So there is this concept I am really taken with and I've been rolling it around in my mind, exploring the shape and feel and heft of it for a few weeks now. It was something someone said a couple of months ago in a comment on my FB page (I’m thinking it was Shevi, but I might be misremembering—speak up if it was you!) They said something to the effect that unlike the sculptor who starts with a stone they can turn into something, writers must first make the stone, then use it to build their stories. It has resonated with me ever since. Particularly in the last week or so as I try to jump-start this newest book.
I am struck by the clear delineation between the two parts of writing—creating the material for the story, then building that story. And I think that’s where a number of beginning writers stumble. They think that what they’ve created IS the story, and it’s not—it’s the material from which they will create the story.
I also think this is the key to effective revision—being willing to see the first draft(s) as the base material you will be working with to create the actual story, rather than simply polishing a first draft. (Whether you do this scene by scene or draft by draft is less critical than the fact that you are willing to take things apart and look for clues and breadcrumbs in your first drafts rather than feel they are cast in stone.)
Then because life often loves to be sure I really GET the lesson it’s sending me, someone forwarded me a link to a NaNo pep talk Neil Gaiman had given about writing being like building a stone wall, and again I was struck that as writers we need to create the d@mn stones from which to build our walls, not to mention that we have to shape each piece so that it fits in the whole without huge gaps or worse—threatens to tumble at the first big breeze.
Anyway, it helped me realize that a big part of my writing process, my pre-writing process to be exact, is not about outlining or planning so much as it is about creating the material I will need to tell my story. Collaging, research, reading other books, journaling, note-taking—these are all the tools I use to give birth to the rocks I will need to build my story. And yes, that's a wince-inducing metaphor, but honest to gawd, sometimes that's what it feels like. Not always, by any means, but definitely this week.