Radical Rewrite, Day 4

Yesterday I took a pile of editing and a pile of notes and went to the coffeeshop in nearby SnootyTown. Sometimes I need a change of scene and SnootyTown has a grocery store I like. In addition to a change of scene, I also needed groceries. I gingerly parallel parked between an SUV and a Mercedes (don’thittheMercedes, don’thittheMercedes) and tucked myself into the back of the cafe with my two piles and a good cup of coffee.

I am trying to write a summary of what happens in each chapter a la Anne Lamott. I have my first scene, but there are a thousand places I can go after that. Which is the best? I want to tell you all these things all at once. How can I choose? They all belong! I gnashed my teeth, stared out at the gray afternoon, and secretly judged all the SnootyPantses around me.

(I do this a lot. Who are these people who have nowhere else to be on a Thursday afternoon? And I am aware that I am a giant hypocrite. Moving along.)

Driving home, I felt only disgust and despair. Anne Lammott says she wrote 500-1000 words on each chapter. I had written 200 words, and they fizzled into nothing, unable to support their own weight or continue with their own momentum. How would I ever get this shit done? Bleargh. At least I had tortillas.

Maybe I was asking too much of myself. “DP, maybe I should just try to write 250 words every day. Eventually I have to get a chapter that works, right?”

“Mm-hm,” DP said, secretly hoping I would go away and leave him to listen to his Smithsonian Folkways music in peace.


That’s when the epiphany hit. (And, thank god, I really needed an epiphany.) Don’t start with the first chapter. The beginning is always the hardest. And so I wrote 200 words about the second chapter. I haven’t read them this morning, but they came easy. I knew what I was heading in the right direction; I didn’t have to commit hari kari on my thumb drive just yet.

What keeps you from throwing yourself on your sword?

And don’t forget to enter the Kill your Darlings contest!


3 responses to “Radical Rewrite, Day 4

  1. What keeps me from throwing myself on my sword? Sheer inertia. I’m too lazy. I hit the wall in my writing (and on long runs) all the time. Dissatisfaction seems to be my steady state. Insurmountable plot or theme problems my constant companions. I suppose there are techniques for dealing with this, workarounds or such, but I usually just rely on either powering through or putting aside (for now). I am what I am.

  2. I didn’t know what my first chapter really was for 4 years. Which I wish I’d known earlier. And just because that many words is Ann Lamott’s process, doesn’t mean it’s yours. Write what you can and move on.

  3. I tell myself I just have to do something every day. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, as long as I keep moving forward.

    I still fall on my sword sometimes, though. Luckily it’s only pen-sized and the wound isn’t fatal.

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