Chisels or Brushes

I’ve heard other writers compare the writing process to carving a statue. A sculptor starts with a block of raw material and chisels it down bit by bit, removing all the unnecessary parts to reveal David’s perfect form.

Many writers work that way. They write epic first drafts hundreds of thousands of words long and then strip them down and strip them down to reveal the story underneath.

I hear them talk about knowing so much about their character that they have to constantly remind themselves that readers don’t need a minute by minute biography of a character’s life. So they take out the chisel and break off anything that is not essential.

I don’t write that way. My writing is more like painting. I start with a blank canvas, an empty page. I might paint the whole canvas blue, then add a strip of green. I paint the white clouds on top of the blue sky, then add pink to touch the sky with sunset. My writing starts with bare bones, and becomes more an more complex.

I don’t know my characters inside out, at least, not at first. Over time, through the words, through the layers, I get to know them. The story builds from an empty canvas to a landscape at sunset only after many layers of paint have been added.

The point is, it’s good to read about how other writer’s do things. The best way to learn is by following in the footsteps of someone who has succeeded at the task you have set for yourself. But don’t get locked into someone else’s method. Do what comes naturally.

You still have to sit down, shut up and write something, but how you write is up to you.


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