.

See you below. Enjoy the chapter.


Chapter 39 “FINAL”

 

I pounded my cell phone and maneuvered my car through the torrential downpour. Each massive gust of wind tried to jerk the steering wheel from my grip. Holding my breath, I mashed the phone to my ear.

My heart was in my throat. Mallory had to answer her cell phone. My wet clothes and hair caused a fog to form on the windshield. Gritting my teeth, I squeezed the phone to my head with my shoulder and thrust my hand over the glass.

Voicemail.

My thoughts were a blur. I couldn’t believe Tyree was gone. And it could have been me. Probably should have—that was the thing’s intent. Lure me out . . . meanwhile, I’d left Mallory and Sophie completely unprotected and unaware.

I swallowed hard and dialed the phone again.

The streets were empty, so I ignored stop signs and red lights. I gripped the wheel and stomped the gas, panting like a marathon runner.

I rubbed my forehead with the back of my wrist. I’d gotten Tyree killed and now who knew what was happening with my family. Some demonic entity could have attacked them at the house while I was gone. It was that simple. My pulse throbbed, a cold sweat breaking out on my temple.

It waited for me to leave and then stormed in.

The home phone didn’t answer. It rolled over to the answering machine.

I tossed the phone into a cup holder and punched the accelerator, racing upwards of eighty miles an hour through the rain and wind. My pulse was racing, my hands sweating as I clung to the wheel. I could not get home fast enough.

I swerved my car onto our street. From the corner, the house looked dark. My stomach cringed with fear. The skies were black with clouds and rain. Normally, people don’t sit at home in the dark.

My headlights showed our trees flinging their limbs back and forth in the screaming wind.

A broken branch hurled at me and crashing to the ground. I didn’t even swerve to miss it, I just drove right through it, blasting it to pieces.

Racing up the driveway, my heart pounded in my ears. The house looked completely dark. I slammed the car into park jumped out, sprinting for the door through the whipping torrents of rain. It was unlocked. I flung it open and raced inside.

The living room was empty. Silent. Not even Sparkles barked. As thunder rumbled outside, I glanced at the kitchen, my office, the hallway—empty.

“Mallory!”

A thump came from upstairs. Adrenaline surging, I bounded up the steps two at a time.

The hallway and master bedroom were dark. Sophie’s bedroom and the spare bedroom at the other end of the hall were dark.

Dripping from my face and hair, I stood in the hallway and held my breath, listening.

By now Sparkles should have been going bonkers, barking his head off. Even he hadn’t made a peep. The only sound was my own pounding heart.

Where could they be?

From the master bedroom, light spilled out from under the bathroom door.

Another thump.

I ran to the door and flung it open.

“Daddy!”

My daughter sat up in the tub, smiling.

In front of her kneeled my wife, lathering up my little girl’s head with shampoo.

“Hey, dad, look at me!” Sophie squealed, patting her head. “I have a hat!”

I had to hold the door frame to keep from falling down.

Mallory’s face fell as she took in my appearance. “Honey, you’re dripping everywhere. You’re all wet!”

I looked down, trying to breathe—and nearly fell. My knees couldn’t hold me.

“Are you okay?” Mallory rushed to me. “You’re as white as a sheet.”

I leaned against the wall, gasping. “I just—”

I had nothing. There were no words.

Fear spread over my wife’s face. “What’s wrong?” She took my arm. “What happened?”

I shook my head, turning away. “Not in front of the baby.”

Baby.

Sophie had just turned four years old. But Mallory would know what I meant. This was not for a child’s ears.

She lowered her voice and leaned in, clutching my arm. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” I took a few deep breaths, trying to get my heart back into my chest.

“You’re not.”

Calm down. Don’t panic everyone.

“I’ll tell you everything. Finish Sophie’s bath.” I kissed her and pressed my forehead to hers. “But hurry.”

The worried look didn’t leave her face. Reaching into the bathroom, I grabbed a towel off the hook by the shower and went downstairs.

With shaking hands, I poured myself a glass of tea and leaned on the kitchen counter to think. Tyree was dead. I didn’t have the cross he wanted to give me. I didn’t have much of a plan except to get out of town. The hurricane was getting closer to making that impossible. The winds were bad enough on the way to Tyree’s. They’d be insane by morning.

Tyree was dead.

I rubbed my eyes. God, I had gotten someone killed . . .

I picked up the towel and sloshed my way to the laundry room to peel off my soggy clothes and dry off before heading back upstairs.

Mallory finished bathing Sophie in record time and gave her the rare treat of watching cartoons in our bed. Mallory paced back and forth in front of the dresser, biting her nails. When she saw me, she held her hands out to her sides.

