Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 23, 2009

Always Beginning

A few days ago, Lorraine lorrainemt and I were celebrating the serendipity of both being at work on Chapter 11 of our revisions. Okay, maybe we’re not the Blue Raincoat team, but I like being part of the Elevens. Lorraine said she got a breakthrough inspiration while pinning sheets on a clothesline, so I’m waiting for that west wind to make its way across the country.

I’m pushing words around, taking peeks at Chapter 12, and at some point, Chapter 10 has sentences waiting to be fixed or blown to smithereens (and you thought my home was quiet). I’m somewhere in the middle of this novel. Everything has been essentially sketched out, but I’m not terribly close to the end. What I want to feel is that each line is some kind of beginning, full of possibilities. My walking buddy Mary recently mentioned Ernest Hemingway on beginnings. “Didn’t he stop writing just before the end of a chapter?” she said.

Hmm. I remembered it as he stopped in the middle of a sentence, so he wouldn’t have to face a totally new beginning the next day. Apparently neither of us remembered his work methods exactly right. At least here’s the quote I found, and I expect there are many others: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck.”

Beginnings can make us crazy, but they’re also so full of hope. We haven’t yet made every mistake or run up against those hard walls. Or had to backtrack or blow up bad chapters. We all get chances for beginnings we may see or ignore, even when we’re in the middle (or, I tell myself, the end-of-the-middle.) Hope, triumphs, things that make us scream. They can happen on any and every page.



  1. Kudos to the Chapter 11 Club! I’m at a different chapter but a similar place (a bit more than halfway). I could use a burst of inspiration, though, so I’ll keep a lookout for Lorraine’s western wind, too.

  2. I was on chapter 11 for a while, too! Only I was revising. But I seemed to be coming back many times to chapter 11.
    I friended you – I came here via lorrainemt who had only wonderful things to say about you!

  3. Oh, please join. The numbers don’t mean much. I’m glad you’re feeling on the at least slightly other side of middle, and hope inspiration falls soon. I think the rain is delaying the burst of breakthrough wind, but maybe tomorrow. Or maybe we’re supposed to be out at a clothesline, not looking for it.

  4. Thank you for friending me and posting here — I’m friending you back! And good luck moving past Chapter 11. I’ve got some more time there, but will take a few forays ahead to check some newish territory.

  5. “What I want to feel is that each line is some kind of beginning, full of possibilities.”
    This inspires me. Alot. Especially because I’ve started this chapter 11 many times and have given up many times. It’s a really hard place in the story and it can go in so many directions, so looking at each line as full of possibilities feels open and fluid (as opposed to stagnant and stuck–aack!)

  6. Oh absolutely join in–it’s the all inclusive chapter club! And the west wind is coming…

  7. Well, I got chapter 11 fatigue, followed by chapter 18 fatigue. Now I’m wading through 23. Actually I’m just falling asleep. I’m glad I saw this. Sometimes I just to need to hear other voices out there when I’m working.
    I’m glad you friended me back!
    I see you’re from the Boston area which is especially nice since I’ve spent a great deal of time there and it has ended up being the setting for the last book I wrote and the one I’m working on now. There is something about Boston…

  8. Progress is always good for me. I used to try that stop in the middle of a sentence thing but I would still forgot what I meant to write. Here’s hoping I see a chapter 11 again someday. 🙂

  9. Oh, yes, Boston is great! ALA will be there in January, so if you get a chance to visit… I hope to be there for a bit.

  10. Hope you are finding some intriguing open spaces, Lorraine! I’m bumbling my way toward some promising scenes….

  11. Yeah, stopping mid sentence sounds a bit too much — even if I left it for five minutes, I’d probably be clueless about where I wanted to go. But whatever makes you want to come back is a good thing.

  12. I didn’t know that! Thanks – I’ll definitely check it out.

  13. The getting stuck can happen even when one knows where one’s going next, or so I’ve found. That said, the showing up every day does seem to work . . .

  14. Okay, so I really like this idea of stopping where I know what will happen next! I’ve been thinking about it alot since reading your post the other day or last week or whenever!
    I needed that bit of advice! I don’t even know what chapter I am on. I quit numbering them a few chapters back when I didn’t know what should happen next – so I just wrote something I did know (out of sequence) That seems to be working for me. It’s actually kind of hard to stop when I know what is going to happen. I want to keep writing!
    Thanks! Big help.

  15. Joyce, this news made my day!
    You were brave to try this, and I’m so glad it seems to be shaking things into place. Hope the magic keeps happening.

  16. I think the showing up is the best ever advice. Some days are good, some days not so much. But even the not-so-much days add to the progress.

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