I Need a Metaphor
Or maybe it’s an analogy. I’m not going to dig out the dictionary or the style guide to make sure. Besides, I’m guessing most of you are just as vague and blurry on the difference as me.
I’ve been working on my first draft for two days now. I’m up to page 27 in my nifty DRAFT 1 binder, which breaks down to five very short scenes. Very short. Which may be okay. Or not.
And I keep trying to think of that exact phrase, that perfect image that will show (not tell!) what this all feels like.
I’ve been searching for this metaphor analogy metaphor for years. As an editor, I would try to explain to clients what revision is like, that you’re taking this…something and pulling it apart, ripping it into pieces, putting it back together. When I started speaking at workshops, I found myself waving my arms around in the air, trying to draw, maybe, what this…whatever looked like, and why it was such a good way to actually start creating a novel. I’ve used these not-quite-there, close-but-no-cigar descriptions:
- It’s like a lump of clay. Except you don’t just go out and buy it; you actually have to mix everything together until you’ve created the lump.
- It’s like making Pytt i Panna, which is actually a kind of Swedish hash, but is also the phrase my husband uses to describe when his mother cooked by pretty much pulling leftovers out of the fridge and cooking them all together in one pot. Or maybe she wasn’t that random, but he sure is.
- It’s kind of like that sculptor (Michelangelo? DaVinci? Someone else?) who said he didn’t carve the statue; he chipped away at the rock until the statue came out. Except it’s not really like that, it’s more like actually building or growing the rock in the first place.
- And my all-time favorite, dug deep out of the ooh-gross file: It’s the “vomit draft.” Get everything out now and worry about cleaning it up later.
As you can see, none of these is exactly poetic. (Hey, maybe it was Aristotle who made the comment about the statue!) And none of them has that seamless beauty that you get when you truly hit the nail on the head. Instead of your thumb.
So I’m coming to you all. What do you call your first draft. (Keep it clean, please!) What analogy metaphorthingamabob do you use to explain what this feels like, this process of creating the gunk out of which you hope to create something…more? Please, share your thoughts in the comments. If I use your idea at a workshop or conference, I promise to give you an attribution. Okay, it may be something like, “One of the wonderful, brilliant people who read my blog told me….,” but I will definitely admit that someone sharper than me solved this dilemma!