Saturday, January 1, 2011

Writing around the Christmas Tree

It's the holiday season and, like many other families, we try to make a special occasion out of decorating the Christmas Tree.
But, while doing so, I was struck by the similarities between the rewriting process and dressing the Christmas Tree.
I should say at this point that I have become even more of a fan of the rewriting process than I was before. There are some writers who can punch out a book in one sitting - I remember reading that Enid Blyton used to knock out a 50,000-word Famous Five book in one weekend (and still have time for a cracking tea with lashings of strawberry jam). I'm not one of them.
My first draft is when I get to know the characters - and then I start to play with them, to add texture and richness and sub-plots and detail.
Each subsequent draft adds a little something more, each draft not necessarily making radical changes but constant, subtle ones, until the finished product is drastically different from the first draft.
Not unlike the Christmas Tree.
First of all you have the bare foliage - the bare bones, if you will.
Next comes the lights, which have to be positioned just right. Following them the tinsel is draped around the tree, spaced evenly and given due weight.
Next comes the special ornaments, the ones that have particular meaning. These are spaced properly, placed to give them the prime position.
Then come the Christmas balls; next the ribbons, then the other assorted ornaments and finally the candy canes.
After each stage, we stand back and look at the tree, consider it from several different angles, and possible reposition things. A precious ornament might be in just the right place - but it means the tinsel, or possible a light, need to be moved.
It's an organic process, which takes time, until all are in agreement that it is looking the best it possible can be - even better, in fact. It is perfect.
All of this is not unlike the writing - and re-writing - process.
Each layer adds something new, works in with what is already there and adds to the whole.
At the end, far from the bare bones, you have something that is a pleasure to the eye and inspires comment from others.
If you can do that with a book, then it's been a good Christmas indeed!

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