Stubbornly arguing with the writing wisdom of the ages

Yesterday before going to my writing group, while in the shower, where all creative thought originates, I started thinking about my novel's opening paragraph. I admit to you now that I love my opening paragraph. It makes me really, really proud. One day if someone whose work I admire reads it and is not enthusiastic, unless I develop thicker skin in the interim, I will be crushed. But this is not about my need to develop a thicker skin. This is about revising my beloved opening paragraph in the shower. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There's one part of my opening that's bothered me. I don't hate it, but as with many things, I know it can be better. I started playing a sentence over in my head until a glimmer of insight hit me. Suddenly the needed change had appeared before me, as if by magic.

Which is how it came to be that when I sat down to write a few hours later, I revised my opening, then began writing fresh content.

For those of you not writing a novel, let me clue you in to a little secret: this isn't how it's supposed to be done. Well, if you're a strict literalist, anyway. When I began my novel, Christopher Laney gave me a piece of white paper on the center of which James Thurber's words "Don't get it right; get it written." were printed in bold, confident letters. It's become my understanding that all new novelists have to learn the difficult lessons that I'm apparently in the middle of learning. We must write fresh content and let the editing wait until later. Otherwise no doubt we'll edit endlessly and the story will never get written.

Last week I saw Chris again and we discussed these occasional internal conflicts, over writing vs. editing. I told him that sometimes when I sit down to write, I just see something in front of me that, in the light of a new day, screams to be changed Right This Minute. He smiled, with the wisdom of someone who's recently completed a novel, and said, "As long as you know that one day you're going to change a great percentage of those words."

This lesson falls, for me, somewhere in that vast space of "Seeking Balance Every Day Of My Live Long Life." I learn so much from the friends who've done this before me. It's why I'm thrilled several of them are writers. I learn a lot from the books written for writers, too. And? I'm also one of those "learn some of the lessons the hard way" kinda' girls. In my mind, making a change that's delivered to you ever so gloriously as you wash your hair feels like a gift one doesn't want to squander.

And then, I remind myself that four squillion published writers can't be wrong. After which time I gently point myself back to the blank page where I continue to let fresh words spill out. Edit here and there as I must? Okay. As long as I get that little update made and move on.

Which is just what I did. My novel writing program tells me that I wrote 2563 new words yesterday. Most of which my friend tells me I'll one day have to change. Never mind. It's still steady progress. And that's meeting my goal for now.