Ripping Out the Seams

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” —Mark Twain
I could write short story-rough drafts all day long and sometimes I do. I like nothing better than to pull the ideas from my brain and get them into a word document, but there comes a time when you need to revise.  And that time came for me when I needed to stop adding stories to a new collection I’m working on.  

After reading through the first story, The Eyes Have It, I came to these conclusions story:

1.    There is too much info dumping in the first pages of the story. There were so many flashbacks within flashbacks and flashbacks within those flashbacks that my main character’s head was spinning and it’s not even a “supernatural” story.
2.  There’s too much description and in the wrong places. This is the stuff I don’t like reading, you know where it goes on and on—and on. It needed a redo.

3.  The middle (of course) needs to be the beginning. How many times have I read or heard that?  Lots.

4. Some of the dumping info needs to be woven in with dialog and shared among the scenes.

This process made me think of sewing. I used to be my own personal seamstress and made MANY family frocks, as well. Because I had a tough, but fair, “Home Economics” teacher in high school, who expected our finished garments to be store quality, I became a skillful seamstress.  

As I began ripping apart my story, I was reminded of a top that I sewed in 1975—a new pattern, trendy, that promised to be an easy garment to assemble. No darts or linings. No zippers or buttonholes. The sleeves were butterfly like, suggestive of “hippy” wear, a sign of the times. After I sewed the last hem, clipped the last thread and turned the sewing machine light off, I puffed with pride over creating a garment so quick and easy.

In the spare room, where my sewing machine lived (along with our baby hamsters) I pulled off the shirt I was wearing to try on the new one. As I lifted it over my head and searched for the neck hole, I discovered there was no hole for my head.  Was I trying to put my head in the sleeve hole? A couple of spins of the garment later, I realized I had sewn both sleeves together and the front and back together because they looked similar.
Through the years, I’ve ripped out many seams, picked out a bazillion threads so that I could sew garments that would be worthy of wearing. Writing is like that. There comes a time when you must rip out the seams, pick it apart, then put it back together the right way so that the story is reader worthy.  Sometimes ripping out seams is  necessary. However, I prefer writing rough drafts. J 

P.S. Want to see what I was up to as a child? Then go read The Sugar War at The Ruralhood.

P.S.S. Send good vibes my way on Tuesday. It’s my 29th birthday, um—again.


  1. I've never sewn but I've done my fair share of ripping out cross stitch when I've made a major counting blunder. Sometimes I wonder if that's the optimum medium for me since I'm so bad at math!

  2. I bet you looked funny trying to put that shirt on.
    It's easier for me to reconstruct something then start from scratch.
    And happy birthday early!!

  3. First, a song: Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!! Happy Birthday dear Teresaaaaa!!! Happy Birthday to youuuuu!!!!

    I like writing short story rough drafts, too. But you're right that there comes a time when you must start revising them. Good luck with your revisions!

    Have a wonderful birthday celebration tomorrow!! :)

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  4. Happy Birthday!

    Ripping seams was something I did quite often in Home Economics and at home.

    Enjoy the process.

  5. Rough drafts are easier, but the tearing apart has to come

  6. Hi Teresa - Happy Birthday for tomorrow ... and the way you've described dress-making to writing .. is so true and disasters can happen sometimes too easily.

    I'd enjoy that 29th birthday yet again ... sounds much more fun - cheers Hilary

  7. Happy, Happy Birthday for tomorrow!!

    I'm not a writer, wish I were. I have ideas, but the words just won't come. I'm often amazed that writers can fill up 400 pages or more.

    I used to make clothes for myself and some for my daughter when she was young, but the machine has been gathering dust now for too many years. I have been thinking of dusting it off and making some valances for the kitchen. Surely I can still do that...if the machine still works, that is. :)

    Have a wonderful day and an even better one tomorrow for your birthday!!!

  8. Happy 29th! May you have many more!

    Love the Twain quote. Rough drafts for me any day.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  9. I love ripping the seams of a story, but not on a garment at all. That's why I never sewed again after I didn't have to in order to show Mom I could.

  10. happy birthday for tomorrow!
    and happy st. patrick's day!


  11. Now I know why I don't write so well, my sewing expertise goes only as far as being able to sew on a button. Happy Birthday tomorrow. I thought you were only 28. :)

  12. love this, and happy birthday to you

  13. Finding the middle should be the beginning is always wrenching for me. I can't figure out how my writing mind did that to me.

    It's your birthday! Have a great one.

  14. I enjoy sewing, particularly patchwork quilts, but I'm forever unpicking seams to get the finished product right.
    This is good advice for writing, too, and I admit that I don't unpick enough on the content of my novels. From now on I shall. Thanks for reminding me.

  15. Oh Teresa, had to share your blog- great stuff

  16. oops, here is my sharing!

  17. I love the analogy here. It's one I can relate to well. I hope you had a wonderful birthday.

  18. I can't sew worth beans! My mom always told me it took no talent - she was SO wrong!! I envy you with the talent! :)

  19. Oh dear. I hate it when I discover things like that in a manuscript I've labored over. However, you're doing it right. Finding what needs to be fixed and fixing it. I stopped sewing years ago, but the analogy works!

  20. yeah cool analogy---but sometimes our characters just use the same old words over and over ;)

  21. Love the comparison of ripping apart as a seamstress to being a writer!

  22. Excellent comparison between revising and sewing! I think it's a good practice (for some writers) to take time away from certain stories to get a fresher perspective on them before using the red pen. :) And it's nice when you get that insight of what you need to fix after that break. Everything becomes clearer.

    And Happy birthday to you!!!


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