I’m frustrated. Much of my writing is going well, but one big project continues to elude me: the book based on my great aunt’s diaries. I write snatches and scenes, try out points of view, past and present tense, different voices. I ping pong between thinking the work should be historical fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, fictional real-life memoir (!). Nothing fits. Nothing works. And it’s hard to explain why this matters so much.

I’m beginning to realize that I just have to make a choice and begin, and trust that I can fix and revise what doesn’t work later.

Book Jacket for The Making of a StoryTo this end, I bought myself a treat today —The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, by Alice LaPlante—and I plan to use it. I went straight to the section on “openings” and dove into her exercises:

1. Give It Your Best Shot (begin with “the best, most exciting material”)

2. Start in the Middle (begin with “an event that occurs in the middle of the piece”)

3. Make Them Squirm (“wielding the weapon of suspense”)

Okay, Hattie, you needn’t wait any longer. Let’s do this. Past tense. Third person. See it through. And so it begins…

As soon as her shoe slipped on the muddy dirt the men had thrown onto the path, she knew she would not be able to stop herself from falling. No one expects to fall into a partially dug toilet hole, not on the eve of Memorial Day, not with two pans of meat still to cook and Will and Narvin still not home from Bad Nation and only her brother at home, probably asleep in his reading chair on the other side of the house. The moon lit her descent of four feet into several inches of rain water…

PS. I gladly welcome any and all encouragement and BTDTs. 🙂

PPS. The promised second part of The Personal Art of Submissions is in progress and will appear in a few days.