• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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The Room Was Humming Harder



Today I want to talk about fake breakthroughs. A fake breakthrough comes when you are writing and you are seized with the sudden belief that putting your novel in the present tense will fix EVERYTHING. Or when you turn your main character into an animal spirit. It’s when you start ripping everything apart because you’re sure you know how to fix it.  It’s when you think you deserve a cigarette. When you pat yourself on the back. Or tell someone you think you had a breakthrough.

Tell us about a breakthrough, real or imagined.

6 Responses

  1. I’m cracking up. Betsy, you know us so well.

  2. I’m guilty of too many of these. What’s key is to save a copy of the manuscript right before taking on the fake breakthrough so that I can inevitably revert back to the previous one and not have to spend three days changing the tense or gender.

  3. A few years ago I sat down to rewrite a book I had made several previous attempts at over many years. It was a book I needed to write but I’d never been able to figure the best way into it. This time I had this complex idea that I would — never mind the details, they’re boring, but I had this idea and I spent five weeks working it out. Then one night, I had already gone to bed and I had to get back up, the book was calling to me — you know how the work can call to you like this and summon you back to it — and I knew, to hell with all this new idea stuff, here’s where the book begins and here’s how and this is the voice. And so I abandoned the complex idea and wrote what was and remains the beginning of the book (freeing the remainder of the book to follow over the ensuing months). The fake breakthrough was the complex new idea I spent five weeks wrestling with. The strain that had built up in me during this time vis-a-vis the material and the process led to the rupture that was the real breakthrough, the night the true voice of the piece finally sounded in my head.

  4. Sometimes ANY path seems better than the one you’re on. I know it well, it helps me escape to the writing world of WTF.

  5. In the beginning, I had a piece of crap. Then I had a breakthrough and it seemed better. Then, just about 6 months ago, I had another breakthrough and I started rearranging everything chronologically rather than scatter shot. Now, this month, I’m taking an online course about Unconventional Memoir writing. My current breakthrough is experimentation.
    I like what Tetman said above regarding the true voice; that is what I’m still waiting to hear.

  6. Here’s a real one – except I had no idea I’d had this so called “breakthrough.” A freelance editor pointed it out. I had crunched chapters together, realized I was repeating myself, cleaned all that up, added a new scene, sent it in for the freelancer to rip it apart. Much to my surprise, she emailed and said, “you’ve had a breakthrough.” That was about five years ago.

    I think I only know of that one.

    The other wingding ideas perceived as breakthroughs come so often I’d have a book here. I’m careful to do like Chris said above and save a copy that might say, “WIP 8 23 16 without crazy ass new changes.” Or something like that.

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