It was a little rough going last night. I had a hard time with the rereading/editing. The prose is much more refined here, the dialogue sharper, but the things that nagged at me were big things: too repetitive, too unlikeable, and I found myself bogged down in those adjustments.
Which is okay—I tell myself today, looking at things more objectively, out of the moment. This is the work that needs to be done. And if it was slow-going and I didn’t accomplish everything I planned, so what? This writing retreat gets to be whatever it wants to be.
I wrote until about 10 a.m., then decided to take a shower, just to clear my head more than anything else. I don’t intend to set foot outside again until checkout time tomorrow at 11 a.m., so it’s not like anyone will see me.
And then, in the shower, it hit me.
It was just a line: It began with… and suddenly I was rewriting the whole first section of the book in my head. All those parts that nagged at me, those well-articulated but somehow wooden scenes. They needed to be condensed, written almost like microfiction—four short, snappy vignettes.
There was no time to blow dry my hair. I put back on the clothes I had just shucked off and ran into the other room for my laptop. It began with Simon’s headache…
The result, two hours later, was the kind of math that might make sense to no one but a writer. I condensed thirty-nine pages of prose into six pages and the result is a very little sort of miracle. The story starts sooner, doesn’t get bogged down in scenes that contain one flashback after another. Basically, the introduction gets out of the way in service of the story. And even though the new beginning needs a close editing eye and a few select details may need to creep back in—it’s good.
It’s funny—this piece nagged at me for a long time. And it was the opening part of the book, so I saw it every time I double-clicked on the file. I’d workshopped the opening with my writing group, did a sort of beta-test on some unsuspecting readers, sent it to my agent, and even though it felt like there wasn’t much enthusiasm, I didn’t get a specific sense of what was wrong.
Now I know.
It just needed to be scrapped.
At 1:32 p.m., the rain started. And how.
And for some reason, this made me horribly homesick. Three days is a good amount of time for me—four days without much contact with the rest of the world is a bit too much. How did Annie Dillard do all that time in the cabin, with nothing but Rimbaud and a dying moth? I text Will, who reports that he has picked up our dogs from their spa stay with my parents. (They tend to get a little spoiled there, what with all the dog walking and lap-sitting and ball-throwing.) They’re at home now, the three of them, and I’m still here, and it’s raining, and dammit, I just have to do this.
Rewritten, revised opening chapters—13,545 words.
One more morning, and it’s back to real life.
Paula Treick DeBoard