Friday, January 18, 2013

Go Through The Door

By Judy Reeves

I love this part of rewriting: doors appear in drafts like invitations and whisper, “Come in, go deeper, open me, and look inside.” These openings are opportunities for writers to take their piece to another level–layering, creating texture, adding depth.

As I reread my drafts, I underline these openings. Or as I keyboard the material into the computer I write (door) in the copy, much as I have done in this sentence. Nearly every piece of first-draft writing will be littered with so many doors it will look like a Holiday Inn. As an example, I’ll pull a piece from my own notebook:

“Eloise wanted to ask Eudora to tell her fortune. To read tealeaves or look at cards, whatever Eudora did to divine hidden secrets. She wanted Eudora to tell her about the baby. From the beginning, this pregnancy seemed different.”

The door is right after the last sentence “… this pregnancy seemed different.” I go back to my notebook and write that line at the top of the page. Then I go through the door and list ways this pregnancy was different. From the beginning she had a craving for peaches; her hair changed color – from blonde to red – and became curly, like a fresh permanent; she could make out in clear detail the fine map of lines on the underside of leaves; could sense rain two days coming and her breath smelled of lemons.
I list the details, and perhaps Eloise’s reaction to them, writing, writing, writing until I feel not only present in the room the door opened into, but as if I owned the place. After a spell of free writing, I go back to my computer and key in those details that made the piece more interesting, editing as I write.


Writing is always a two-step process. The first: writing the raw, rough stuff that comes from the intuitive. The second: rewriting and editing, working from the critical, logical mind. Each step takes us to the other. The rough must be hewn; the hewn sends us back to the rough for more material to build our story.

Review some rough pieces from your notebook or drafts on your computer and look for doors that can take the story deeper. You’ll notice them because of a certain curiosity you may feel, a sense that more is going on than what’s on the page. Like secret passageways that open into hidden rooms, something more interesting, more evocative, may lie behind the door you’ve discovered. Enter. Go in. Don’t knock. Allow the element of surprise to capture whatever’s there in the act.

Note: You can’t go through every door, enter every room; there’s always the danger of getting distracted into backstory or following a detail that takes you completely away from the energy of the scene. After all, who cares to watch the maid change the sheets… unless, of course…

"Judy Reeves is a writer, teacher and writing practice provocateur whose books include A Writer's Book of Days, which was named a "hottest books for writers" and won the 2010 San Diego Books Award for Best Nonfiction. Other books include Writing Alone, Writing Together; A Creative Writer's Kit and The Writer's Retreat Kit and A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing LifeShe is a cofounder of San Diego Writers, Ink where she served as Executive Director."--Amazon 
Her website is She blogs at

No comments:

Post a Comment