Yesterday, 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.