• One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
    Jack Kerouac
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Just Write (32)

Can you remember that first movie that changed your life?

When we hit a certain age—I’m going to say approximately 14.5—movies start to take on such mythic status in our lives. We start to see ourselves in these movies.  It's when we think this could (or should) be me--or most powerful of all, I am that girl. So you watch it over and over, to the bafflement of your parents. That they think it’s inane or inconceivable only adds to its perfection.

I came of age in the teen film heyday of the Brat Pack and John Hughes. I can still recite most of the lines from Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink. But when you go back and watch these movies (the above two excluded, of course), they’re really awful. The Legend of Billie Jean? Footloose? Sigh.

For today's writing prompt, let’s do a little revisionist history. Pick that movie that meant so much to you and rework it. Make it less schlocky, or silly. Put some truth and soul back in it. Make the girl stronger, or the boy less dull.

If you need inspiration, listen to this great John Hodgman piece from This American Life about rewriting a movie that went so very wrong.

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Just Write (18)

Rewriting is essential. It's the real work of writing, as you likely know. But it often gets overlooked amongst all of the writing tips and prompts out there. I imagine this is because it's damn scary to start and it's damn boring to rewrite. Drafts are often chaotic and messy--and that's okay (take a breath, it's really okay). Most of us, once we get over how brilliant we are, realize what's on the page is really a hot mess with moments of greatness. The trick is recognizing what's worth saving and what's missing. In Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, a lovely book in which you'll find a whole chapter on rewriting, Carolyn See offers a very deliberate and practical solution to find your way out of the chaos:

Here's my way of making sense of it (and this works equally well for magazine pieces, fiction, and nonfiction). It sounds like a lot of work, but it's no worse than shelling enough peas for a dinner party for six. I take out some blank paper and a hard copy of whatever it is I'm working on, divide the blank paper vertically [please see previous post re: my luddite ways to understand why I can't figure out how on earth one does this on my fancy computer], draw another line across the top, and label it thus: 

Ch. One

     What I Have                                                       What I Need


Then I take a look at my troublesome, chaotic, emotion-packed repetitve manuscript.... If it's a twelve-page story, maybe my map will run a couple of pages; I'll break it down by paragraps. If it's a novel, maybe this map will run ten or twenty pages. But by the time it's done, I'l have a very clear idea about what's going on in this 280-page manuscript.... [T]hen I read the manuscript again, but with my map beside me...I keep reading, no more than two hours at a time, and crossing out (or adding) a word or paragraph at a time. After a while, the items in the right side of my column will get crossed out; they'll get "fixed."

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