Friday 20 October 2017

Sculpting A New Novel

I have to confess I've never done anything closely resembling physical sculpture unless you count the scrappy pieces that aspired to be pottery in the first year art classes at secondary school.

But I imagine the process is very similar to creating a  novel.  Especially a novel that has been waiting some time to take shape.

So, like the sculptor, I'm now in the process of gathering all the raw materials together - the ones I think I'll need for my latest creation. These will be things like notes I have been making for the last three or four years, diary entries, information gathered online etc, ever since this novel has been in the pipeline.  The gathering can take a while as I search and sort through my available materials.  Invariably some of them will have to go once the piece takes shape.  But there is something fresh and liberating - if a bit daunting - about starting a new piece of work, even though this one isn't like starting quite from scratch. It is a follow up book and therefore many of the characters are already in existence.  

I've never been of those to throw all the materials in a messy heap and see where it takes me, hoping that it will all come together. I need a vision as to how my finished sculpture will take shape.  I have to have some design and structure as I'm sure most novelists do. In fact, this process will have been going on subconsciously for some time, and that is part of the gathering exercise. You could say ideas are the raw clay that need shaping and moulding into a story or novel.

Chances are the sculpture won't end up as envisioned. But the shaping takes place from the off.  Then more shaping and moulding and scooping bits out that don't work or look clumsy.  The refining and reshaping is the hard part - the time when you have to get ruthless. Filing down sentences, remodelling characters and chiselling away at paragraphs or whole chapters. But also introducing new dimensions. This is the time when surprises can occur.  Maybe the finer details will open up new possibilities and directions. Maybe you will spend more time on parts that you thought were mundane or straightforward.  It is an organic, living, evolving thing.

It will become part of you, so much so, that maybe you won't know when it's finished - if there can ever be such a thing as 'finished' with creative work.  I have known artists who stare at their work too long and can no longer stand back and see it objectively. That is where others can come in and suggest some more essential sculpting.

Until voilĂ  - your new sculpture is ready to be let loose in the world and then you start the process all over again!

How about you?  Maybe for you it is more of a song analogy, working away at notes and chords, lyrics and harmonies until it is ready to go public.