Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sometimes you have to hit it with a stick

. . . Or why revising is like trimming in ceramics.

This is what a bowl looks like after it's been thrown and taken off the wheel to dry for a few days. Do you see the thick mass of clay at the base of the bowl? (It's upside down, so you are looking at the 'foot') That's clay that will need to be trimmed away to reveal the profile of an ideal bowl.

First you need to trim the bottom of the bowl flat.

Then you choose the diameter of the foot and trim away the excess.

Trim the slope of the side smooth from foot to body of the bowl.

To remove weight from the bottom of the bowl, and to create the 'ring' of the foot, carve away excess from the base.

Now we have a bowl with a nice balance of foot to body, and a foot that fits the slope of the bowl.

Unfortunately, when I went to remove it from the wheel, I compressed the side, warping it. And once that happens, there's no way to recover it to round.

So I did what one of my teachers taught me. I hit it with a stick.

Now I have a squared-off bowl.
That will be a dramatic piece, like this one. (Yes, I've done this before. . .)

This is the 'revising' phase of ceramics.

In writing, the first draft is the just-thrown bowl. You really can't do much with it. It needs to dry, to set up so it can be shaped into something finished, something able to be used. While a piece of ceramics will reach that stage in a day or two or three, a first draft story often needs to sit for weeks or months, letting time pass between the writing and the revising so that the writer can approach the work as new again.

Revising a manuscript is the act of shaping and altering. And just like something doesn't work out exactly as you'd planned, you can hit your story with a stick. Metaphorically, of course - turning it into something that may be quite different than your original conception.

And that's okay.

Not all bowls need to be round.

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