Cut, Paste, Sigh. And, Repeat.

Since last Friday, I’ve done a lot of reading and reflecting on the novel that I am trying to write. This novel writing business isn’t easy.

During the last week, I flipped through – and clicked through – several great articles on theme and irony, character goals, and ways to breathe life into your story. My recent post on theme and irony stirred up a flurry of comments and more great information from Lydia Sharp. As well, the March issue of The Writer has turned out to be a wealth of information for a fledgling novelist like myself.

I say “fledgling,” because I wavered back and forth between thoughts that “this thing will never fly” to the word that pops up almost every other day in conversations on writing: persistence.

I highlighted the title of my novel and marked it as “temporary.” And (almost kicking and screaming), I went back to the beginning of the draft. I dropped in a brand new opening scene. Then, today, instead of diving into a rewrite of the next chapter, I took out chunks of the story that suddenly switched up the plot (like when the main character’s mom died, no she didn’t, yes she did…CUT). And, I started making an outline.

Starting with an outline would likely make for a smoother rewrite in the future. Now, I know. As a writer, I feel myself growing in all directions. I am reminded again of a quote from one of my favorite writers, Margaret Atwood:

A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about. But this is not the same as “being a writer.” Or, to put it in a more sinister way: everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger. The latter takes a good deal more stamina and persistence (26).

There’s that word again. Anyone can find inspiration for a story, but it takes perseverance (and a willingness to go back to the beginning) for that story to take root and flourish.

This novel continues to be my exercise in developing plot, character, and structure, as well as in sticking with a project until the end. Even if the story never gets published, I will be a different writer once I put the manuscript down for good.


Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. New York: Anchor Books, 2002. Print.


6 responses to “Cut, Paste, Sigh. And, Repeat.

  1. Christi, This was a great post. It takes a lot of courage to cut, paste and edit like you did. Thanks for the links, I learned so much going through them!

  2. Elizabeth, I’m glad the links were helpful. The Writer has been a great resource since the first month I subscribed!

  3. May I add one of my favorite words to describe the flip side of “never fly”: perserverance. That word you need after persistance. You’ll need it after you have persisted to complete the novel as a way to overcome the let down of possible rejections.

  4. Great quote, and now you’ve made me want to read Negotiating with the Dead.

  5. It’s a great book, that’s for sure!

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