Those of you who drop by here regularly know how much I love analogies. Well, I thought of a new one recently, while reviewing and critiquing partials for the Toronto Public Library Writer-in-Residence program.
Imagine that you want a tweed jacket. You can’t buy one that fits or that you really like, so you decide to make your own. The first thing you need is a length of cloth. Maybe you already know how to weave, or maybe you have to learn. Maybe you already have a loom, or can borrow one, or maybe you need to get some tools. Maybe you need some lessons. But one day, you warp up the loom and start weaving.
For this analogy, you don’t have to breed the sheep, or raise them, or ensure that their diet is balanced, or shear them/have them sheared, or spin the wool, or dye it. Depending on the length of your research process, though, it might make sense to consider this part of the analogy as it applies to you.
It takes a lot longer than you think to weave that length of cloth, but finally, you cut that length of cloth free and have a good look at it. And you love it. It fulfils all of your ideas about beauty in a length of cloth.
This is analgous to deciding to write a book. You do your research, you learn about craft, you learn about the world of your book – or create it – you gather your tools and you write a first draft. The first draft is the length of cloth. You likely find beauty in it. You might not want to do anything more with it.
But a length of cloth, no matter how beautiful it is, is not a jacket. You could wrap it around your shoulders, even toss the end over one shoulder, and wear it, but it will likely not be as comfortable as the jacket you desire. You might not wear it as much. It is not a jacket.
Similarly, a first draft is often not a marketable book.
To get a jacket, you will have to cut the cloth. You will have to shape it into pieces, then sew those pieces together. You will have to impose structure on the flat length of cloth.
And this is akin to shaping your first draft into a book. You will have to cut it. You will have to impose structure upon it. You will have to shape it into pieces, then sew those pieces together again, in a way that doesn’t resemble the flat piece of cloth. That’s how you get a book out of your draft.
It’s not easy – just as you might need several fittings to get the jacket exactly right, you might need several revisions to get the book exactly right – but picking up those scissors is the first step in making that transformation happen.