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!