Friday, August 12, 2016

What I learned about editing from crafting

I made my first bead-loom bracelet at seven years old, courtesy of a bead loom Christmas gift. Turns out I liked jewelry making, because I've been doing it on and off since, though only as a hobby. 

Naturally, this lead to me making my own wedding jewelry. But there's a thing about crafting: it takes a while to learn the skills, and even when you've learned them, projects may need remaking. Often many times. 

Design #3 (when I started recording
my different re-makes)

Design #4. Flowers didn't lay right.

Design #5. Remade this one 3 times
to get the center flower to sit right.
Finally concluded that I liked it,
but it wasn't what I wanted. 

Design #6.Remade several times to get
the charm to hang right. Flowers hand-
sewn into metal backings. But finally,
it was the form I was looking for.

Adjusted length of necklace to match
dress neckline. Fixed earrings to
hang correctly--center of balance off.
Finally, ready to go!
It took several months before I had a jewelry set I was satisfied with. First I found beads I liked and decided on the charm I wanted to use--much like coming up with an essential idea. But putting it together, I constantly found that it just wasn't quite right yet. It didn't hang right, or I couldn't make the charm fit on the necklace, or it just didn't make me happy. So I rewrote redesigned it. We'll call this 'developmental edits.'

And when I did finally find a form I was satisfied with, I still had to adjust it. Create longer earrings so they would hang correctly instead of dangling downwards; make it longer to better fit the neckline; adjust the strings so that instead of sending 3 beaded strands through a single set of large clear filler beads, each strand had its own set of small clear beads. Line editing.

And then there's the finishing touches: tucking in the threads, gluing down threads that can't be tucked, painting over threads so they're less noticeable, making sure wires aren't poking out. Let's call that proof-reading.

The thing about crafting is that it isn't a one-step process. The product isn't created into its finished state: you have to re-shape, or sand and polish, or tuck in loose threads. You always have multiple steps in the process.

Nor do you expect to begin perfect. It takes experience to learn how which types of wires act which way, and how to crimp a crimp bead without breaking it, and how to approximate how many beads to add to get the right desired length.

But many beginning writers become disappointed that writing fiction is not a first-try feat. Yes, it takes practice, because it's different from classroom writing or office writing. It takes editing. Sometimes it takes reflowing the entire story. Sometimes it requires reflowing the story multiple times. That's normal. Even people who outline rigorously sometimes find that they have to add whole scenes, or remove whole characters from an entire book.

Because writing is a craft. And crafts are many-step processes. And chances are, your first piece is not going to be perfect--it may take several tries before you write a story that you can sell.

But when you're done, when you've made lots of pieces and know what you want to write, when all the strings are glued and all the wires tucked, you'll have something pretty. So keep at it. And don't be afraid to edit.

(Photographer: Jim Colman)


  1. Amazing work you did on all the jewelry. Thanks for ending with the wedding photo, you look beautiful, the perfect ending.
    Great analogy. My writing group meets for a jewelry session once a year and you are so correct about the correlations. We believe that trying another creative endeavor helps us get our creativity flowing in a new way that helps us get back to the writing refreshed and full of more creativity.

    1. Thank you! It was worth all the work. :) I love the idea of having a crafting session with a writing group. You are so right: working on a different kind of craft really does refresh and recharge the imagination. What a wonderful idea!

  2. Congrats on the wedding, and hope you continue with your writing & your crafts.