Friday Speak Out!: Get Out of the Way!, guest post by Paulette Mahurin

Friday, October 05, 2012
by Paulette Mahurin
When I was writing my story, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, I did a lot of research into the time period when Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, 1895, going off on tangents about the Donner Party debacle, France’s divide on the Dryefus Affair, Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta address turning racism on its head at that time, on down to the minutia of the landscape of Walker Lake and the Nevada terrain, where the story took place, etc. When it came time to incorporate my research into the story line, I wrote, and wrote, filling pages, that would make any grad school thesis chair proud.

It was such a happy time until I sat down to do my first read through. The first three chapters were fast paced and really got me into the story, but when I came to the forth chapter, I was jerked, like whip lash, from the fast paced, interesting plot, into details about historical facts that were as boring as any college level text could get. My heart sank as I removed line after line, still wanting to keep in enough text in to show what a “smart” writer I was, all to the detriment of the flow of the story. I battled with my insides, my head saying, You put in a lot of time, this is interesting and important history while my gut screamed at me, you idiot, any intelligent reader will see through this. People don’t want to read about your efforts they want to read a good story. Get that shit out of there. And, so I did get the crap out of it, every single thing that was about me showing off, about me in the way of the story, about how I wanted the attention, and I let the characters guide me in their voices for what to keep and what to let go of. I hated letting go, knew I had to do it, like exercising—don’t want to do it but when I do I feel better.

When the rewrite was finished and I sat down with the manuscript before me to do another read through. I went from chapter one through twelve, then stopped, not because I was bored or pulled off the story, but rather I was tired and it was late. There were no big chunks left to cut. That was my last creative rewrite. After that it was line editing and tightening up grammar, the structure so that the house of the story didn’t look unprofessional, which again would act as a distraction.

I learned that when I got out of the way, and let the story flow, when I gave up the struggle to want to show off, it bettered the story, and the characters came alive, as if to say it’s our story, not yours. Next time, stay out of the way!

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Paulette Mahurin is a Nurse Practitioner, specializing in Women's Health, in a rural clinic in Ojai, CA where she lives with her husband, Terry, and their two dogs (rescued from kill shelters) Max & Bella. She is passionate about writing and while in college wrote two award winning short stories. Her other passion is helping to rescue dogs. The profits from her book go the the first no-kill animal shelter (SPARC) in Ventura County, CA.

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Paulette--I so understand your "mourning" having to get rid of all that good stuff.

There are lots of times I like the simile I created, or I think the "background crap" is necessary, but of course, realize the clever phrase doesn't push the story forward and the background stuff is really not part of THAT story. (I lick my wounds and think, "Well, I might be able to use that in another story someday," but for now, it's gone...gone...gone.)

This was a great reminder, Paulette.

Anonymous said...

Sioux: Thanks for the great feedback. I'm laughing, because I have my "save that" file also! Maybe we should start a what'd-you-leave-out-group! :-)

Also want to thank WOW for the great opportunity to post here. Am very grateful for your support.


Margo Dill said...

Oh Paulette, I had the SAME problem when I was writing my middle grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, for 4th to 6th graders who really don't care at ALL about that background crap--although as educators we want to sneak it in. :) LOL I had notebooks and notebooks of research. I had even traveled to Vicksburg--i was so smart! :) And I too cut, cut, cut. I think that is the life of a historical fiction writer.

Paulette said...

Hi Margo, Had to acknowledge your comment, which I loved! Made me laugh-the hysterical historical writers society... I have my notebooks in boxes! Glad to meet another sister writer. Paulette

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