Rewriting: Cutting Things Apart

scissorsYesterday, I talked about starting from scratch when a rewrite won’t come together.   Today, I’m adding a footnote.  There are times starting from scratch doesn’t make sense.  

Many of my nonfiction articles are based on interviews.   I start the writing process by selecting the quotes I plan to use and assembling them in a logical order.  Sometimes it doesn’t work out and after the second or third draft it becomes clear that the article in this form simply will not sing. 

But I don’t want to trash the quotes or the paragraphs that I’ve built around them.  Not the paragraphs that work. 

So I print out a copy of my horrid article.   I take a notebook, scissors, tape and a pen and leave my office.   By now, I usually have a better idea what order will work and I make a quick outline.   If my original lead won’t work, I write a new one.   Then I find the section that should follow the new lead.  Snip, snip, snip.  Whatever text works, including quotes, I cut out and tape down.  I write the supporting text with my handy dandy pen and then go on to the next section.  Some sections endure very little change.  For others, I may have two handwritten pages.

I can’t tell you exactly why this works for me when cutting and pasting on screen don’t.  But it does work.

Next time you get stuck on a rewrite, this may be the technique that gets you going again.