Melanie Spiller and Coloratura Consulting

Escapades in Early Music, Writing, and Editing

The Full-Page Dilemma

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I always thought that facing the blank page was many writers’ problem. I don’t struggle with it much, myself. But lots of writers have told me about it and I believe it’s a real problem.

I have the opposite problem. I’ve written and written and the first draft is finished, and now I have to revise. If someone gives me feedback and tells me where I’m too wordy or the metaphor doesn’t work, I’m eager and ready to do the work of repairing it. But left to my own devices?

I think the trouble is that I am very comfortable writing. I like words—I like their nuance and their infinite variety. And, I play with words. I love a pun, I love collectives (I collect them:, and I often enjoy using a word that is appropriate but not often called upon in a given circumstance.

So when I reread my work, I’m embarrassed to say, I enjoy reading what I’ve written. Oh, it’s not that I’m not critical of my own work. It’s that as I attempt to revise it, I often compound the problem by being, well, ME during the revision.

I suspect that the trick is to try to read as if I were someone else. If someone called Adrienne (my dear friend) were to read, what would she call out as convoluted or misdirecting? Or what about my dad, who doesn’t like when it’s sarcastic or snarky?

I think there’s a certain handicap to writing easily. Perhaps if I agonized over the words, there wouldn’t be so many of them. (I think my worst offense is wordiness.)

Here I sit with several complete (and lengthy) documents ready for revision. The most pressing are a work project, my travel journal/memoir/travel guide and my historical novel. Oh, and I’m not counting the two and a half novels that I wrote off and on during the early 2000s.

Oh, and I have the next historical novel bubbling away under the mild-mannered surface. It’s so much more appealing to start the new thing than to do the disciplined, gown-up, and responsible thing and revise my finished works before starting the new. After all, if I do the second drafts, I lose the excuse for not getting published.


Let’s look at what’s stopping me. The work project isn’t a priority for the department, so it’s hard to scrape time together to focus on it. Not only that, perhaps no one will look at it when it’s finished anyway.

The travel journal/memoir/travel guide has been in the works since 1998, and frankly, although I’m thrilled to have finished the first version of it, the revision from travel guide to memoir format is so huge that I don’t want to do it. I’d rather clean the house or something. Oh, once I get started, I know it will be fine, but it’s the getting started that is the hard part. It’s the full-page dilemma.

And the fun one, the historical novel, well, I’m waiting for feedback from my writing group. Even though they’ve reviewed the early chapters and I figured out how to solve some basic problems within those early chapters. They’re going to review the rest next month. Uh huh. I could get started. But not having the whole thing reviewed is an excuse so I don’t have to start.

Look at me. I’m sitting here blogging about not starting rather than starting.

Written by Melanie Spiller

March 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Writing

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