Writers…Computers or Clay?

I am working on a section of a memoir for submission to a writer’s workshop.  As I rewrite, and rewrite, I find myself stumbling upon new ideas, interpretations, metaphors and allusions. I’ve long known this would happen, but am still giddy and nearly intoxicated when it does.

This is all good, except when it happens in the middle of a previously “finished” chapter. You know, like when you’re three-quarters of the way through building your ranch house and suddenly decide that a second story would be AWESOME!!  Sometimes it is good to stick to plan?

I’ve employed two approaches over the years, and neither seems ideal.  Computers and Clay.

The Computers model, to offer a completely geeky metaphor, is to take a “snapshot” of where my book is at this point in time, to have as a failsafe to return to if the new digression doesn’t pan out.  Then I use the “copy” of the chapter to try the new ideas.  The problem is that eventually I have to integrate everything into a single piece, and I have three different “Chapter 3” files, none of which necessarily necessarily conform to a single chapter replacement.

Alternately, the Clay model takes a 3/4 thrown vessel spinning on a potter’s wheel and attempts to integrate new ideas and adjust.  Before I know it I have either successfully pulled off the mid-process alterations, and formed a beautiful vase or mug of inspiration, or I have ham-handedly mangled my work into a six legged mutant polar bear sitting on the wheel; a shambles of something that was formerly coherent and nearly “good.”

On the upside of Clay, I can painstakingly gather all the mess into a single ball, and begin re-throwing the entire thing, with knowledge of how I need to build to incorporate the new idea from the beginning.  I have tended toward Clay,  and had enough work slump misshapen to the floor that I start to wonder if more practiced writers might have other methods.

How do you work?  Computers or Clay?  Other?


One thought on “Writers…Computers or Clay?

  1. I do more the clay model. That said, I have a general idea where I’m headed and I want the surprises to be in execution, not in all-out content. I want to discover new insights and fresher uses of language, not to discover another topic to write about.

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