Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You might be a writer if...

Fall is upon us and Winter is just around the corner, which means I am back to layering. It's cold in the mornings, almost freezing now, which means gloves and jacket while running. I even donned my fingerless writing gloves yesterday because it was kind of chilly in my office, as well as a heavy fleece jacket. Granted, I don't usually wear as many layers as the woman in the picture to the right when I'm toiling away in my office. Usually. But even on those exceptionally cold mornings, as the day starts to warm, off come the layers. Sort of like the trees shedding their leaves. First the gloves. Then the jacket. Then the thick socks over my regular socks. Layers. Layers. Layers. They're everywhere.

Even in writing.

You might be a writer're into layering.

This semester at Vermont college coincides well with my "layering" epiphany. Each packet (we're up to 4 now and the last, the fifth, is due December 6) my advisor has given me the same advice, "This is great. Now go back and dig deeper. Make it better." While I've spent a good deal of time these last three months hashing out the linear storyline, I've spent far more going back and layering. First, it was my characters. I needed to deepen their emotional resonance. Then, it was my emotional vs. external storylines. I needed to deepen and merge them.

My normal method of writing thus far has been to hash out that down draft and then go back and layer, but that's hard to do with only 4 weeks per packet. The result has been linear and horizontal development happening simultaneously. Not an easy feat to pull off but well worth the effort.

As I've gone back and sculpted away, tearing out, rewriting, molding, shaping, I've become aware of the layers in my story and how they interact in a super slow mo sort of way. It's much more acute and measured, this seeing and perceiving, almost like applying then watching each layer of paint dry and the slow but inevitable enrichment that layer imbues upon the one below it. How the sum become greater than the individual parts.

Yesterday was the first time I got a glimpse of a very small corner of what this piece will look like when it's done. A snippet of the finished product in all its full, rich, complete and layered color. It was pretty cool. I've never taken my work this slowly before and watched its deliberate and steady development. I am beginning to understand how David Almond could have created Kit's Wilderness, a piece so layered and emotionally resonate on so many levels, it's become my benchmark and goal. Get to that kind of writing. It seldom happens that so many pieces of a work play together like a symphony, like Ravel's Bolero, repeating the same theme but in nuanced variation such that the air pulses with the harmony of melodies. And it's all due to subtle, controlled, labored over layering.

Layers. If you don't got 'em. Get 'em. Cause they can turn great writing into unforgettable stories. 


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oooh--this is SO true about good writing. Layering. LOVE this post.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Thank you! I'm so glad someone else feels the same way :-)