It’s been about three weeks since I last shared the progress on editing my novel, Nothing Really Bad Will Happen. After moving along quickly, I finished reviewing the entire document and revised my Plottr outline, adding new scenes where needed, moving a few, and deleting others. Now that the outline was done I could begin the rewrite.
Part One: Where I stand now
I was so pleased with myself! My goal was to complete the outline in time for Lynn Palermo’s February Writing Challenge. I completed much of the draft during last year’s challenge. Also thanks to the challenge, which encourages participants to write daily for 28 days, I now have a well-developed writing habit. I was ready to meet this year’s challenge!
February 1 arrived. My motivation to write was nowhere to be found. What the heck? Why wasn’t I raring to go? I thought about this for a while, finally acknowledging I was avoiding the daunting task of restructuring a large number of scenes. Last year (and the year before!) I was writing new scenes. The creativity involved in that was exciting—like building a new house—each step in the process helps make the final product become more real.
But I’m not building a new house this year, I’m restructuring one. Now I understand why it’s sometimes more expensive to rebuild than to start fresh from the ground up. It is not easy to move rooms (scenes) within an existing footprint (story) in order to create better flow. When you first start it’s so difficult to imagine how everything will fit together.
And then there’s the emotional component. You worked so long and hard to put up that wallpaper (first draft). How can you even contemplate ripping it down and throwing it away? Answer—because it no longer fits. It no longer serves the original purpose.
Once I figured this out, I was no longer paralyzed. I could move forward. In the last week, I wrote the newest version of the Prologue and Chapters 1 and 2. The original Chapter 1 has been chopped up and will be dispersed across subsequent chapters. The new Chapter 1 has moved from its old position as Chapter 2 and begins with a new scene. The first part of Chapter 2 remained intact but with added details that hopefully shows action rather than tells about it. The second part will become much of the story told in the to be rewritten Chapter 3.
I’m feeling better. I’m still struggling with the prospect of losing much of what I wrote in Chapter 1, but I definitely can see it’s already a more interesting read. A couple more chapters of scene reorganization and then I’ll be at a point where, at least for a while, I’ll be focusing on redecorating (improving the writing) rather than rebuilding!
Part Two: Letter to Sigmund
This letter was inspired by the Day 1 Writing Prompt for Lynn Palermo’s February Writing Challenge.
I know we must have met. but I was 2 years old when you passed so, have no memory of that My impression of you was formed by pictures of you looking stern and imposing and a few stories my mother told me. She said you listed your occupation as “Expert” on your business card and that you drank orange juice out of a silver goblet every morning. She also told me you were so opposed to her parents marrying that you considered sending your son (her father) to South America. When they considered having a child you traveled to where they were on holiday, supposedly determined to interfere.
What was that about?
I have spent the last few years digging deeply into your story—a respected hatmaker and business owner who lost everything when Hitler arrived on the scene in Vienna. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that your story needed telling. At times, I felt guilty about the negative way I was portraying you. Then I’d find some evidence that corroborated my words. As I developed your character for my book, I began to see similarities between us.
We’re both stubborn. One of my colleagues once told me I was “like a dog with a bone.” Your obsession with gaining reparations for your losses might be described the same way. And like you, I can appear “stern.” My students would remark that I didn’t smile much. Which was weird because I often was in a pretty good mood. I thought about that for a while and finally figured out why. I was lost “in my head,” focused on thinking about “whatever.” I’d bet the same was true for you, too. Another characteristic we share is the need to always be right. Well, actually that’s not so much a need, but a fact. We are almost always right! The problem for us is our need to be sure everyone knows we are right!
Your assertion that “nothing really bad will happen” was based on historical evidence. I too, rely heavily on past experience to make decisions rather than let my heart be my guide. Sometimes that affects my relationships, as it did for you. Other times, it serves as a coping mechanism. I wonder if that was true for you as well. I wish I knew more about your early life. What did you experience that shaped your personality? That made you cut all ties with your family at a young age? What drove you to be an “expert?” That, perhaps, is the most glaring difference between us. To you, it was business and reputation first. To me, family is my number one priority.
Understanding our similarities has helped me write your story with more compassion than I might have otherwise. You made some difficult, often unpopular decisions. I may not have gone the same route, but I can understand how you came to make those choices.
Thank you for persevering. Your strength became my grandfather’s strength, and in turn, that strength served your granddaughter, my mother, well during some very difficult years. You see? You were right! Nothing really bad did happen! Our family survived. We are still here. And now, your story will be told.