Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Explosion of Metaphors

When I first got back into knitting (August 2003) I was struck by the parallels between looping yarn over needles and writing. It got to the point where I had to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and start humming really loud to keep them at bay.

And then it stopped. Knitting was knitting. Writing was writing. Two separate activities with absolutely nothing in common but me. One was wordless. One was (God help me) sometimes a little too wordy. Both had the qualities of an addiction. Unfortunately only one could pay the mortgage. (Unless you count the two-scarf contract from Penguin that Goldisox likes to tease me about.)

Just when I thought I was over the worst of it and the metaphor monster had been put to rest along with the Ab Fabs and the multi-directional scarves and novelty yarns, it came swooping back in at me thanks to Susan Wiggs and the terrific workshop she's holding this week over at the Romance Divas Forum. Susan is talking about Plotting From the Inside Out (a technique I definitely hold close to my heart) and she asked a fascinating question. What type of writer are you? A quilter? A sculptor? A knitter?

You guessed it: I'm a knitter through and through. I work line by line, row by row, and have to frog the whole damned thing each and every time I find a mistake. I long to be a rough draft kind of writer, someone who powers through the story from start to finish in an explosion of heat and enthusiasm and then, when the passion cools, goes back and layers in detail, dialogue, changes in direction. But I'm not. I can't move forward without taking at least two or three steps backward. How can you know where you're going if you're not sure where you've been? I have to know where I've been, know it in great and excruciating detail, before I can take that leap of faith into the next page, the next chapter.

Kind of like where I am right now with the never-ending What Am I Going To Do With This Gorgeous Noro Silk Garden series of scarf attempts. That's Take #3 (WAVY from Knitty) up there. It's longer now.
Fortunately, so is the book in progress.

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Blogger Fran Baker said...

OMG, Barbara, you just described me as a writer. Write, write, write, then read and rewrite. Then start the whole thing all over again. Right now, I'm a little over 100 pages into the book that I hope will be the first in a series of at least three. And I just realized I need to expand a certain scene little bit more in Chapter 5.

10:04 AM  
Blogger georg said...

Maybe that's my problem. I'm a quilter, a knitter, a booze-maker, cheesemonger, embroiderer, seamstress, painter, and half a dozen other crafts. I see the beginnings of stories, and sometimes the endings, and don't know what goes in the middle, and sometimes no clue how to get there from here. Of course, because I'm so quickly distracted by something shiny, I've got a huge case of buttnotinchairitis. I think that's why I write a lot of poems and short stories- they're like socks and wall hangings- quickly done. (Compared to bed-sized quilts and sweaters, and novels)

9:01 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

I think I'm basically a knitter, especially with the relationship part of the book. But then I go back and add embroidery, usually by deepening and tightening the mystery part of the book.

I've had to force myself not to rewrite whole sections until I finish the book because I don't write quickly to begin with and that slows me down to a crawl. However, I totally agree that I can't figure out where I'm going until I know where I've been.

Georg, you have the instincts of a novelist! I always start with the characters, an opening scene and a closing scene. I have no idea what will go on in the middle either. That's the fun of the book: jumping in and seeing where the characters and conflict take you. If I knew everything about the story, I'd get bored.

I'm a big fan of writing poetry. I did it all through high school and college and I think it strengthened my prose work immeasurably.

Speaking of sculpture, I remember the one time in high school art class they made us carve something out of stone. My admiration for Michelangelo turned to downright awe. I've never been so terrified in my life as when I made that first chisel stroke--and it was extremely tiny and tentative. I mean with writing and knitting, you're adding on so you can always add more or less. With chiseling, once you've taken off that bit of stone, it's gone forever (unless there's some sculptor secret they don't tell you in h.s. art class). My nerves were shot by the time I finished my little sleeping bird and I swore I'd never chisel again.

10:38 AM  
Blogger georg said...

I've done wood carving- the material is cheaper and easier than stone, so I think it's less intimidating- but oh boy do I understand that!

8:34 AM  

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