I’ve made some headway in my third attempt to write a picture book about James. While running the other morning I came up with an opening line I’m really happy with — “The blah-blah in the blah-blah blah of Taos, New Mexico, was blah blah blah blah-blah of blah [James’ name goes here].”

From there grew a page and a half about an episode that I’d given just a paragraph to in my first version. Again, things seem to be going well — rhythm’s fair, voice is OK, James’ youthful flirtation with Communism (intriguing, but tricky and irrelevant) has been avoided.

But now I’ve plopped in a couple of big chunks of text from each of the first two versions, two different tellings of the same key episode in James’ life. The danger now is that my momentum will fizzle, that I’ll slip from writing with a fresh eye and clear focus on this approach into squashing together and shoehorning in what I’ve already written for those previous versions.

However, assuming that 21-month-old F — attempting to raid my bag at this very moment — doesn’t make off with my writing implements, I’ll be armed with three red pens on my lunch hour today. Those should be enough for me to purge what didn’t work in those previous versions and focus on the details that ought to carry over.