He’d barely gotten home, sat down, cracked a beer, and I asked my husband, what are those two-wheeled carts called? The things delivery guys stack beer on and push into places. A handcart? No, he said, that’s something else. A dolly? A hand truck? Yes, that sounds right.
And he knew right away: Are you writing your story? he asked.
Yes. I miss it, I said.
I missed my story. It had been awhile. I found myself reading stuff I had, to my great interest, forgotten I’d written. It was easy to visualize the first couple of scenes. The locations were right there in my head.
I briefly acknowledged the all-too-familiar first scene, then turned my attention to the new-ish second scene. Its first sentence bounced_it was a better book opener. Moved the scene up. I tried to smile and grimaced instead_I’d been to the dentist earlier in the day_and read a little further.
A couple months or so ago I’d used a technique from How to Write Killer Fiction, by Carolyn Wheat. I thought it would appeal to my tendency to compartmentalize and list-make: print out the doc, cut it up by scene, and rearrange the pieces. The process revealed contradictions. I saw ridiculous, overwritten tripe. I detected some order and a bit of lovely pacing.
I ended up with two piles: one for discards, and one for keepers. I found surprising satisfaction in placing my words_some babies among them_into the let-it-go stack.
I marked each pile so I had no excuse for revisiting the discards, at least for this book. I started a new doc and pasted the keepers in my new order, albeit inelegantly. And the stacks sat on the end table by the couch. Eventually they got buried by the style guides of various publishers I do freelance editorial work for. The new, patchwork, clumsily and variously formatted manuscript sat on my hard drive. And occasionally I thought about where the story goes from here.
A couple weeks ago I had a quiet moment with my story and made the formatting uniform. It was filler activity, but it was needed. OK, so the stroll I took through all the Word typefaces to find a compelling one for my creativity_the ms didn’t need it, but I did.
Today, then, that impulse to open up my manuscript was rewarded with a pleasing presence of words. It was nice to see them again. Let’s not wait so long the next time.