28 July 2010

Sculpting a book: from bare outline to fully formed story

When I am asked about the writing process, I like to use the analogy of a sculptor.

Just as a sculptor starts with sketches or small scale models, I began this project by making notes on the general structure of the book, following the main paths of Beverly Eckert's story. And just as a sculptor working in clay fashions a wire frame in the general shape of the final piece, I put together an outline listing the main parts, chapters, episodes of the story. To add texture and depth to the bare wire frame, the artist pinches off pieces of clay and smoothes them onto the frame, layer by layer, getting closer to the final design. As in all good works of non-fiction, the story told in No Truer Hearts is made up of facts, which I am drawing from interviews, emails, documents, articles, books, films, electronic media and other sources. I use these sources to add detail, insight and color to the basic outline, layer by layer, chapter by chapter, episode by episode. It is a process, in a way, of creative accretion, a gradual and deliberate adding on of color, shape, substance, soul.

In the end, there will be something that is both pleasing to the senses, and sturdy enough as an object of historical analysis to stand the test of time, a goal that Beverly and I both shared.

No comments: