It started with a sound. A stuttering series of clicks and taps. This was followed by a more deliberate string of stronger taps, almost thuds. It sounded like somebody knocking on a door.

It came from the door to the garage.

What the hell? Johnny put down the book he was reading and looked up. He didn’t hear anything. An irritated frown crossed his face and he settled back into the leather easy chair with a comforting creak.


The first rivulet of worry, thin and diluted, flowed into his veins. In a single motion he push-kicked the recliner to an upright position and folded down the top corner of the page. …

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The first shoe missed. The second one clipped him in the shoulder and tumbled to the pavement with a soft thump.

“God damn you, sonufabitch!” Mr. Johnson roared. His eyes were wide and wild, his lips curled up as high as they might go. The rotund man stood in his stocking feet on the top step of the run-down flophouse where Sam had racked up three months of unpaid rent.

Across a narrow stretch of grass, Sam watched this outburst with a faint grin. He held his battered suitcase in one hand and with the other, he pointed at his apoplectic ex-landlord. …

I discovered that I read and edit in a completely different way when I’m looking at a computer screen versus when I’m holding a hard copy in my hands. It’s no doubt the reliance on technology, with spelling and grammar checking, and word counts and blah blah. When I am holding those rustling sheets of paper though, I slow down and experience so much more.

Hence the title. If you’re having trouble with a chapter or maybe just want to get a few of your first chapters as tight as they can be, try printing them out. It helps if you can punch ‘n bind them as well, for the sake of staying organized. …

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