Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 12, 2008

Blank Paper, Blank Afternoon: What a Gift

I enjoyed spending the last two months of my writing time revising close to a hundred poems. This week I can write an email, attach the revised collection, and hit that button called: send. Even with these pleasures, I felt excited to get out a white and empty piece of paper today and to start a sentence from scratch.

Soon I’ll open a manilla folder with revisions of revisions, but first I want to take my character and her situation and see what I can do without peeking at last year’s work. Maybe something new will happen. Of course it will. So for a while I’ll move slowly forward, knowing there are blanks to be filled, and some ways to fill them in the folder I stashed out of temptation’s way in another room. (You can see laziness helps in this strategy). I want to move ahead as well as I can, them compare drafts, adding and cutting from the one that came before.

This fit the mood of the day, when the fall colors were the kind that we in New England get through maybe 360 or so others to enjoy. Lists were put aside. I headed to the woods with just one dog, the good one, Parker, who comes when called, at least most of the time, and keeps by me if I want to stop. Which I did. I brought an empty notebook and a pen and camera. I was looking all along, but these things told me now and then to stop. There’s nothing like foliage to remind you to seize the day. Except, perhaps a dog, for whom every walk is as good as the last and better than the next. And my mind wandered.

Lots of milkweed fluff here: hoping to tempt Loree to western Mass. next year, since where there’s this much milkweed, there are monarch butterflies.



  1. I’m intrigued by your process. When you say you’re going to see where your character takes you (before peeking in the manila envelope) do you mean you’re starting a whole new draft? Or are you writing some new scenes? Or a new beginning?
    Apologies for all the questions but I’m really interested in how this all works for you. 🙂

  2. Oh, me too! I was thinking along the same lines.
    I love, LOVE that last photo. I wish I could shuffle through those leaves…

  3. I am starting a whole new draft, but I know I will cut and paste in parts from the old — revising both drafts as I go. I wrote enough that I know the character and situation, but I’m going onto the blank page seeing what new images and dialogue and smaller events come up. I’m leaving some fill-in spaces where I know I will steal from the earlier drafts. And I’m doing this partly in hopes that I’ll get a feel for speeding up the action. I’ll see if that works!
    Thanks for asking!

  4. Thanks for asking, Melodye. I think the answer went to you, too, but I’m sometimes unsure with these choices to hit!
    The leaves are fun, great noise, great smell. Today was one of those days that there’s no point in living in N.E. if you don’t get out and enjoy it.

  5. We have never *met* though, Jeannine, every time I read your blog I feel like I know you anew, and here it is again, yet another, I LIKE HER SO MUCH! thought in my scheme of things.

  6. Beautiful photos! Makes me want to head off to the woods.

  7. Awww, thanks. Me, too! My daughter thinks it’s odd I have “friends” I’ve never met, but she just doesn’t know the children’s book community! I look forward to meeting you in person one day! Hope those words are still coming fast and furiously wonderful this weekend!

  8. Hope you do head out! It’s warm, it’s glorious: not something we get to say every day. My dog and I will head out soon.

  9. I hope I’m not being a pest but I still have questions. When do you start revising the old draft? You’re going to leave gaps to fill in with earlier stuff but you weren’t going to peek at your ms in the envelope before writing. Are you taking the approach that you’ll remember what you need to remember for the story, and not worry about the rest? Or at some point will you read that earlier draft as you work on this new one?
    I’m asking all these questions because I’m evaluating how I go about first drafts and then subsequent revisions.

  10. Hi, not being a pest at all. Questions are good! I’ll try to pull together answers for my blog post tomorrow, and then pester away again if I missed something.
    Good luck with your first draft and all those that follow!

  11. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks!

  12. Lovely pictures. Beautiful post.

  13. I feel like you took me along through your day. Beautiful!

  14. Thanks, Kelly.

  15. Wish you were here! We might have one more week of color….

  16. Beautiful. What a place to think and write.
    What would the “not-good” dog have done? 🙂

  17. Yes, the colors help with the blank-page agenda!
    The not so good dog balks at good-to-him smells — then stays there. Parker will sniff then catch up. It’s fine sometimes, but I just wanted to be in the moment not getting annoyed: come ON!

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