Monday, 29 April 2013

Writing isn't Sculpture, it's Pottery

I've always used an analogy to describe my writing process - but I've now realised I've been using the wrong one.

Until recently I thought of writing as akin to sculpture.  You start with a rough draft (slab of stone) and edit it back (chisel and chip away) until you have your finished story (sculpture).  I always saw things this way as I slavishly followed the often published advice that you should produce a first draft then cut, cut, cut.

My latest novel didn't work out that way though.  Once I had my first rough draft things changed.  Instead of cutting away to my heart's content I did a bit of judicious trimming then concentrated on honing what was already there.  Through each successive edit I added to the story, building up the depth and adding to the detail.

I saw this as pottery.  Now, I haven't done any pottery since I was at school, well over thirty years ago; so I'll stand correcting on some of the finer points.  I started with my rough draft (lump of wet clay) then carefully edited (trimmed the clay here and there).  After that I started to finesse the story (shape the clay, add the handles and carve pretty patterns in the side - things like that).

This is all just  a means to an end but it did mean that my second novel was written faster than my first one was.

This had had a positive spin-off for my short story writing as well.  I used to adopt the "sculpture" method for my short fiction.  One reflection this made my short story production unbelieveably slow.  By switching to the "pottery" approach I've just written two shorts in the time it would normally take me to come up with one.  This will give me quite a productive summer until it's time to kick off novel number three for NaNoWriMo 2013.

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