Scaffolding

Good writing today, although I feel virtually certain this scene will not make the final cut. There’s not much action besides drinking lemonade and taking a bath; there’s a certain amount of playing with themes, but I suspect even this will turn out to be an understudy for better handling of the same themes later.

Why write it, then, if I already know that? Well, it’s because I need to understand what happens in this scene – in an irritating amount of detail – before I can write other, better scenes.

I try to skip ahead sometimes, but it rarely works. I’m someone who needs a very strong foundation to build on, because I’m not just throwing up a tool shed, here. I’m building a cathedral, maybe, or a skyscraper, or the Taj Mahal. Seraphina is part of that foundation, yes, but it’s not sufficient in itself. This book is sending up spires in other directions, and they have to be able to stand.

Or maybe a painting metaphor would be more apt. I’m painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but I can’t just throw paint upwards and hope. There’s scaffolding that has to be built so I can do my job. Some scenes are like scaffolding: they hold me up while I write other scenes, and then they are removed. But I can’t just skip them. I’m not magic; I can’t reach the ceiling without a place to stand.

Scaffolding is ugly and cluttered, I admit, but once it’s gone you can’t even tell where it stood. All that’s left is ceiling.


4 Comments on “Scaffolding”

  1. Brian says:

    Although I can’t find an image of it with a quick Google, I understand that Michelangelo created some pretty snazzy scaffolding for that ceiling-painting job he did. It apparently started rather high up on the walls, to allow mass to be celebrated below, and was curved on top, to match the vault of the ceiling. So scaffolding, done right, can contribute a great deal to the finished product.

  2. Tall Kate says:

    Love this metaphor. A cool window into your process. I can’t wait till Seraphina comes out!

  3. Amy says:

    How you can do something this complicated that’s not mathematics is beyond me. In math I understand what scaffolding is, and how you build from one thing to another. But the creation of a story, much less a whole novel, is a completely alien process to me.

  4. Caitlin says:

    Like “Tall Kate,” I love the scaffolding metaphor.

    For me, sometimes a scene pops into my head that demands to be written down, though I don’t know where it’ll go in a story later–or if it will go anywhere at all. But once I’m sitting down writing something from start to finish, I can’t jump ahead anymore. I may work in one of the scenes that popped into my head, but usually I’ll have to re-write chunks to make it fit properly.


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