Writing the Elephant

Nina Killham has written (yet another) thought-provoking post on her blog.  It connects art and writing in a lovely, meditative way.

I’ve left a comment over there, but I’d like to expand on that over here.

Nina’s  post reminded me of the instructions given by “a famous sculptor” on how to create a statue of an elephant:

You get a giant block of marble . . .

. . . and carve away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

This is more or less the way I write.  I amass a first draft*. . .

(there’s a plot in there, I promise)

. . . And I whittle and revise, edit, beta, revise, ditch a couple of subplots, fire some characters, tighten the prose, and polish away anything that isn’t the story.**

This isn’t easy—both elephants and novels are far more complicated than one might think—but it seems to work.  And it’s fun, even with the pulling of hair and the cursing of the very alphabet.  If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any point, right?

So, while I am aiming for one of these, it’s no small accomplishment to have written an entire elephant.  Or two.  Or even three.  Because I’m learning more and more about elephants along the way.  And writing.

And hyperextending analogies.

So, anyone else have any?  Writing analogies, that is—although if you do have an elephant (written, sculpted, or otherwise) I’d love to see a photo!


*And if you think the photo exaggerates, ask my husband—I nest.  The expression on the lady’s face is, I’m told, the same one I get when someone drags me out of a scene.

**I save all the scraps of deathless prose in a folder.  Who knows when those ninja monkey nuns might come in handy?


5 thoughts on “Writing the Elephant

  1. I love the elephant and marble analogy. Because it’s just like that, isn’t it? It’s in there if I can just get to it! And love the desk. That’s exactly what mine looks like. With lots of chocolate biscuits in the mix. Thanks so much for the link. Let’s both keep carving away.

  2. Ah, that elephant. It all makes sense to me now. I think my method might be compared to making an elephant sculpture from paper mache, it starts out small then gets bigger as I work on it. Mostly because I lose the setting for the dialogue and have to go back in and balance the scales so I have more than characters talking in space.

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