Daily Archives: August 12, 2010

Writing Exercise # 3,524

You’ve just found out you have to submit the first five pages of your newest novel to the administration of an elite Writing for Children and Young Adult MFA program. You can hardly believe it! You have to get into this school. Everyone knows that anyone who has graduated from this school is rolling in the Benjamins two years out with several best sellers AND three movie deals.

So look at your first five pages. What works? What doesn’t work? Go through these first five pages with a new eye (and a pen for corrections. I suggest using someone else’s eye, too.). (I also suggest burning incense and doing all the other rituals you know big-time writers do.) (Like that one gargle-y thing.)

So you’re looking over the first five pages, right?

Find everything that is good about your work. Smile. Bow your head modestly. Think, “I am brilliant!”

Now set those pages aside and start the beginning again.
Don’t look at your old work.
If you use bits and pieces of it, well, go back and change those parts up. (I know how you are. I know you memorize parts of your own writing. You are brilliant after all!)

The flavor can be the same–as it is going on the other 421 pages of your novel–but what you should end up with is a New Beginning.

Is it better or worse?
Why? Why not?

FYI to everyone out there: Cynthia Leitich Smith writes a first draft of a book. When she gets the whole draft completed, she presses the delete button and the novel is GONE.

I’m just saying.

I know someone who has a terrific first line. This writer has worked and worked that line and polished it and hung a novel on it. A novel that doesn’t succeed. But the writer can’t get rid of the line and move on.

Yes, we are brilliant writers. But nothing we write is 24 karat gold. That’s why you can stand in front of a group of people and read your book  out loud and find things you should have cut or added. Being willing to look at your writing with the idea to CHANGE it up some, will help you get stronger as a writer.

(Aren’t you glad I didn’t ask you to throw out your whole novel like Cynthia does?)


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