Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ripping Stitches: A Writing Metaphor

“Go get the seam ripper!” is the most common quote I remember from my sewing years growing up. A seam ripper, FYI, is a small device used to rip out one’s work. For me, sewing was frequently a process of one step forward and two steps back. The machine would jam; the material would pucker; the edge of the seams would catch.

Today I decline to sew.

I do, however, upon occasion find myself living a sewing metaphor, and that is what I am living this week. You see, I have a brand new manuscript ready to go out to publishers and agents; therefore, I logged onto my website this week, just to see what details I need to update and polish. The homepage looks the same as it has the last several times I have logged onto it; but this time I attempted to check other pages.

Nothing is working. All the links from the homepage are giving me scary, unhappy messages about how my website may either 1. not be configured correctly or 2. not really be my website. Yikes! Obviously something is not up to date. Here I was thinking the website was one aspect of marketing that is cumulative and continues to develop the more effort I put into it.

Time to get out the seam ripper AKA e-mail my web tech specialist and prepare myself mentally to rework whatever web pages will need reworking.

I do the same every day that I write. I now know a great deal more about what it takes to create a polished manuscript than I did when I wrote the first draft of my first book. But the process is the same. The polished pages never emerge in the first draft. That draft is just as messy as it always has been. If anything, the number of revisions has gone up.

But unlike with sewing, I love the process. I love peeling back the mess and plunging deeper and deeper into the story. Figuring out each of the characters and what about them is required in order to make every line sound right. Sometimes, I write whole scenes that prove unnecessary. Other times, those scenes turn out to be exactly what the novel needs. It is fun. It is also work.

The ripping is still hard.

But at least once a chapter, I have the amazing sense that comes when everything feels right.