Queen of the False Start

wpid-wp-1428887716681.jpeg I ran track my freshman and sophomore years in high school. Now, why would an asthmatic who abhors running join the track team? Two reasons.

1. My sister, Betsy, told me to.

2. Hello. It was a boy/girl sport. And, as evidenced by this picture, the boys totally bowed down to me and my sweet Umbro shorts.


Anyway. My freshman year I was put on the 800 meter race. If you don’t know much about track, the 800 is pure, unadulterated torture. It’s a twice-around-the-track sprint.

Did I mention that I have asthma?

Each Tuesday and Saturday as I got ready to run my event I was anxious to just get the horror over. Standing on the starting line, my stomach would flip flop, my palms would sweat. I was sure my heart would pound all the way out of my chest.

And that man would stand, the starter gun over his head. Anticipating that bang, I’d trip over the line.

False start.



I’ve written three and a half novels now. And, just as that nervous girl standing on the starting line at a track meet, this grown up novelist experiences false starts every now and then.

This novel I’m working on is no exception.

You may remember that I recently lost 8,000 words of the first draft. Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve rewritten those words (and I do believe they are better than the originals) plus 3,000 more.

Just this evening, after spending the better part of the day writing (don’t worry, I went to church last night), I realized that I had a false start on my hands.

Often, books on writing will say just to power through, get it all out before you fix it. From Once upon a time to They lived happily ever after without turning back to see what’s behind. Okay. That’s good. That works…sometimes.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

Guess what. That’s all right.

I personally own no less than 25 books on writing (probably more, I just don’t want to get up and count). Every single one of those books has a different idea for how writing works. Why? Because each writer has a different process.

One thing I’m learning? Every novel requires a different process.

Mine, at least.

And that, my friends, is perfectly fine. And I’m feeling great about it.

So, here I am, recovering from tripping over the starting line prematurely. I’m back in the blocks, trying to hold my balance until I hear the shot that tells me that it’s time to run.

Sweaty palms, pounding heart, nervous stomach.

I’m ready.

16 Comments on “Queen of the False Start

  1. Susie,
    Glad you figured out your “false start” before you got any farther in your book. Praying that you figure out how this one will go without any more false starts. I know what you mean about everyone’s process being different. I read a book about outlining your novel and I was all set to do that with the one I’m working on, then I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he said that he almost never outlines…I felt so confused! Now I’m realizing that I just have to figure out my own process and go from there. Love your books! ~Robyn


    • It’s true, Robyn! I wrote the entire first draft of My Mother’s Chamomile before realizing that the point of view was ALL WRONG. I wasn’t sad, though. I had so much material to work with and it ended up being a novel I loved.

      YES! Find your process. It’s fine to read what works for others, but, ultimately, it’s all about how you work best!

      Thank you for loving my books. That makes this rainy Monday a little brighter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Susie, you go girl!!! Losing and rewriting 8000 words sounds like a special kind of agony for me, but I am SURE you improved upon those words. And I know about all kinds of false starts with novel writing. I used to really hate it when someone would ask me at the end of the day how far I got, because it’s really hard to measure a day’s success. I could delete it all the next day, you know? But you just have to crank out the words and do your time in the process. So I’ve learned to say at the end of every writing day “I made good progress.” Even if that progress was just finding out that I should have killed off a character two hundred pages earlier and now I have rewrite two hundred pages. (Oh yes I did.) Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES! It was agony. Well, before I started rewriting it was. I didn’t cry over those lost words, though, so there’s that!

      I did realize that those 8,000 words were what my buddy Andy Rogers calls “clearing the throat” words. It was my “ahem” before I got to what really needed to happen. I’m starting so much closer to the good stuff now and that makes me glad.

      200 pages? Yup. Done that. But it was worth it, wasn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s so impressive that you didn’t cry. I do understand the clearing the throat bit. I think for one of my novels I ended up cutting the first three chapters completely. Clearing the throat, indeed! ha ha

        And yes, re-writing is always worth it. I enjoy re-writing more than I enjoy first draft writing anyway. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Boy, I needed to read this today. I’ve had to humbly acknowledge a “false start” on my first ever novel when a dear writing friend pointed out that there’s too much telling and not enough showing. She’s right and, after nursing my wounds and turning my back on 10,000 words, I’m revisiting this family I’ve grown to love and getting a fresh perspective on their story. Thanks for letting us know that even with three novels under your belt, you’re willing to start over.


    • Oh, Ingrid, I understand that pain! But you’re on the right track. Being able to nurse those wounds and keep going is such a testimony to your dedication. Don’t give up! Keep at it, my friend!

      After 3 novels, I’m still learning how all this works. It’s fun. And I’m learning that each novel is different, teaching me more and more about myself (as a human, child of God, and writer).


  4. What I wouldn’t give to have my own Umbro shorts back. Oh, the comfort!

    And what else did Betsy make you do? She sounds like a force to be reckoned with.


    • What I wouldn’t do to have those skinny knees back! 😉

      Betsy also made me play basketball and volleyball. She made me neglect my studies (when she graduated and moved to college my GPA went from a 2.8 to a 3.8). She made me act the fool for her amusement (not that I resisted that much). Hm. She made me stop wearing pink (I’ve recovered). She tried to make me date a guy or two. But she’s still pretty amazing.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Ha ha, I laughed out loud at the part where you say, “Hello. It was a boy/girl sport.” That was totally me at that age. Also reminds me of a Teen Girl Squad sketch from the Homestar Runner site: “It’s a boy/girl party. A B’GRL PRTY!!!” http://www.homestarrunner.com/tgs10.swf

    Annnyway… on a serious note, I’m thankful you share about the stumbles along your way. It’s oddly encouraging for me, even though I’m not working on a novel, that I don’t have to have it all figured out first if that’s the route I decide to take someday. 🙂


    • Rachel, I’m glad you could relate with my boy-crazy teen years. I had so many crushes, it’s embarrassing.

      You know, any writer who says they have everything figured out is living a fiction. I’m not kidding. Writers are constantly tripping and stumbling and realizing that what worked before isn’t how it’s going to work now or in the future. Perhaps it’s God’s way of keeping us humble…or neurotic. Neurosis is kind of necessary for the work we do. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a great attitude! I had umbro shorts and false starts too. I’ve had more than one with my work in progress. I know I’m going to get it right one of these times. Every time it improves… I’ll take that. Keep going you are an amazing writer.


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