Looking back, I don’t know what ever possessed me, a humor writer, to attempt to write a thriller. I mean, I had no clue whatsoever how to go about writing one. I had a plot idea in my head, but putting that idea into words that actually made sense and perfectly flowed turned out to be as challenging as trying to teach my dogs how to ballet dance.
About three months ago, I finished the book, sent it to the publisher and then waited for my proof copy. When the proof finally arrived, I thought it looked great, especially the eerie cover of a woman’s face in the shadows. Smiling, I grabbed a cup of tea and sat down to read my masterpiece. I didn’t think I’d find any mistakes or typos in it because I had so carefully checked and rechecked every page before I’d sent the manuscript to the publisher.
To my shock, there were so many mistakes, I began to suspect they were breeding and multiplying as I read, just to irritate me.
For example, on one page I’d written, “He walked over to the table and took a seat facing her.”
On the very next page I wrote, “Don’t just stand there,” she said, “Have a seat.”
And then, I wrote, “Meg’s green eyes locked with his blue ones.” But a few pages later, “His hazel eyes narrowed.”
The guy must have been part chameleon.
I also wasn’t pleased with the deaths in my book. As much as I tried, I couldn’t make them scary. For one thing, I had my characters die in very weird and unusual, even comical, ways. I couldn’t help it, my sense of humor kept bullying me and taking control, no matter how much I wanted the deaths to be worthy of the best Stephen King novel.
Finally, I made it through the proof copy and submitted the corrected version of my manuscript to the publisher. Then I waited for another proof. When it arrived, I decided not to read it myself. Instead, I gave it to my friend Nancy to proofread.
She read it rapidly and got right back to me.
“So what did you think of my thriller?” I asked her.
“Well, for one thing, it’s not really thrilling,” she said. “Your sense of humor kept popping up and ruining things. And the first two chapters seemed a little too rushed.”
Her husband, who also read the book, said, “I loved the surprise ending! I didn’t even guess how the story was going to end until the fourth to the last page!”
The fourth to the last page? My surprise ending was supposed to remain a surprise until the very last sentence!
So once again, I sat down to rewrite the book. I made my first two chapters move more slowly by adding more descriptions, explanations and dialogue. Then I attempted to make the deaths in the book seem more tense and frightening. I added racing hearts, beads of perspiration and shortness of breath, which actually made my murder victims sound more like victims of cardiac arrest than homicide. And I changed the pages leading up to my surprise ending to make certain no one would be able to guess it until the book’s final paragraph.
By the time I was through, I’d unintentionally increased my manuscript by 10,000 words. I had no idea if that was a good thing or a big mistake. I mean, I was afraid that by adding so much to the plot, I’d turned the book into the equivalent of a giant sleeping pill.
I also decided, after doing some serious thinking, to add a few mild curse words to the dialogue. It just didn’t sound right for a maniacal killer to be saying things like, “Oh shucks!” and “gosh darn it!” in the heat of anger.
Again, I waited for another proof copy to arrive. By then, I’d accumulated enough proof books to fuel a fire in a woodstove all winter. And once again, I started reading the book, even though I was so sick of it, I’d have preferred to be doing anything else, like getting my underarms waxed.
The more I read, the more I hated everything about the book. There was something I wanted to change on every page. So I did. That’s when I realized I couldn’t be objective any more – that even if I read my book another hundred times, I’d still change it a hundred times and not be satisfied with it.
So the book finally has been published the way it is – good, bad or otherwise. And I didn’t remove the humor from it, so I suppose it can be called a “campy thriller.”
But I’ve decided never to read it again…because I know if I do, I’ll be tempted to kill off every single character in the book…purely out of spite.
BOOKS TO BENEFIT THE SPCA
I have been asked if my humor book, “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” is still available for purchase. I also have been asked about my latest book, “Heed the Predictor.” Both books currently are available at Barnes and Noble and through Amazon.com or Smashwords.com. But if you would like a personally autographed copy of either book, they can be purchased directly from me. I, as I did last year, will donate a portion of the proceeds to the SPCA, so the animals also can have a happy Christmas. Send $10 for each book ordered, which includes shipping (USA only. If you order more than one book at the same time, each additional book is only $8.50), to me at: PO Box 585, Suncook, NH 03275-0585. Or you can send payment to me through Paypal,, where I am registered as firstname.lastname@example.org. When specifying a name for the personal autograph, please be sure to print clearly. Thank you!