Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Writing and Fencing

Yesterday my husband, two sons, and I spent the day working on our fences. When we moved to our property, we originally built fences for large animals (horses and cows). We've had a drought since then and it's left us with less feed so we decided to begin raising small animals. Since we have the world's largest population of hungry coyotes, when we decided to begin raising goats, we had to tear down and rebuild our fences in order to protect the goats from these determined (and very noisy) predators. (We also have a llama to protect the goats, but we didn't want to depend solely on the llama to discourage the coyotes).

As I was working on our fence, I thought about how it relates to writing. The first time we built our fences it was a wide open space-an empty canvas-and we could choose wherever we wanted to place the fence. We had to plan and make decisions about what our goals were and then place the fence according to those plans. We had to decide where to place gates and how to access all the fields. We had to decide what type of fence to build and how to place it around our house. It was a wild adventure and when we finished we had something that looked much different than when we began. It was like the first draft of a story. We had started with nothing, but ended with something pretty amazing.

After the fence was built for large animals and we determined it no longer served our needs for smaller animals, it became more like the next drafts of a story. We had to remove the parts that no longer served us and make some changes, but we left the "skeleton." We didn't completely destroy it. We used the bare bones to rebuild, but added something else--changing it to meet our needs. We also had to do some more planning and make sure the end result would meet our goals.

While I was taking down the barbed wire fence and then attempting to coil it up (not an easy task and never do it with anything but leather gloves), I thought about the difficult task of rebuilding it and how this was even more work because, though the fence posts were still there, I had the work of removing the old and replacing with the new, just like it is to revise and rewrite. I have to remove the parts of the story that don't work and replace those parts with something new that will make the story better.

I believe the task of writing the first draft is work, but it's also invigorating to see a story take shape and when you're done you can see the huge task you've accomplished because you started with nothing but ended with something pretty amazing.

With rewriting and revision, you have the bare bones, the heart of your story, but there is still much work to be done. It isn't so easy to see what you've accomplished when you're revising and it takes a lot of stamina and dedication to go through a story bit by bit and piece by piece, but when you're finished, you have something that's even more amazing (hopefully). Then you can sit back, enjoy the fruits of your labors for a moment until it's time to dive back in and write something else.


Tristi Pinkston said...

Great analogy!

I didn't know that llamas could protect other animals from coyotes. That's pretty cool!

Traci Hunter Abramson said...

This is so true. Building a story is such a labor of love, but it takes a lot to go from rough draft to polished manuscript. I find I have trouble letting my stories go until they are truly cultivated and I simply can't take them any further.

Annette Lyon said...

You always have such great metaphors for writing. This is another great one.

Ajoy said...

I neat comparison- thanks :)

Did you happen to name your Llama 'TINA' because of the movie Napoleon Dynamite? If so...you're AWESOME! I practically peed my pants the first time I saw that movie- especially the scenes with his Llama Tina. Oh my- so hilarious! hahhahahahahahaha

Rebecca Talley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Talley said...

Yes, Tina is named after the llama in the movie--my family can quote the whole thing.

We're not convinced our llama is a great protector, but that is why we got her. Hopefully, we'll never have to rely on her protecting skills because our fence will keep out the coyotes and dogs.

And, yes, building a story is a ton of work and is indeed a labor of love.

Thanks for everyone's comments.