Chapter 1, It was a dark and stormy night

You would collectively laugh your asses off if you could see me now. It’s me or this organization, and I don’t mean the mob. I got to rest on my laurels for a few brief seconds. I had some actual new ideas about organization. I had written every day for 10 days. I went to [neighboring state] for a brief vacation. Phew.

But my day’s editorial work is finished and I have no excuse not to try to organize my manuscript. I printed out the first 72 (single spaced!) pages of my manuscript, and began to read. Then I began to cut. Literally. I got out my scissors and a stack of paper clips (because I’m too lazy to go downstairs to get the tape).

I marked each scrap of paper with the chapter it originally came from and gleefully stuck it with parts of different chapters. I separated paragraphs that have never existed apart from each other. I deleted the cute end sentences of my essays chapters.

When I finished chapter 1, I opened a pad of sticky notes to slap a big ol’ Chapter 1 on that badly cut, flimsy pile of papers. (I had my choice between the OMG or Duh notes, both of which I received from my brother-in-law for Christmas last year. I chose “Duh” because that is what organization feels like once you get it right.)

I’m in writer’s kindergarten today. How are your cutting skills? Do you still eat paste?

This post is dedicated to Snoopy, one of my favorite terrible writers


14 responses to “Chapter 1, It was a dark and stormy night

  1. Social scientists often use techniques such as you described. If they are doing thematic analysis, they may use fancy software that allows them to underline bits, flag them with intelligible-only-to-the-researchers annotations, and clip them back together again. But, they may also use highlighters, with different colours for different themes. they then can go through their transcripts, clipping things into little strips and moving them around until they have islands of fluorescent colours. Kind of like jigsaw puzzle.

  2. I don’t eat paste, but I highlight proper names in my outline, and gray out the non-specific names of characters so I can keep them straight.

    I also keep a document of Bits and Pieces that I remove, so I don’t feel so bad about taking them away . . .

  3. Great way to see recurring themes you didn’t even know were there, redundant bits, etc. When I write nonfiction now it’s just a brain dump… and then the scissors come out.

  4. Because I am strapped to such a strict word count, cutting is as easy as a deep sigh and not nearly as dramatic. If it’s a darling I might save it somewhere but usually I figure if it’s good enough to save it’s good enough to recall.

    Because I remember the whole, change one word and you had to retype the entire page way, I just love, copy, paste, highlight, move, delete, save, and all that writery stuff. Makes the process so much easier, ah wait. did I say easier…go ahead, poke me with a pencil

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