Holding the towel around my waist with one hand, I lifted a finger in front of my lips with the other, going into the closet. I had already packed a small bag for the trip, but there was still plenty of stuff left to choose from. I grabbed t-shirt and shorts, and turned to go out.

Mallory blocked the closet doorway. “Tell me what the hell is going on!”

I peered over her shoulder, looking at our daughter on the bed. “Let’s go into the hallway.”

She followed me to Sophie’s bedroom door.

“It’s . . . bad news.” I watched her face tensing up. There was no easy way to say it. I took a deep breath and swallowed hard. “Tyree’s dead.”

Mallory’s hands flew to her mouth.

“Somebody met him at his office, right when I was supposed to be there. They . . . tore the place up and killed him.”

She backed up against the wall, tears welling up in her eyes.

I shook my head and leaned against the wall, rubbing my eyes. “Honey.” I put my hand on the wall to steady myself. “If I hadn’t had that dead battery, I would have been there when it happened.”

I stared at the floor, the vision of Tyree’s office rushing back to me. The yellow crime scene tape, the torn off door, the blood.

“If I had been on time.” My stomach clenched as I forced out the words. “I’d be dead, now, too.”

Mallory looked terrified, still clutching her hands to her face. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

I swallowed, regaining my breath. “I thought that whatever got him, it might come here.” I looked into her eyes. “I think we should go.”

“Let’s go.” Mallory nodded. “Right now. Let’s get the hell out of here.” She ran down the hall and into the master bedroom. “Whatever you need, grab it. Sophie and I will be in the car in five minutes!”

 


Original Chapter 39, An Angel On Her Shoulder

 

I frantically called Michele’s cell phone as I drove through the pouring rain. No answer.

I may have been distracted by a diversion. I may have gone to Tyree’s when I should have been home protecting my family. The demon could have attacked them at the house while I was gone. It was that simple.

It waited for me to leave and then stormed in, catching them unsuspecting.

I was the car driving eighty miles an hour through the rain and wind. My pulse was racing, my hands sweating as I gripped the wheel. The home phone didn’t answer, the cell phone went to voicemail.

Shit!

The streets were mainly empty, so I ignored stop signs and red lights. I drove as fast as possible back to my house. I was breathing hard, like I was running full speed.

I swerved my car onto our street. The skies were black with clouds and rain. My headlights showed the trees flinging their limbs back and forth in the screaming wind.

Suddenly, a limb broke off and landed in the road, right in front of me. I didn’t even swerve to miss it. I just drove right over it, right through it, blasting it to pieces.

I pulled into the driveway, my heart in my chest. The house looked dark. I raced up to the garage and jumped out. The door was unlocked. I ran inside and looked around. I didn’t see anyone.

“Michele!” I called. “Michele!”

There was a noise upstairs. I bounded up the stairs two at a time.

The hallway was dark. I looked into the master bedroom. Light spilled under the bathroom door and onto the carpet of the dark bedroom.

Another noise came from behind the closed bathroom door.

I ran to it, and flung it open.

“Daddy!” my daughter shouted.

From the tub.

Where she was getting a bath.

My wife turned around with a smile, washcloth in her hand. She was kneeling in front of the tub, where she had just lathered up the shampoo in my daughter’s hair into a foamy white hat.

“Hey, dad, look at me!” Savvy squealed, patting her head. “I have a hat!”

I had to hold the door frame to keep from falling down. My wife’s smile faded. “Honey, you’re dripping everywhere. You’re all wet!”

I looked down, and nearly fell down as I did.

“Are you okay,” she asked, getting up. “You’re as white as a sheet!”

I exhaled and leaned against the wall. “I just,” I started. I had nothing. There were no words.

“I…”

Michele looked concerned. “What’s wrong? What happened?” She came over to me and took my arm.

“Not in front of the baby,” I said, turning.

Baby. Savvy was almost three years old. But Michele knew what I meant: this was not for a child’s ears.

She leaned in and whispered. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” I said. She could tell by my expression that I wasn’t. “I’ll tell you everything. Finish  Savvy’s bath.” I kissed her. “But hurry.”

The worried look didn’t leave her face. I grabbed a towel off the hook by the shower and went downstairs.

I poured myself a glass of tea and leaned on the kitchen counter to think. Tyree was dead. I didn’t have the cross he wanted to give me. I didn’t have much of a plan except to get out of town. The hurricane was getting closer to making that impossible. The winds were bad enough on the way to Tyree’s. They’d be insane by morning.

Tyree was dead.

God, I had gotten someone killed…

I grabbed the towel and went to the laundry room to strip again and dry off.

