Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 5 January 2013

Little Red Riding Hood: a Practical Application for Writers


Recently I made a cape for Red Riding Hood. Not a fancy cape: just two pieces cut out from a pattern, pinned, tacked and sewn. Now, I haven’t turned to my sewing box for more than a button or a stitch in time for (ahem) some decades now. Since I was at school, in fact. So it took me rather longer than it would have taken a dressmaker – or indeed anyone of my parents’ generation, used as they were to making and mending.

As I sat crossed-legged on the living room floor with my mouth full of pins and looking like the Tailor of Gloucester, I fell to thinking as I worked. I may not normally make dresses (or capes or skirts) but I do make stories (and articles and poems and, as of today, blog posts). They have more in common than I thought.

First of all you plan. You can’t go in to John Lewis and ask an assistant for a plan for a novel (wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could!) but when sewing you have to decide what you want to make and what you want to make it of in just the same way that you have to choose your genre, your point of view, your location. Then when you’ve done that you have to start making (or writing).

Placing the pattern and cutting it out, I decided, roughly equates to the planning stage - though at least in a novel you can go back and add more if you need it whereas I discovered for myself the perils of taking too much off.  (It was a shorter cape than I had originally intended.)

Then I pinned it and I repinned it. I tacked and, when the first piece unravelled because I’d forgotten to tie it off, I re-tacked it. This reminded me uncannily of the plotting stage, where you if you fail to tie off all your literary ends the whole story falls apart.

The analogy doesn’t hold up much beyond this. There comes a point with dressmaking where you start the sewing machine and there really is no going back; with a novel you can carry on tweaking until Kingdom Come unless someone takes it out of your hands or a deadline steals it away. And, unlike my cape, I don’t think a novel is ever really finished.

Red Riding Hood looked great, since you ask....

21 comments:

  1. Love this analogy, and the more we do the better we get... I hope. :)

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  2. Thanks Raven...I think I'll be doing more writing than sewing in future, though!

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  3. Great analogy, Jennifer. Unfortunately my sewing skills are non-existent (someone likened my stitches to a spider on LSD)so I'll be sticking to words and stories rather than sewing patterns.
    Welcome to the blog!

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  4. Thanks Mary - I don't think my sewing stands up to too close scrutiny either, though!

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  5. Ah,Jennifer, if you make a mistake you can unpick the stitches with a special little tool so this delightful analogy is even more apt than you thought! Great first blog.

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  6. Good to see you over here Jennifer - nice post.

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  7. Good thought provoking blog Jennifer. Whether it's sewing or writing it takes more effort than many people realize.

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  8. I wonder what you would compare making a wedding dress with.

    Debbie

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  9. I quite like sewing and feel more in control there than I do when writing - which makes this analogy all the more fascinating. Why do I feel more in control? Is it really easier?

    Don't think I would ever attempt a wedding dress tho...

    Great post Jennifer - I love things that make me think.

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  10. You could take the analogy a bit further, even after the sewing machine gets involved - my sewing usually ends up being unpicked and re-sewn several times and the finished product never really feels finished either.

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  11. Oh dear - I'm rubbish at sewing. I once attempted to repair a hemline and after struggling for a while I proudly finished, lifted up the garment, and found I'd sewn it to the clothes I was wearing...

    Great article though!

    Janice xx

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  12. But I hate sewing! I used to make my own dresses when I was a student (clothes were expensive) but I was never happy with the result. Hopefully, my novels will be better! Thanks for this post, Jennifer, and welcome to NPOV.

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  13. Love the analogy, Jennifer - and I used to enjoy sewing long before I took to writing! Great to see you on the blog.

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  14. This was a very poignant post for me. My mother was a supremely gifted dressmaker - I lost count of the ballgowns and the wedding dresses and the costumes she made. She could look at a dress or whatever in a shop window, come home and then cut a pattern for it from old newspapers. Of course, I never listened when she tried to teach me how, did I?
    I love your analogy, Jennifer, and would liken adding the buttons and the lace and the trimmings to the edit stage....makes the whole thing sound so much nicer, doesn't it?

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  15. A thought-provoking analogy, Jennifer. My mother was also a dressmaker and I made clothes for my daughter and myself many years ago. Perhaps, like my home-made dresses, the quality of my writing might be described as 'variable'.

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  16. Just a point, Jennifer, but I can't log onto your profile. We are all Blogger and you are something else. I mention it because a couple of friends have looked in on this post and mentioned to me they can't get to see your profile either....any ideas?

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    1. Jennifer's profile opens when I click on it. She hasn't put anything on it yet.

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    2. I hope I've sorted it now, Linda!

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  17. Still a bit confused because it also says against Jennifer's name 'people are more likely to share with you if you add them to your circles' or something very similar. Should I be adding her somewhere? As you say, Mary, the photo opens but nothing else. I'm thinking of the, er um, general public looking in who want might to know about Jennifer and buy her work...and ours, of course!

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    1. I think that's because I'm on Google+, Linda

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