While dozing off last night, I came up with another weird metaphor for writing.
When sewing, if you stitch together two pieces of fabric whose seam edges are of equal length, you get a nice, straight, perfectly functional seam. But if you need more fullness in the garment — as you do when making skirts or shoulder seams for sleeves — then one technique is to cut one piece so its seam edge is longer than the edge you’re joining it to, and then pleat or gather the longer edge until it fits against the shorter one.
It’s important for me to take my time in writing something, to not leap on my ideas too quickly, because by taking it slowly, I give myself time to pleat or gather the story.
Here’s what I mean.
This came into my head because I had an idea while dozing off. It wasn’t a big idea; actually, it was just a complication of an idea, a way of adding depth (or in this metaphor, fullness) to the next bit of story. I knew from a while back that a scene would come when Lune would convey a certain piece of information to another character: that’s like the dots or notches you use to line up two pieces of fabric before stitching them. This needs to go here. And had I been sprinting through this book more quickly, that scene probably would have happened more or less straightforwardly, with no frills. But in between deciding I needed that scene and writing it (which I’m in the middle of at present), I had some time to think — and so the idea got more complicated. Lune isn’t going to want to convey that piece of information: there’s a bit of fullness. But she’ll end up having to: more gathering. And she’ll be in trouble for having tried to conceal it: now we’re getting somewhere. And she’ll owe someone a favor for not causing that trouble: that was last night’s pleat. Bit by bit, I’m adding these complications (and other, more spoilery ones I won’t describe) that don’t really create subplots or anything — I’m not adding in new pieces of fabric — but create more fullness in the subplots I already have, packing a greater amount of fabric/story into the space/seam provided.
Okay, now raise your hand if that made any sense to you.
(I suspect most of you with your hands up have experience with both writing and sewing.)
It’s good to let ideas sit for a while. Not only does it mean you have a chance to notice when they aren’t good ideas and replace them with better ones, it gives you time to improve on the ones that are already good. Other metaphors come to mind — I’m embroidering the idea, for example (what is it with me and textiles?) — but I like the three-dimensionality of this one. Because that’s what it feels like I’m doing: making the story more three-dimensional.