Writing Is Like Polishing an Uncut Gem

Detail from  rug woven by Author’s late Father-in-law
Our topic today is whether we write scenes piece by piece and knit them together, or if we have ever had to knit-in scenes? I don’t knit, I don’t weave, I don’t garden (because the other metaphor for writing books is often gardening) and although I loved Marcella Burnard’s dinosaur bones analogy in her Friday post, I don’t do that either.
I sit down at the keyboard and I write. I start at the very beginning and I go straight through the story until the end. When I begin working on a book, I usually know the overall situation, the two main characters and several key scenes. The rest comes to me as I write and as I’ve said many times, I’m superstitious about my process and I never examine it too  closely. The Muse is as the Muse does and the words flow…I’ve learned to trust the creative process I was lucky enough to be born with and that as I write on into the story over the days, the plot developments, other characters and insights I
need will present themselves. And they always do. It’s been working that way since I was seven years old so why mess with success?
I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had one scene I was so super excited about that I wrote it out of sequence and fit it back into the narrative. Or else then proceeded to write the events leading up to that now semi-completed scene.
I’ve had a few occasions in the developmental editing phase where the editor made a really good point about adding something else to the book, or a comment from them set off a train of thought in my head which caused me to write a chunk of new scene or scenes. I think the biggest case of this
was in Warrior of the Nile, where the editor really wanted a specific thing to occur between Khenet the warrior of the title and Nephthys, the Egyptian goddess. I wasn’t quite on board with all of the suggestions but I did write an entirely new scene, which then rippled through the rest of the book and probably did make it stronger. (This was my second and last book written under a contract.)
After I finish the first draft of a book, I immediately start over on page one and go through in my own editing process, adding depth, more action, more feelings, more everything. I’ll be doing that today in fact on my next scifi romance novel, having finished the initial draft at 64,330 words last night. I always say the first draft is meant to be ugly and clunky (speaking for myself). It’s “get the words on the page” time and then in the edits I smooth everything out. The process takes me a few days and then I set the book aside for two or three days to cool off, after which I read it again, make a few more tweaks and send it to the editor.
The story’s in there, somewhere! From the Author’s collection.
So if we must have a metaphor, and since I love jewelry and shiny sparkly things, maybe for me the process is more like being a jeweler, who takes a raw clunky gemstone surrounded by rocky material and shapes it and polishes it to be a thing of beauty. I assure you, I have never explained myself in those terms before when it comes to writing and probably never will again!
Luckily, there is no one perfect process for writing a book. An author has to do what works for them and not worry about anyone else. I totally get that for some authors it’s very useful for them to consider what other people do, and/or to adopt or adapt a recommended structure or technique. More power to them! For me, sitting down and writing is what works.
And taking long drives on the SoCal freeways, with music blasting also helps whenever I have a plot issue to ponder. This probably developed because at one point I had a three hour commute home from the day job, which was boring and stressful, so I’d think about my stories as I went. Usually at an infuriating 0 to 25 mph too, given the traffic! Well, at least I had my music…
Not the Author, not her purple car either but sure looks like fun!


This article was originally posted on SFF Seven

Please take a moment to support Amazing Stories with a one-time or recurring donation via Patreon. We rely on donations to keep the site going, and we need your financial support to continue quality coverage of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres as well as supply free stories weekly for your reading pleasure. https://www.patreon.com/amazingstoriesmag

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

AmazingCon UpDates

Next Article

HELLA, By David Gerrold: A Helluva Place, a Helluva Novel

You might be interested in …