I was happy to find that the writing group had responded favorably to the revised opening. The “final” revision feels like less of a re-write, though it was built up from a blank page again; the difference being that I kept one eye on the previous take, retaining the pieces that had worked and incorporating most of the notes along the way.
Team Approach – further revised beginning
Just before it dripped into his eyes, Thom Champlain wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his shirt and continued to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor he was calibrating. He did this with practiced efficiency, the product of quite a few years in the field waiting for his big break. If practiced efficiency played a bigger role than luck in this endeavor, Thom would have moved up the ranks already, instead of sweating out here in this remote canyon, miles from anyone else but Mickey Barton. But, since luck was the prime mover in his line of work, there was no instead to be had. Mickey, dressed in a camouflage shirt and wearing a red cap proclaiming Budweiser as the King of Beers that had probably been purchased at a truck stop, piped up, “Anything I can do to help out?”
Thom considered the question, but, really, Mickey had already helped by just reporting that he had seen, and acquired only slightly blurry footage of, something out of the ordinary. That was how these outings usually started, some regular Joe going about their regular day to day happened to stumble upon the weird, the unexplainable, the just not quite right. And the blurry, hastily snapped photos and cell-phone videos usually came along for the ride, even though every once in a while the footage the reporter provided was good enough to move their story up or down in the queue: up because it really might be Bigfoot or down and out because it was very clearly a very hirsute Uncle Earl romping around in the woods. So, Thom gave his traveling companion the usual “Nope, just about done here. Then we get to wait for sundown,” before resuming the task at hand.
Mickey, satisfied that he had done his duty in offering, returned to whittling a little doo-dad, a keep-your-hands-busy activity that he had picked up as a youngster. Thom, satisfied that he had deflected Mickey’s well meaning question, ran the final tests on the sensor and found it ready to go. He had already set up the multi-array camera unit, giving him both visible and infrared capture capabilities. Given the distance that they had had to traverse with backpacks, Thom could only bring in light gear. If this venture panned out, then he could request an air drop of extra items for the next phase, maybe even get a few more field agents on the scene. But that was putting a cart full of basketed eggs before a thirsty horse, since he first had to get the proof. Proof of whatever: as long as Mother Nature or human intervention didn’t explain it, it was all within the scope of the Extra-normal Research Group.
As the sun sank below the canyon rim, the light took on an eerie glow, highlighting the rock formations that studded the walls. Surely there were plenty of caves and crevices up there to hide whatever wanted to stay hidden. Thom had watched Mickey’s shaky video enough times to know that the creature it appeared to capture was about the size of a bear cub and it was easy for bears to hide themselves from prying eyes even in well traveled wilderness areas. So, it stood to reason that something else of that size, since the video pretty clearly showed a non-bear, unless bears had all of a sudden started sprouting leathery wings, could just as easily hide as well. With the equipment all set up, Thom suggested that they move downwind a hundred yards or so to wait. He had remote monitoring capabilities, so they’d know if the sensors tripped from an acceptably safe range.
This time the notes were very lasered in, as I would expect from the reviews of a piece that has gone through a few revisions: subsequent reads bring up additional items. This is one of the values of having others read your work – they will see things you don’t and offer additional perspectives.
1. Job vs endeavor? Word choices can convey the character’s feelings about their current situation, so give the reader that extra bit of info by picking well.
2. Re-read to discern voice/tone. Each character has a voice, reading the dialogue out loud to yourself can reveal inconsistencies.
3. Expand the description of Mickey whittling as comparison to Thom’s work with the sensor equipment.
4. Decisively convey the specific time-frame that is covered. Hours, minutes, etc.?
5. Thom’s motivation and frame of mind needs to be clearer.
6. One thing as a what if to consider – flip first two sentences to grab the reader.
Despite the fact that I got some very good notes on this version, the overall discussion was that it was now a good anchor point from which to go forth and to hold on to those notes as things to consider when going back through after the first draft of the entire piece was done. In other words, these are nuance items not affecting the overall story arc.
I hope that this three post series has given a glimpse into the cycle of writing->feedback->revision->feedback that often occurs within our writing group.