Author Ruth Smith Meyer

Ruth Smith Meyer Inspirational writer, speaker

Thinking out Loud on my Blog

Clay, Wheel, Power! Scalpel! Clamps! Sutures!

Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on January 26, 2014 at 8:35 PM

Writing! What tools do I, as a writer, use? Contemplating this question, I first thought of a potter, with a lump of clay. The basic ingredients of a story, but shapeless, without form—that’s often how a story starts—just that basic idea plopped in the middle of the wheel in some dark recesses of my brain. Then the wheel starts turning and as it gains speed the power of the movement is transferred to that lump of clay and the Hands that guide me begin  to be form it into a recognizable shape of either utility or beauty and perhaps some of both. Unlike an ordinary piece of clay, the story begins to become a living, breathing thing.


Before the process can start, I need to budget my time—make some definite time commitment. Taking a week at a time at a cottage, in a motel room or house-sitting for friends can speed the process immeasurably. When that is impossible, it’s helpful to shut off my telephone and close my door. A bit of music or white noise in the background, for me, is a necessary tool as well. My computer really gets the wheel turning, the idea to take form. When my hands rest on the keys, it seems as though the words automatically start seeping out through my fingers. That’s when it’s good to use the hot-pen method. Keep writing, don’t pay too much attention to grammar or filling in descriptions—get the story told. If I have to leave it for a time, I always read over the last several chapters to get back into the swing before resuming. If I’m unsure of a time period or sequence of events, I often stop awhile to look up the information I need, but then get right back at it. My thesaurus and dictionary are never far from my right hand even in this initial stage. Bible Gateway is another shaping tool that I use to contour my writing.


When the first draft is completed, it’s time for the tools in the subtitle. Reading the story over I see how it flows, but have my imaginary medical assistant ready to hand me the scalpel to cut out the unnecessary parts, (and that can cause excruciating pain) or to move parts around to where they fit better.


I need that scalpel to cut out my favorite, over-used words. In my first novel, I must have cut out at least a hundred repetitions of “some.” It seems every other object or emotion I mentioned was preceded by “some.”


I need clamps to keep the cuts from bleeding too much into other parts of the story, or to shut off vital parts until they can be rerouted. I’m far too apt to want to tell the whole story right away instead of letting it develop throughout—giving the outcome that happened much later, thus spoiling the anticipation and element of surprise.


Of course I need sutures to stitch together the resituated parts, fill in descriptions and emotions, and give voice to the parts where I assume people know what I am thinking. I also need to sew up the sections so they don’t carry on and on with unimportant drivel. Sometimes, like many weaver of words, I am tempted to add more details when the story really is done.


These are just some of the tools I use in writing. There are probably many more but they’ll have to wait until another blog, when something I am doing brings them to mind.


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Reply Tracy Krauss
11:22 PM on January 27, 2014 
Great analogy ruth!
Reply Patti J Smith
11:10 PM on January 28, 2014 
Great post! Thanks!!!!
Reply Janet Sketchley
6:19 PM on February 1, 2014 
Well said, Ruth! I love the surgery image.
Reply Sara Davison
10:11 PM on February 8, 2014 
Nice metaphors! And very apt. I need all those tools as well. Love the term "hot-pen method".I really try to follow that too, although it never fails that when the pen is hottest, the kids suddenly need to eat dinner, or be driven to sports, or my husband wants to tell me about his day. Honestly, the things we writers have to put up with!