After Page One: Process
A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as she is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things she would not have thought of if she had not started to say them.”
–William Stafford (with pronouns changed to feminine)
I recently finished writing a book about Amish-themed fiction, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Fiction. Based on interviews with readers and writers and publishers of Amish romance fiction and with Amish people about their opinions of the books, the book relies on cultural criticism as a lens through which to view this blockbuster genre. I loved researching and writing about Amish fiction, and felt proud of the manuscript that I drafted.
But here’s the funny thing: I didn’t know what I actually intended to say until after I had submitted my manuscript to the publisher. My book went to an outside reader, a scholar in the field, who noticed that while I had written an interesting investigation of the genre, I had looked at it from so many different angles and considered so many different theories that the book didn’t really hold together. The reader still recommended publication, but gently suggested that the author…um…have a thesis.
As I started in on revisions, I realized that the reader was exactly right. Thankfully, I discovered that I had planted a thesis in the middle of the manuscript, somewhere around the end of chapter four or five. My buried argument had sent out fragile rhizomes into other parts of the book, so that a sentence here and a phrase there contained a faint taste of the main point. But only after more than a year of writing and an outside reader’s kindly critique did I finally figure out what I intended to say. Revising, then, became a simple matter of gently dislodging the thesis from its shaded location in the middle of the manuscript, knocking off some soil, and replanting it in the well-lit plot of chapter one.
Thus, I take heart whenever I read Stafford’s quotation. I rarely know what new thing I intend to say until I have started writing. For me—and for some truly great writers like Stafford—the process of thinking new thoughts requires first sitting down to write.
For some of us, it means writing the whole book.
Valerie is giving away one copy of Thrill of the Chaste. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post to enter. Deadline is Wednesday, April 10th.
Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio at the bottom of your post so readers can learn more about you and your projects.
3 replies on “After Page One: Process”
This is encouraging. I’ve been working on a bigger project and I know what it is about in a vague kind of way, I don’t really know what it is about. Guess I’ll just keep writing til I find out.
So interesting. I’m very curious to learn more about your thesis.
Very interesting, as one who has read part of your book (but not all). I want to buy it (no need to enter me in your drawing). But I loved this because it highlights the wonderful insight of an objective, fresh brain and pair of eyes. After talking to one agent, he told me about writing my elevator speech for the book I was projecting, first. Good advice too!