Rubberband Ball

I have been sick for the last week and I’m finally starting to feel a little bit better. The good news is that despite taking a few-days-break from writing, I have been making good progress. I managed to move through the toughest elements of my story so I could marry the beginning of the book with later elements that I had not yet incorporated.

But, in doing this, I allowed myself to change and rearrange my story. I added to old concepts that were really only the seeds of an idea-but before I start mixing more pieces of metaphors, I’m going to pick one. I thought about how I would liken this latest step in the process to a metaphorical idea. Was this like making soup and throwing ingredients in? Was this like building a working car engine? Was this like a trial and error process of eating from a box of unidentified chocolates until you find the one you like best? Mmm no. Each of those examples shows writing as a linear process: add in the ingredients, stir, or build, and then out comes the finished piece, but if it was like that then I would already be done. (I’m hoping that if anyone reads this and comes up with an idea of their own they will let me know…)

The best idea I could come up with was the rubberband ball. The process I’ve been going through is not linear. I’ve re-written my opening chapter about eight times while continuing to write my story, even though none of the first chapter’s events have changed. Instead, I’ve expanded the scope of who witnesses the opening event. I also have used this widening scope to put pieces of the opening in other places in the story. It all unravels but not all in the first chapter. My more detailed outline takes pieces of what I’ve put down previously and moves the elements around while also expanding on them. Ok, so that brings me to my metaphor. Let’s say you buy one of those multi-colored rubberband balls. They come with a rubber center and a ton of multi-colored rubberbands. The rubber center is the initial spark of an idea. Each color for the bands represents a plot point in the story. All the yellows would go in a pile, all the reds, all the greens, etc. and each band in each color represents different pieces of the same plot point. As I started to wrap the bands around its rubber center I started to build my story, but just because I had one of every color starting off my rubberband ball doesn’t mean I was anywhere near done with my story. So I had to keep adding different bands of the same color, building the story, growing it outward. If one color dies out it simply gets buried by the other colors. It still affects the rest of the story and how I view the changes I’ve made, but it won’t be visible by the end.

I’m enjoying taking new pieces of the same plot and extracting, adding and bending it to become workable. I’m still encountering challenges, but I can see the big picture better now. I’ve been able to take the advice of others, but not so much so that it takes me away from my vision, instead of closer to its realization. My detailed outline is almost complete and therefore, almost ready for another draft.

With this metaphor though, I wonder when you’re supposed to know that you’re done? (world’s largest rubberband ball pictured below)

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4 responses to “Rubberband Ball

  1. Great quote Tony! Thanks for sharing. This applies to so many artistic mediums as well. I can’t tell you how many times my brother’s sent me music only to write in the email, “keep in mind it isn’t finished.” And while at a Wondercon panel on music composition for TV, one of the panelists said something like, “My score is never finished. I just run out of time.”

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