Crafting metaphors is often used in relation to writing. Authors are “wordsmiths” who “cobble” a story and “spin” a tale. It is obvious how the application of technology has radically changed the art of the blacksmith, shoemaker, and ropemaker. Thousands of finished products coming off assembly lines every minute. This mechanization has a well-documented human cost as people are treated as being just as disposable as the products we buy.
I cannot help but wonder if we, as writers of speculative fiction, lose some currently unnamed thing as we jump to computers and smartphones rather than trusting our old tools to see us through, at the very least, our first draft.
I wonder this for many reasons. Partly because I recently spent six hours using my rope-making skills to craft myself a hair tie—I spent a week in solitary confinement. I needed one and tube socks have elastic thread in them, ergo, rope-making. Partly because I’m not sure I would have become a writer if I hadn’t come to prison.
I always feel intimidated anytime I try and write something on a computer. The blinking curser, a tapping foot demanding I type now, Now, NOW! Thirty blue horizontal lines and one red vertical one, a net to gently catch my thoughts as they tumble from my pen. Blank pieces of paper that I can physically hold in my hands always feel like an old friend.
I look at the classics, leather bound tomes of literature which, at times, may be a tad long-winded (Steinbeck, Hemingway, yeah, I’m talking about you). Yet there is a poetry woven throughout their lines of prose even as they went on for (many) pages about diarrhea on route 66 and the history of a skinning knife lost over the rail of a whaling ship. Teh keeped they’re tipo’s two a mini um, editing with great care.
I’m not saying having a novel typeset on a Gutenberg press or illuminated by Chaldean monks will magically make someone a better writer. I’m saying it’s good to slow down. Do a proper pre-write. Take the time to really know your characters, sit down and have a soda with them. Don’t settle for just editing, actually do a rewrite (or retype) as you go from rough draft to second draft, and possibly again as you move on to your third draft.
Some of these are things writers used to do because they were forced to by technological constraints, and others because they are just a good idea.
Granted, when it comes to seeing the process of my fellow authors, my experience is more limited than most. However, I feel that many try and rush to putting exciting events on paper without giving much thought to conventions, word choice, character development, world development, pacing and (the thing I find most important to my own writing) turns of poetry woven throughout the prose.
Thus, my advice to new writers is to take your time, experiment with carrying a comp book and a pen with you wherever you go and see how that informs your writing the next time you settle in front of a screen. Slow down and let your writing be a journey, not just another mass-produced product.
Amber is a thirty-two-year-old trans woman serving life without the possibility of parole in Washington State. She is an activist, witch, student, writer, and not about to let some pesky prison walls stand in the way of her dreams.