I read a lot of posts from other authors about what writing is like for them. Most of the time they compare it to hobbies, or strange metaphors involving torture. Some compare it to a great marathon, gardening, or fascinating visions of the ninth level of hell. So what do I compare writing to?
Writing is like creating a dress.
No, wait, hear me out.
Much like any clothing assembly, you begin with a pattern (at it’s most basic, a dress comprises of a skirt and bodice). For writing, it is the following:
3. Reversal/Black Moment
What if you don’t follow patterns very well? What if you’re a sew-as-you-go/panster kind of artist? A seamstress will still use a body form for development of the dress. How else can you see how it drapes properly, whether it complements the body? For a manuscript, it’s much the same. You still have to have a beginning, middle, reversal, and end to create a story, right? It’s just a road map. You still have to get from point A to point B…how you get there is your own path.
The next step in the process is usually (especially when making your own pattern and/or using expensive fabrics) creating the muslin dress. It’s the first fit, and absolutely necessary. If you skip this step, you may spend countless hours (for a seamstress AND a writer, time IS money) repairing the final product. The muslin dress is the rough draft. The material is durable and stable. It’s important to get through that first draft and tweak as needed. Mark where things need to be expanded, or tightened…where some material can be cut or if the design is dramatic enough for the occasion. This is like a plot…is there enough sexual tension? Are the motivations of the characters clear? If not, why? Do you have a strong beg, mid, end? Is there true conflict between your main characters? Can a reader suspend disbelief for your plot? If not, tweak it here. Too many people get caught up in making the first draft perfect. The dress is MUSLIN. The draft is ROUGH.
The next step is making notes. On the muslin dress you mark the fabric, pin where needed, sew and tweak changes, check the fit. You create a new panel of the dress if needed to replace one that doesn’t add to the fit of your dress. In a manuscript, you do the same. Make notes. More characterization, a very important plot line needs to be weaved throughout, an entire scene needs to be thrown out and/or reworked, etc.
Thrown out? Are you CRAZY? Nope. Here is where it gets messy. Nothing makes an author more riled up than to tell them that they need to rewrite an entire scene/chapter/beginning. It’s like ripping your heart out and dancing on it, and one of my least favorite parts of the editing process. So why am I saying it’s necessary?
I remember shopping for a party dress one day. It was a holiday party, all festive and fun. I hit three stores. All three had stunning dresses, just amazing, but when I tried them on…you guessed it…they were unflattering. The worst one was the “almost/if-only” dress. It was gorgeous green satin that complimented my pale skin, in a cut that normally complemented my short height and curvy figure (A-line). There was only one problem. A panel around the stomach draped in such a way that I looked dumpy. I was nearly in tears. It was almost the perfect fit. If only I’d known how to tweak it then…I could have had that dress! Look at your manuscript like that dress. Your manuscript needs to flow down the body of your story, complimenting it, making it graceful. Don’t let that panel destroy your perfect dress…throw it out and create the perfect fit. Your story is important, and how you get there is your way, your voice.
Now you disassemble the muslin dress, and using your detailed notes (marks on the fabric/marks on the manuscript) you cut your fabric pieces and get to work. You go through your manuscript and make detailed notes. Expand here, change this, etc. You tweak and edit, adding where needed, cutting where necessary. Try it on, make sure it fits. Reading through the novel…again…to make sure all the new bits jive with the rest.
We’ve reached the end of the journey. This is the final run-through for some, and for others, a tweakable draft. The dress. The dress is sewn together with the final material. Here is where you make the final fittings. The fabric in the final draft may fall the wrong way, or something you tightened may need to be loose, etc. You can adjust as needed, polishing up the dress (and the final draft) until it suits your artistic bent (voice) while conforming to the occasion (genre). The book is now done.
Congratulations! In the end you have a creation that you can be proud of. Anyone can buy a dress, or a book…it takes determination and drive to create them yourself.
What about you? What do you compare writing to?