Rough Patches

Though I vowed to make no New Year’s resolutions this year, I did make one. For both Husband and self: no more papers, mail and miscellaneous junk allowed on our kitchen table! To provide an incentive, I covered the table (from Neil’s Grandma and Grandpa Hawley’s farmhouse) with a lovely hand-made lace tablecloth, created by Neil’s Swedish grandma, Hattie Larson. I set a bowl of narcissus bulbs I’d forced and a pair of pineapple candlesticks from Neil’s mom in the center of the table. I’m hoping the family memories and spare look will be enough to repel the stray bits of ephemera that end up on our doorsteps each day.

When I got to looking more closely at the tablecloth, however,
the patch to the right jumped out at me. I can only imagine frugal Hattie running out of ecru cotton, using up some other she had around, giving the tablecloth a dash of ten white wagon wheels.

I have done the same thing with my writing, trying to work in stuff that’s too good to “waste.” For example, in Hattie Big Sky, I know the chicken dunking scene is not essential to the story. But when I read about a homesteader doing that very thing, I couldn’t resist weaving it in.

Yesterday, however, my 562 words (I know, I know — not up to my usual!) all went to creating a scene that had power, passion and worked in an historical element I think is fascinating. Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, I realized that that scene would stand out from the rest of the story even more sharply than Grandma Hattie’s ten white wheels in our off-white tablecloth. Now, I have often relied on Sid Fleischman’s great advice: “if there’s a hole in your story, point to it.” And I spent about an hour trying to convince myself this scene was a hole and that I could find a way to point to it so that I could keep it.

But I have to be honest and admit it’s not a hole and it doesn’t have the charm and warmth of Grandma Hattie’s “mistake.” It’s more like a ruffle tacked on a tuxedo and if I don’t rip it off, it’ll ruin the whole book.


Time to reset the word counter and get back to work!

No Responses to “Rough Patches”

  1. Suzanne Williams

    Hugs, Kirby. Maybe you’ll re-read that section a week from now and decide it fits after all. Sometimes writing makes you feel like pulling your hair out, no? But the serene times make it all worthwhile.

  2. Sarah Miller

    IMO, 562 is extremely fabulous and pride-worthy. In fact, I cheer anything over 150.

    (And either blogger hates me tonight, or I’ve already posted this stinking comment umpteen times…)

  3. Cuppa Jolie

    That’s a great resolution…I wish I could put such things on my kitchen counter. How do papers get away like that? Maybe we could just do away with the paper.

    I hope you’ll let us know what happens to the scene you wrote. If it’s for sure being ripped away or maybe is salvaged somehow.

  4. Lori Van Hoesen

    I had a similar experience and have, for now, removed my word counter from my blog. I can’t stand to roll it back. Perhaps it’s not what I should use for a rough draft anyway. :o) I’m going back to my two pages a day ritual and stop trying to work faster.

    Can’t wait to read your finished product!

  5. Emilie

    Why is history so fascinating? It sure wrecks havoc with trying to tell a focused story:) Best of luck as you keep plugging along!

  6. Mrs. F-B's Books Blog

    My husband and I decided no more clutter on the kitchen table a few years ago, and I found this awesome little tabletop three drawer cabinet (it’s about 13″ wide by 10″ deep by 10″ high or so). We use the top drawer for today’s mail, and the second and third drawer are one for his papers and one for my papers. It seems to help a lot. Good luck!

  7. Kirby Larson

    Oh, Mrs. F-B,

    Where did you find such a treasure? I fear, however, that 10″ isn’t quite enough for a writer and an accountant, two professions notorious for the proliferation of paper.