“When are you going to finish that book you’re writing,” my neighbor asked only days after I received the same question from a critique group member.
“I’m working on it,” I say for the umpteenth time. Umpteen—a word I learned years before it made its courageous journey into mainstream acceptance—describes my revision process for Next of Kin.
Sergeant Gavin O’Sullivan, one of my familiar characters, has changed until he’s hardly recognizable. Once laid back and chatty, now he’s determined to shape up his deputies.
“No more swearing on the job,” he orders. “You’re professional law enforcement officers. Act like it.” Captain Luis Rojas, O’Sullivan’s commander, listens from the hallway and remembers when he gave rookie O’Sullivan that same reprimand twenty years earlier.
I stare at these words on my computer screen. “You can’t get away with this,” I tell O’Sullivan. “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be here.” Before I can say umpteen, the editor in me wipes out this scene with quick computer strokes.
My critique group reads the revised version and offers constructive advice. “The sergeant is too lightweight. He needs to be firm—to show his authority. After all, O’Sullivan is responsible for the deputies in his charge.”
Okay, sergeant. You’ve swayed my critique group but now you have to convince me.
I revisit this scene for the umpteenth time and edit to make O’Sullivan stronger, but not brutal. It’s a giant step, but I chant a mantra from one of the critique members. With a little “luck and wisdom” and a bit of chocolate, this could be my last revision for this scene.