Don’t Start with a Phone Call

This is not a rant. It’s a plea for help, for advice on how to better manage my time.

Last night I tweaked a non-fiction piece to submit to The Petigru Review, a journal for members of SCWW, South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. The first year I submitted something, it was accepted, but since then it’s been a no-go. That’s not completely true since the journal has accepted many of my photographs.

I’m not usually a procrastinator, but for some reason(s), I’ve been dragging my feet on the submission. Once I began the actual editing process, I probably went a little (okay, a lot) overboard with changing my verbs to action ones and putting more “show don’t tell” elements in the story. I even experimented with a little bit of dialogue. My writer friends say it helps move a story along and that sometimes plain old narrative can be, well, boring.

All was well until I began thinking that I needed a different opening paragraph, one that showed me sitting in a car in a dark parking lot with a hammering heart (I had the hammering heart, not the parking lot). There were mysterious shapes lurking in the shadowy corners, and I was afraid to get out of the car and make a run for it.

It was so much fun to write that paragraph last night. So much fun, in fact, that I began to think that maybe one day I’d try to write fiction. But then I asked my husband to read the piece and give me his honest opinion.

I have mixed feelings about letting family members read things, but I was desperate. It took him a long time to read those six pages, an unnecessarily long time. What was taking so long? Had it put him to sleep? Was he afraid to tell me the truth about the horrible piece of writing?

He hadn’t fallen asleep, but he was a little hesitant to tell me that he had to read the first page three times before he figured out what was going on. Seems that the tacked-on paragraph with the mysterious shapes lurking in the shadows didn’t work for him. And then there was the matter of a misspelled word and a missing comma.

“It’s a little dramatic, doncha think?” he asked. “And I couldn’t figure out where you were going with it.”

“I was trying to lead in to the phone call instead of starting with it. They say never start a story or book or anything else with a phone call.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know! It’s just a rule or something.”

“Well, I’m not writer, but I think it’d be better than starting with this dark, hammering heart part.”

“Okay, okay. Give it to me so that maybe, just maybe, I can fix it to your satisfaction, Mr. Editor.”

See what I mean? Sometimes it’s not safe to give a loved one your precious work to critique, especially if you’ve waited until the midnight hour to improve it.

Back at the computer, I deleted the opening paragraph and started over. Rereading the changes reminded me of a similar incident that occurred about two years ago, and I went off on a side path to write about that. Two and a half pages into my new document, I noticed the time and got back to the story that began with a phone call.

After reading and rereading, I finally hit submit. Since I had used a link, I didn’t actually send the piece from my email, and I don’t know whether it “went” or not.

I’m evidently not as good of a time manager as I imagine myself to be. I want to submit short pieces to various publications, post on my blogs (at least one blog per day), respond to other people’s blogs, work on my book of beach photographs, write a family history story centering around my paternal great grandmother whom I never met, put together a book on teaching, and create a couple of documents for a book that our writing group is putting together.

So how does it get to be late afternoon with very little headway into the above? It’s not because I took time to read and grade student assignments because I haven’t done that either!

Help! How do you other writers (just now beginning to feel comfortable with saying “writer” when referring to myself) manage your time? Do you have a set schedule? Do you write when the spirit moves you? Do family and friends have issues with your writing time and space?

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
This entry was posted in writers, writing, writing critiques, writing life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Don’t Start with a Phone Call

  1. Hi Jayne ~ sounds like a full literary plate! I think that’s normal…at least mine looks quite a bit like that too 🙂 The alarm on my cellphone has become a best friend. I set it for a specific time and decide what piece(s) I’m going to work on and somehow all the other ‘voices’ – other projects, housework, etc – quiet down. My schedule is loose, more of a routine – morning pages, morning emails/edits/blog reading/etc. before lunch…concentrated writing after lunch (except on days like this when my day has been somewhat hijacked). Yes, still have to educate friends and family that this is my work, not a hobby. I know I can’t do EVERYTHING every day, so I give myself a break and not bite off more than I can chew. I’ve found when I take lots of little bites I actually get more accomplished. Best wishes to you and your wonderfully full life as a writer – yep, that takes some getting used to, too. 🙂

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    • jayne bowers says:

      Kim, Thanks so much for taking the time to write this encouraging and helpful post. I’m plugging along doing a little every day…well, almost every day. The next two are “field trip” days because of some traveling to NC with a friend, but I’ll get back on schedule. One thing that I’ve found to be helpful is a writing app on my iPad.

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