Luc-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, June 2009

Ok, so this parking lot is beautiful because it is a) on the Normandy Coast of France, and b) features a sunset. I chose this vacation shot my daughter took because it fits today’s post, but I actually want to talk about the beauty of the parking lot as a writerly tool.

The past few days I have been trimming an essay to meet the word count of a call for submissions, and the “parking lot” method has made this much easier. All this means is that I open another document, give it the same file name as the piece I am editing, but add the words “parking lot.” Then, when I cut passages, I paste them into the parking lot document, rather than just hitting the delete button. That way the trimming goes much faster because I can be harsher. Those precious phrases are not lost, they are just “parked.”

I have occasionally gone back and put something in again that I had previously parked. After all, the editorial process is a fickle one. As you trim, you home in on a piece’s meaning, and sometimes something you thought should be cut actually needs to go back in. The beauty of that writerly parking lot is that your hard work in writing those words and sentences is not lost.

I also never delete my parking lots because once in a while I have been working on another piece and had that keen sense of having already written about this, and sure enough, I find it in a parking lot (the document search function is also a beautiful thing). Most of the time, however, a parking lot never gets looked at again once its corresponding piece is submitted.

Sometimes the parking lot does get full, meaning there is no more I can cut. With this essay I am working on, I started with about 1,300 words and am now down to 878, still not quite within the word count range of 700 – 800 words. This is when the piece goes off to an editor friend. She can see what I cannot, and perhaps she’ll ask me, despite all the cutting, to elaborate on something I took out. The beauty then is that it’s still in the parking lot, ready to be evaluated again.