Friday, August 13, 2010

A Sewing Moment: For Authors

I abhor sewing. This is not a temporary little hatred due to ignorance. This is an educated passionate hatred based on nine years of 4-H clothing projects: i.e. three thousand hours of ripping, stitching, and ripping again, all to complete a product which never fit, never looked the way it did on the pattern cover, and generally, was never worn.

After nine years of being a good little committed clothing member, I effectively learned one vital lesson which every author should know.

And which, regrettably, I had to use today.

You see, today I rewrote chapter 21 of Salvation.

I expected to rewrite it.

My process for a second draft generally runs like this.

Day 1: Make decisions and plan out how the chapter from the first draft will change. Type up the changes. And print.

Day 2: Rewrite the whole draft. And make it sound good. Print.

Day 3: Count and cut three or more syllable words and adverbs. Print. Revise. Print. Revise. Print. Revise. Start throwing out pages that no longer scream “You need to revise!” Print. Revise. Print. And celebrate.

Back to today.

I was on Day 2.

Problem. It doesn’t sound good. I rewrote the whole blooming thing, and it still doesn’t sound good. Beth and I hate the first six pages of this chapter. She sits. She mopes. She does nothing.

In the planning stage, it looked fine. Theoretically, all kinds of things happen in these six pages. In reality, not so much.

After Day 1, I did what every respectable, well-behaved clothing member would do. I ripped and stitched—put in transitions, clarified the timeline, and dug more deeply into Beth’s head (really not a very pleasant place to be right now).

And after all this, I have come to grips with the reality that these six pages are the writing equivalent of a “sewing moment.”

When you rip out an entire six pages. And rewrite them all entirely by hand. And you still hate the scene. Cut the scene.

Because when you abhor something, it really is OK to quit.

This is the lesson I learned from 4-H sewing.


  1. Oh dear...but what a fantastic description of how sewing was. You forgot to put in the parts when you run outside and scream in frustration because you once again, must rip the seam out (or maybe that was just me?). Our sewing teacher would be so proud...

  2. It is times like these when we must live by the wise proverb, "If it offends you cut it off." With the exception of body parts, this is advice I usually follow.