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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9 responses to “Writing Exercise # 3,524

  1. Thanks for the reminder. It’s okay to highlight a sentence/paragraph/page/chapter and hit delete. Lots of times, the new version is better. We need to trust ourselves, trust the people we run our manuscripts by, and trust that our already awesome work will improve if we stay flexible.

    (I don’t know about hitting DELETE on my whole manuscript tho. I think I would cry more than a little bit if I had to do that.)

    Thanks Carol!

  2. rbs

    I have been writing EVERY DAY this week. (Yes, I am proud.) And I am ready to accept this challenge! Thanks for throwing it out there.

    BTW, I presented you and Ann Dee with a blogger award – THE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS AWARD. Now, I realize this is hardly an award that you expected, petitioned for, or even wanted. But you both deserve it. And if nothing else, drop by thewritegroove.wordpress.com and see why I believe you and 4 other sites deserve such an award.

    I admire both of you so very much.

  3. Throwing away the whole first draft…

    That is so awesome. Beyond awesome!

  4. Melissa, please use the correct slang verbage when saying, beyond awesome. It’s called, Beyawesome! Yes, I have children, and yes, I watched Bolt, and yes, I love Rhino.

    I already discarded my whole manuscript. Look at me, I’m so artsy and creative and rebellious. I think I will go hug a tree and get in touch with my Zen and also my Chi, and also my therapist.

    I love you people.

    Peace out.

  5. This was the best exercise I’ve seen since…NaNoWriMo, dare I say?
    I threw away my first 5 and I LOVE my new beginning. At this rate, I’ll _have_ to throw away my novel because I’ve changed so much.

    More more more exercises like this one please! I am now going to scour your blog to see what other ones I can use…

  6. rbs

    It’s almost been a month, but I did it. I rewrote the first 5 pages, and yes, my WIP trotted off in a new direction that feels good. I thought about it a lot after Writing for Charity and chatting with ADE, and then I finally sat down and POUNDED out the 5 pages. It is better, not great, but better.

    But NO MORE STARTING OVER. I whipped up sketchy outline using CLW’s 7 plot points, and now the goal is to proceed through the middle to the end.

    Thanks again for the challenge. It was helpful. As always.

    Nightie Night.


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