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Word Compost

Today, I fed a shredded draft of Chapter One to my kitchen compost worms. My garden this spring is going to be so whimsical...

How I love composting words! My writing style is to scatter a ton of words onto paper or into a Word document, like scattering seeds. Then I set them aside in darkness to germinate. After a sufficient waiting time, I open up my pre-first-draft (such as the NaNoWriMo document or piles of scribbled notes). By this time, the seeds of good ideas and images have sprouted right out of the dirt. (There's lots of dirt in a NaNoWriMo document, for sure.)

I water and feed my wordlings, one chapter or less at a time, with careful re-readings and the nutrients of other readers' feedback. I weed out the bad ideas and the good ideas that just aren't thriving in their environment. Some I might pull up and replant somewhere else, for another story.

Nothing is wasted. The "crap" I produce is always a lesson that I can toss in my compost bin of experience.

Like my actual vegetable garden, my WIP gives me great hope for a fruitful harvest... this year!

So, metaphors aside, this is my writing plan for the year:

1. Rewrite one chapter each week. Back up the document, and print out the rewritten chapter.

2. Run each rewritten chapter by at least two other readers. (Use writing critique groups, hapless friends, and the husband for reactions and suggestions.) Make edits by hand on the paper document, stored in a binder and backed up via photocopy in the fireproof safe in the garage.

3. Rewrite the whole novel again from page one, referencing the written edits.

4. Begin the submission process by this fall!

5. Start working on another letter as the rejections flow into my mailbox. Feed the kitchen compost worms.

Every writer seems to have a very different writing and rewriting process. What works for you?

UPDATE: I first wrote this post January of last year. Then, in the spring, I got pregnant, which overthrew my whole editing timeline. I still plan to follow this process, taking the project up again this summer, and I would like to note that printing the drafts out and editing them on paper works wonders for me. I don't know why, but errors and potentials for improvement jump out at me much clearer from a sheet of paper than from my computer screen. Other tricks that sometimes work miracles are reading sections aloud and taking a break of at least one week to read a good book for inspiration or work on another project.


  1. Nothing works for me. I go to bed, and if I can't sleep, then I know it's time to write. I'm not talking about my day job-- writing labels and employee manuals and boring shit like that. I'm talking about hand-wringing, sweaty palm, heart pounding writing, orgasmic and wonderful--- where you write for 2 hours and it passes by in an instant.

    That only happens when my inner muse wants it to happen. I'm almost certain I have a touch of multiple personality disorder.

  2. "Nothing works for me." You lie! :)

    Anyone reading these comments for the first time, PC aka Marie Simas is now a published author of her memoir. Congrats, Marie! Your inner muse must have gotten her shit together.

  3. Loved the post, especially the picture. Thanks!

  4. I laughed out loud at your first line. I can relate.

  5. Imagine what gardens would be like if all writers put their work into the compost. :P


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