REVISION OF A WIP: Step Three–Unanswered Questions


I’ve revised the script so there is a balanced amount of dialogue, exposition, and narrative. I’ve put description in it’s place, mostly in dialogue and exposition.

I worked on the individual dialogue of each character, so their voices are distinctive, and southern accent is shown more by sentence structure than misspelled words.

Now it’s time to read over the script for reader’s questions. This will be really hard, because I already know the answers to any question a reader could ask. But now I have to put myself in the reader’s shoes and read each paragraph, looking for what is not there. Right now my chapters have headers just above the text that denotes whose POV, and where and when the scene takes place. But my chapters are short and the headers are annoying.

The chapter one header lists FBI Special Agent Trey Fontaine. The body of the chapter doesn’t go into his title. The problem is, a lot of readers will skip the header, and if they do, they will assume that Trey Fontaine is a cop, because he’s at the scene of a crime, lookiing over evidence with a homicide detective.

My chapters originally had headers because I had two characters whose POV’s were in first person, so it was important that the reader know right off whose head they were in. But after more than one editor said this didn’t work for them, and then I was offered a contract if I would change one of those two characters to third person, I agreed. Now I feel the headers are in the way. My editor has the script right now and will give her opinion as to the removal of the headers. I’m leaning toward taking them out and just working in necessary info into the chapters.

While the editor is busy working on plot questions, I’m reading over the script, one paragraph at a time. Does it say all it needs to? Does it raise questions that go unanswered for too long? That’s one of my downfalls. I’ll create a question in the reader’s mind and then let it hang for so long that the reader has either forgotten it, or has become frustrated with the waiting.

This part of the revision requires that you put on a completely different hat. You have to read as if this is all new material. That’s the major reason writers put away a script and let it cool. I don’t have time to let it cool, so I’ll have to carefully consider each sentence, then each paragraph, then each page, etc.

I hope these articles are helping someone out there. I know there are tons of newbies who are fumbling through their first effort and I’d love to know I gave something to them, in return for all the help I’ve received over the years from wonderful people who were willing to share.

If you know a new writer who is struggling and needs help, please direct him or her to my blog. I know I have a lot to learn, but after all these years of writing, I do have some answers and I’d love to mentor someone who could use my help.

I’ll be back with more adventures in the revision of a WIP.

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Pay Attention To Your Local News!


Back in the ’80’s, I hated watching the news, or reading the newspaper. Nothing good ever happened and being bombarded by bad news made me feel depressed and helpless. It made me nervous to know that the economy was bad, gas prices were rising, unemployment was getting worse, and everywhere you looked, people were being shot, stabbed, burned, car-jacked, robbed…

So I quit. No nightly news. No newspapers. I lived in my own little world filled with fifty hours a week of working, raising three kids, struggling to pay the bills. The normal life.

Back then I worked third shift in a factory: in at four-thirty in the afternoon, out sometime after midnight. I had a thirty mile commute, one way, and drove a 1968 sedan with more than 300k miles on it. As long as I didn’t drive over 45mph, all was good. Faster than that and I risked blowing it up.
There is one day from back then that I will never forget. There was nothing special about the day itself. It was the night that sticks in my mind like an old movie. On the way home, I was the only car on Interstate 15, between
Riverside and Pomona. One-thirty in the morning, I was tired and hot. It was mid-summer in Riverside, California.

Interstate 15 is one of those freeways with big lights spaced every few hundred feet, but a big portion of that thirty mile stretch is pitch black beyond the circles of light on the pavement. Of course, driving that slow, I always stayed in the right-hand lane of the freeway. I looked in my rearview and noticed a light waaaaay back behind me. A minute or two later I checked the mirror again. The one light had become two. Headlights. A few minutes later they were closer and I could tell the vehicle was really coming fast. But I had nothing to worry about. My taillights worked and every few seconds my car was illuminated by the lights. Surely he would see me and change lanes.
Another look scared me. The vehicle was coming at me fast, in my lane. I started paying more attention to what was behind me than what was ahead. Closer and closer it came. I could see the driver, at least the outline of the driver. A man I thought, with short hair, kinda fuzzy.

And then it hit me. No, I mean really! The vehicle hit me! It was a mini-truck. White. With a white male driving. He pulled up beside me, looked me in the eye, then moved ahead and pulled over–you know, to exchange insurance info. When I didn’t move right over behind him, he eased up the nearest off-ramp.

My skin crawled. My foot hit the gas and I pushed old Betsy to the limit. My car was lurching and shaking and I thought it was going to fall apart right under me, until I realized that my right leg was jerking so hard on the gas petal that I was losing speed. I willed my leg to settle down and looked in the mirror.

The little white truck was coming down the on-ramp, staying behind me. The only thing I could think was that I had to get to the nearest sheriff’s dept or Highway Patrol station. He passed me again, slowed again, went up another off-ramp and came back down the on-ramp.

Then, at the next off-ramp, he got off the freeway and disappeared.
Everything after that was a blur. I arrived home–somehow–rushed inside and locked the door. Then I grabbed a glass and poured myself a glass of wine. I was shaking so badly, it was hard to drink without spilling.
My husband woke and saw my condition. He sat up and asked what was wrong. I explained, in between gulps.

“Call the cops. Right now.”

I didn’t want to. But I did. I called the police department and explained to the nice lady what happened. Halfway through my description of the incident, the lady asked, “Was it a truck?”

“Yes.”

“A little white truck?”

That scared me more. “Yes.”

“Did you see the driver?”

I described what I’d seen.

“I need you to call the sheriff’s department. Here’s the number.”

So I did. And went through the same scenario.

And again, “Was it a truck?”

“Yes.”

“A mini-truck?”

“Yes.”

“White?”

“Yes.”

“Did you see the driver?”

Again, I described the man.

“Are you okay? Are you safe?”

“Yes.”

“I need you to call the Highway Patrol. Here’s the number.”

She hung up.

“What the hell is going on here?” I asked my husband.

“There’s been a serial killer attacking women late at night on Interstate 15, between Riverside and Pomona. He’s killed three women. The fourth managed to live, and give a description. I’ve been telling you to pay attention to the news. I’ve told you about this man. Make the call.”
So I did. The Highway Patrol was very interested in my call.

And from that point on, I was very interested in the local news.
They never caught the man. He killed a couple more times and then disappeared, no doubt to some other area. I finally came to terms with how I knew. God had to have been whispering in my ear. Go! Don’t stop!

So when you read my books about serial killers and wonder how I come up with such wicked, twisted characters, read the local news. You’ll see them there. And I hope that’s the only place you see them.