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A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie
A Year of Writing Dangerously : Life Rafts

A Year of Writing Dangerously (Day 121)

Life Rafts

By Barbara Abercrombie

“I figured out, over and over, point A, where the chapter began, and point B, where it ended, and what needed to happen to get my people from A to B. And then how the B of the last chapter would lead organically into point A of the next chapter. The book moved along like the alphabet, like a vivid and continuous dream.” — Anne Lamott

Certain books on my shelves act as life rafts when I'm drowning in my own writing. During one particular novel I'd been struggling with for years that had been rejected, I reread a chapter in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. In it she writes about the completed manuscript of one of her novels being rejected after it was sold and she'd spent most of the advance for it. She pulled herself together, spread the three hundred pages of her manuscript across the living room floor, rearranged and reimagined the scenes, and then rewrote it.

It went well; she was euphoric. She borrowed money, flew to New York to see her editor, who had just read it, and he said to her, "I'm so, so sorry, but it still doesn't work." Then, after all her disappointment and humiliation and anger and ranting, she went off and wrote five hundred to a thousand words every day describing what was happening in each chapter and who her characters really were. She came up with a forty-page plot treatment of the book, showed it to her editor, and rewrote the book again. It was published the following fall. •

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Excerpted from A YEAR OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Abercrombie. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. newworldlibrary.com or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.

Barbara AbercrombieBarbara Abercrombie teaches in the writing program at UCLA Extension. The author of novels, children's books, and many essays and articles in national publications, her fourteenth book is "A Year of Writing Dangerously." More »

8/29/12