Michele finished bathing Savvy in record time – something Savvy would normally be unhappy about, but Michele was letting her watch cartoons on our bed, so our daughter was placated for the moment.

I went into the closet to get some dry clothes. I had already packed a small bag for the trip, but there was still plenty of stuff left to choose from. I grabbed t-shirt and shorts, and turned to go out.

Michele blocked the closet doorway.

“Tell me what the hell is going on!” she demanded.

I peered over her shoulder, looking at our daughter on the bed. “Let’s go into the hallway,” I said.

She followed me down the hall to Savvy’s door.

“It’s bad news,” I said. “Tyree’s dead.”

Michele gasped. Her hands flew up to her mouth, silencing a scream.

“Somebody met him at his office, right when I was supposed to be there. They tore the place up and killed him.”

She backed up against the wall. Tears welled up in her eyes.

I went on. “Honey, if I didn’t have that dead battery, I would have been there when it happened. I’d be dead, too.”

Her eyes widened at that, and tears began streaming down her face.

“I thought… that whatever got him, it might come here. I think we should go.”

She nodded. “Let’s go. Right now! Let’s get the hell out of here!”

She stood up and ran down the hallway. “Put everything in the car that you need!” she shouted. “Savvy and I will be in the car in five minutes!”

 


ANALYSIS

I think we said it all on top.

Now:

head shot

Let me have your comments. The next chapters will post tomorrow but they will ALL come down shortly after February 15, so don’t dawdle!

You are readers, too. Your input will shape the final product. Be honest.

Share and reblog these! Your friends need to know this stuff, too.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – $2.99 or FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Available in paperback and audio book, too!

 

18 thoughts on “Living In Revision HELL

  1. If this were a movie, I’d have spilled the popcorn already… Dang, I loved watching the crafting of that sentence as much as I enjoyed the complete chapter unfold. Most effective was the soapy, Sophie girl… Bringing everything back into reality. I mean, since we really do not know that Tyree IS dead… But we know Doug is wet and scared.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I had to edit a short story today and I remembered what you had said earlier about choosing a word to make it more exciting and I choose “stomped” so when I read the top advice I was pleased to find you had given us an insight as to how you chose different words to up the excitement of the moment. Great. Thank you. I still don’t believe that Tyree is dead, nooooooo. Can’t wait for next chapter but I will.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This revised chapter is a nice addition to the book. Seeing the revisions in progress is a great way for beginning writers to fully understand the importance of editing. You’ve made some great changes here. Such a tense scene!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It’s amazing what you see when you look at it with fresh eyes. Flaws that you knew were never there are suddenly as obvious as an oak tree in the desert. The intensity you were sure you wrote into the scene just might not be there. And then you come back with a paintbrush and you add in the details to heighten the emotion and it improves so much it’s hard to believe you ever were happy with the first draft!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Well your first draft is a little different. The same draft went from being an early work and then you got more skills and you revisited it. With me, there was a big difference in time between those two things. My first draft of this is only as compelling as it is because I wrote all the Savvy Stories books first. Then when I went to Angel, I had already received a lot of feedback as far as storytelling. So the family parts of Angel read pretty smoothly. It was where emotion and fear and tension where needed that the story was lacking. It needed tightening and it needed the extraneous parts removed.

          So I took some time off from it to learn how to do those things – and I basically learned them in The Navigators. While I was doing Navs I was learning but I was also showing other people what I had learned and helping them; that made my visit to Angel much more like reading somebody else’s manuscript instead of my own and I was able to be much more objective.

          So going back in applying for new skills was pretty easy to do. But I let Angel rest for over a year. I am embarrassed to admit that, but I needed to learn things – and I learned them.

          Liked by 1 person

            • It was worth it, too, because as an early work – as evidenced in the “original” chapters – the story needed a lot of changes and improvements. As the “final” chapters show, I made them. That break for learning took Angel from an interesting idea with a few good scenes and a couple of interesting characters to a good story people can read and enjoy cover to cover – and one that won’t embarrass my as a published early work but one that will actually be a good foray into this genre. This is how Dan does paranormal, you know? My fans will like it and so will some fans of that genre, but without waiting, resting, learning and applying what I learned, it would have been such a monumental task to fix, it would have never gotten done. It was a mountain in my mind, and a very intimidating one. But, how you climb a mountain is one step at a time; how you eat an elephant is one bite at a time, so that’s what I did. I saw Allison fix her early works and I saw the effort she put in to take them from a little rough to really good, and I said if she can do it I can, stop being intimidated and start getting the work done. Then I spent all of January doing just that. And it felt REEEEEALLY good, too.

              Liked by 1 person

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