Remembering What I Love about Writing

This week, I broke a rule. A rule I have told other writers, loud and often, not to break.

I started over.

I spent some time in the fall putting words on pages. I went back and forth between writing scenes and reading research books. I got close to a hundred pages written. They weren’t bad. They probably qualified as the stuff that Anne Lamott says we need to get out of us, before we can revise. There was one problem.

I wasn’t happy.

Note I didn’t say that I wasn’t happy with the pages. I just wasn’t happy. I wasn’t enjoying any of the process. Oh, I’d write a few paragraphs in a voice that was fun, or I’d describe a bit of setting that looked pretty good. But I wasn’t being pulled back to write more, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending time with my MC. Who, frankly, is a pretty awesome person.

So I backed up. I spent November and December plotting the order of scenes, getting a much better idea of things that can happen in the middle, and starting to see a glimpse of how my two history threads (that DO intersect in reality) might intersect in my MC’s life. I spent time with each of my characters, trying to discover each of their goals, and I got closer. By the end of the year, I felt like I had a much stronger sense of the story.

And it had very little to do with what I’d written.

So I started over. Chapter 1, Scene 1, Page 1.

I’m slowing myself down, putting down some basic points for each scene before I start writing. Letting myself pause and think as I write, keeping in mind those character goals I thought about last month. I’m pushing myself to keep the dramatic action/conflict coming, even when I know I’ll have to amp it up later. Honestly, if you took the 100 pages I wrote this fall and compared them to the 100 pages I’m going to write in the next couple of months, I’m guessing they wouldn’t look that different. The characters and actions would probably look the same, and it’s probable that the new 100 pages won’t be any better, not from the outside.

But guess what? I’m happy again. The love is back, the feeling that this writing is THE thing I want to do with my life, no matter where it takes me on the “success” path. And I know that this is a story I want to tell.

Now I’m not planning on breaking this rule again. I still believe that too much time playing with words and phrasing at this point, in a first draft, can be a disasterous form of procrastination. But…as I get older, I’m learn (I hope!) some flexibility. I’m learning to listen more to myself, to my mind and my gut, and to take a few more chances that they might be right.

So, here and now, I give you permission to break a rule. Okay, let’s not make it one that lands you in prison with no writing time, but look for a little one that’s been bugging you. What have you heard in the past year about how to write, how not to write, that just isn’t working for you? What do you want to try instead–even if only for a few days, to check it out? Go for it…I’d love to see what happens!


  1. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Often, what works for one project doesn’t work for another project. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard writers say, “I wrote this book this way, but that book that way …”


    • beckylevine says:

      I know, Jenn. And it’s not like I’ve got all that many established patterns, from so many book! It feels good just to be on a path that feels right. πŸ™‚


  2. Dawn Simon says:

    I’m glad you’re happy again! I think that really matters. Not only will you want to come back to your desk and write, but I bet it will show up on the page. πŸ™‚


    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Dawn! I think I will show up more, and I think the difference will be that, when I get to the end of the draft, I’ll have a lot better idea of what I’m doing next!


  3. Rose Green says:

    The same “rule” you broke is one I have to break all the time. If I just write without looking back, I lose the wonder of the story, I get off track, and I just don’t have the time to really get inside that character and know what makes him/her tick. So that’s a rule that I often break. I tried doing NaNo and it wasn’t good because of that very thing. Now that I’ve had some distance from it, I’ve gone back, changed the setting, and just spent some time rewriting things so I can get a different window on what’s happening. And I sure like it better!


    • beckylevine says:

      I think I was sort of in a Nano-mood, even though I wasn’t doing the actual thing. It just felt too rushed! Glad your book is going well. πŸ™‚


  4. Lori W. says:

    Perfect post for me today. I was 30,000 words in, had done tons of character journaling but knew I’d started in the wrong place, didn’t have a big enough challenge for my MC to overcome, etc. Never ever been an outliner, but it’s working for this. And yes, it appears I’ll be starting over.

    Also love your Friday Five book list.


    • beckylevine says:

      I need to outline–I found that out for sure this time around! Is there some stuff you’ll be able to keep, put in a different place? Good luck on the restart.

      Glad you like the booklist–what’s on yours?


  5. I’m so glad you broke a rule and found the love again!


  6. Amy G. says:

    I often get a few chapters in and then find it absolutely necessary to start over. It’s almost as if I need to meet the characters on the page before I can really understand what the story is.

    (And I used to think this was a terrible failing on my part — till I heard of other writers who did this!)

    Sometimes breaking a rule is the right thing to do.


    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Amy. You’re right-it always feels good to hear that someone else has gone through the same thing. πŸ˜‰


  7. beth says:

    I’ve done this once.


    I hope you find it productive, too!!


  8. Whatever works is what I always say. Of course I usually am only able to say that to other people and not apply it to myself. :0


  9. Claudine says:

    I want to find just the right words to tell you how great I think this is. I think you are getting to the heart of your vision (or something really profound like that :).
    Good job!


    • beckylevine says:

      I hope so, Claudine. Profound sounds good to me. At the very least, I think I’m the right track for now, which I’ll definitely take! Thanks. πŸ™‚


  10. solvangsherrie says:

    Oh, you rebel rouser!
    Some stories take time before they completely gel. I’m glad to hear you’re falling in love with it again.


  11. Barrie Summy says:

    I think we writers must be some kind of crazy! And, yet, when the story is flowing, it all feels right. πŸ˜‰ Glad to hear you’re back on track.


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