Stick Figures

Bad Metaphor Monday: Writing a Book is Like Crocheting a Blanket

imageThere’s a blanket on my bed I made seven years ago.  When I started it, I didn’t really know what it was going to wind up looking like.  I experimented with different colors and made a plan–the results of which I was very pleased.  It was fun to watch the blanket come together, and I can still see that learning/growing part of myself tangled in its threads.

When you’re learning to do something and you have passion for the subject, you breathe life into your work.  Put a few years into something, and you risk losing touch with that creative spark–that is–if you don’t make an effort to approach what you are doing from a new angle and keep an open mind.

Case in point, I decided to put together another granny square blanket.  Having completed the first blanket, I thought it would be a snap.  I planned it all ahead of time–picking the yarn and drawing a diagram.  There was no room left for experimentation, and though this blanket I’m piecing together now isn’t ugly…it’s not alive.  Perhaps I should’ve ditched the granny squares or blankets altogether and made–I don’t know–a wicked awesome hat with one of those giant pom-poms to smack me in the face when I walked down the street.  That, although dumb, would’ve been more exciting.

The same principle applies to writing.  Writers each have their own “process,” but if the book I’m writing now is any indication, that process needs to be flexible.  It would be nice to be able to plan everything out ahead of time, but I’m sure that is seldom the case with even the most seasoned authors.  I go through a long developing stage before I sit down to actually draft, but even then I find myself changing, changing, changing.

“Wouldn’t it be better if…”

“This part isn’t working…”

“Oh, I know.  I’ll…”

“Cat!  Get off the keyboard!”

Every new book is a new baby, and it’s our job as writers to give that baby what it needs.  My current baby would rather set fire to my scene cards than use them.  She coos when I begin writing off track into something completely different and, incidentally, better.  Hmm.

Michelle Joyce Bond

P.S.  My apologies for the second bad, cliché, book-is-a-baby metaphor.  Can’t help myself. 🙂

By the way writers, how is your book baby coming along?  Is he/she being fussy or is everything coming together as planned?

Stick Figures

First Draft Manuscript Goes Up In a Glorious Blaze

imageYesterday, I dumped 16,000 words of my latest WIP in my never-to-return folder and started over again.  Did the writing suck?  I like to think not, but I’d gotten to the point that I could see a better way to write the book.  When this happens, dump the old manuscript and start over from scratch.  You will thank yourself.

Really, 16,000 words isn’t a big deal. I’ve rewritten entire books (one of them twice).  This time, it came to me that I could strengthen the entire story if I changed the basic make-up of my antagonist.

“What?” you say.  “You’re changing the entire story to work around your antagonist?” Well…yeah.  As a serial revisionist, I make changes to my manuscripts all the time, but there was no way to work around something this big.  Here are the reasons:

  1. My characters’ actions are married to the plot—antagonists included.  If the antagonist does something differently or is a different person altogether, the plot must change.
  2. The major antagonist’s traits echo the protagonist in some ways (personal preference), so when he changes, she must change.
  3. If the protagonist changes in her desires and actions—even small shifts—the plot is directly affected in fundamental ways.

I know I don’t have to do the above—that my characters’ basic make-up and the plot do not need to be so closely connected…but I can’t help myself.  I am not a writer who sits down and speedily bangs out a book (though instinct and discovery writing definitely have their place in the drafting process).  I am a writer who spaces out while leaning over blank notebook pages, and—let’s be honest—at various other points during my day.  Only after weeks of this daydreaminig will I sit down and begin to write about characters, settings, plot points, experimental scenes, etc. in a notebook.  Often, I’ll write through half the notebook and start over again because I figured out a better way to plot it—a way in which everything was connected. Then, and only then, do I begin drafting.

And now I’ll start over again.  Happily. 🙂

Have you ever burned it all to the ground and started from scratch?  Share below!