A Mess of Words

The flowers left by the property manager were a nice touch, but they stood stick-straight in a vase. I decided to pull them out and arrange them into something more decorative. The only problem? The house we were renting had no scissors with which to trim the stems. I was not yet so desperate as to use a knife, so I left them as they were.

Soon, though, the lack of scissors would become a problem.

I was on my semi-annual writing retreat. After writing over two hundred pages about my Camino last year, I had all but abandoned the project, overwhelmed by the prospect of turning it into something with structure and purpose that others might want to read.

Wandering Malaprop’s a couple months ago, my eyes stopped on the book “Blueprint Your Bestseller.” I had no intention of writing a bestseller, but I was definitely curious when I saw the author would be speaking at the store next week. I skimmed the first few pages of the book. It was written for people who had a minimum of a hundred pages or so and didn’t know what to do next. I love when I come across books written just for me. So I bought it and dug in.

Step 1: Make a list of every scene in your book without looking at your manuscript. Ha. This should be good.

Steps 2 & 3: Highlight the “good” scenes on our list in green .. . Highlight the “bad” scenes on your list in pink. Okay. That was hard, but I did it.

Step 4: Go back through your manuscript and identify your “forgotten” scenes.  Ugh. Are you kidding me? I’ve got two hundred pages here! And every time I start looking through them, I want to hop a plane to Spain. So much for this idea.

At some point, I read that you don’t really have a book until you print it out. So I determined I was going to face those two hundred pages–in the flesh. Which required me to buy some printer ink. And some paper. This was turning into quite a project. So as not to make it feel like burdensome homework, I bought purple paper–printing black on white brought back too many memories of college lab reports.

Soon after printing I was able to answer the question, “What’s more intimidating than knowing you have two hundred pages to read through?” Seeing those two hundred pages in a huge pile on your coffee table. There they sat.

I determined I would continue the steps in the book on my writing retreat. And here I am. Yesterday, I listed every darn scene (since I seem to have misplaced the first list I’d created months ago). I lost track of the number of times my mind wandered to thoughts of doing another Camino. Would I walk the route from Le Puy this time? Or from Oviedo? And I want to volunteer at a hostel while I’m there. Or should I volunteer at the Pilgrim office in St. Jean? If I walk in France first, I can get my French back up to speed so I can use it at the Pilgrim office . . . 

The next task, once I pulled myself away from thoughts of planes across the Atlantic, was to literally cut my manuscript into scenes. Oh. My. God. Seriously? Crap. Now I really needed scissors. Lois and I headed to Wal-mart. She wasn’t going to let a lack of office supplies stop me.

Mission: Procrastination
Mission: Procrastination

Upon our return, I did an excellent job of procrastinating and now have two lovely flower arrangements to show for it.

Eventually, though, I dug in. And guess what? Cutting up a manuscript means reading through the whole darn thing again. Well, okay, skimming, but still. It has taken me hours. I was nearly finished when I came upon the blog posts I wrote while on the Camino. Thirty pages of them. Single spaced. Seriously Rebecca? Who knew one woman could write so much. (Yes, I know. I have a blog with years of writing on it. That still shocks me, too.)

So here is the state of my room. Purple pages cut into pieces, labeled with scene names. Part of me is eager to finish this step. Part of me doesn’t want to for fear what’s next!

Scene from a Writing Retreat
Scene from a Writing Retreat

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jenn b. says:

    Come on, girlie! We’re rooting for you! Much like the camino, every step can be light and fun, or heavy and wearisome. Both are just as valid. Both count just as much toward reaching your goal. Little goals, like the next hill or next town, build up to huge, unfathomable achievements.

    Besides, we are all living vicariously. We have our own caminos and our own procrastinations. You help us with your humor, grace, and words, while documenting your own struggles and joys. Carry on, my wandering friend!

  2. Chris says:

    Hope the mess of words doesn’t turn into a mess of pottage ……

  3. Wait, wait! What happened after Step 5? The suspense is killing me over here!! 🙂
    Hope all is well, Rebecca!

    1. Got to step 18, then had to head home from the retreat:( Made lots of progress for sure. Had my writing group critique 18 pages and they, without my indicating it, totally got “what my book is about”. THAT was thrilling!

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