Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cutting an essay

Today I procrastinated. Checked Facebook. Played with Papa. Sprayed the bathroom mold with a bottle of bleach. Flipped through old magazines so I could recycle them. Tried a new recipe for flourless chocolate cookies. Checked the status of the bleaching campaign (mold is dissolving sans scrubbing!). Checked Facebook again. Ate cookies. (They're delicious, by the way. The recipe is worth trying.)

Finally, I could not avoid working on the essay I’m sending to my writing group. I insisted on having a deadline — to motivate me. (If you’re not a writer, no need to read on. There is probably nothing less interesting than learning about My Process.)

My fellow editor Hal once suggested cutting and pasting. Literally. I love this idea. It seems especially valuable when you have good writing mixed in with mediocre stuff.

So I chopped up a copy of my essay. And stapled. And organized. I stood at the dining room table moving the pieces, a reminder that writing is active. That’s hard for me to remember when I’m reclining on my couch, Papaya’s head nuzzled against my pink bathrobe.

My first cut: throwing away the title. I’ve always hated it. It says nothing and is uninteresting. (Um, hopefully it doesn’t reflect my essay.)

Other things I did: Removed the paragraphs with too much backstory. I tried to keep the forward-story stuff. And made notes in the margins summing up what the grafs were about and how they forwarded the story. I also wrote some new thoughts on scraps of paper.

I reworked transitions and did some rewriting. Overall, it's better. And shorter by over 300 words. I'd call this a productive day.

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