UncategorisedWhy writing a novel is like sculpting a statue | The Editing Lounge

One of my favourite ways to explain the writing and redrafting process is the sculptor analogy. 

The iterative revision process between the two crafts is more similar than we might first think.

Creating an outline

Both the sculptor and the writer create an outline before they can really get down to work. 

A sculptor takes their base material, whether that’s wood, marble, or something else, and shapes this material into a rough outline of their shape.

Similarly, if you’re a plotter, you’ll create an outline and then write a basic draft of your novel.

Create an outline | The Editing Lounge

Big-picture shaping

Big-picture shaping | The Editing Lounge

With their outline ready, the sculptor then uses a large tool to remove large sections of their material and shape their creation. 

Redrafting looks like this too. At this point, you’ll need your scissors, not your pen. For the purpose of this exercise, imagine yourself yielding a writerly chainsaw. 

This big-picture process is all about redirecting your plot, removing characters who don’t work and rewriting these characters with more depth. This is a gruelling process that involves entire passages falling from your work. 

But you’ll end up with a more shapely draft, a tight plot, and characters that light up on the page.

That said, your work isn’t done here. Publish your work at this point and your manuscript will be in the same shape as the sculptor’s unfinished statue.

Little-picture shaping

Now is the time to get out your next set of tools, the tools for detailed work. You need these tools to polish, carve, and smooth all your tiny details. Fixing these details is akin to the sculptor shaping the tiny lines and contours of their statue. Each minute curve needs perfecting. 

It’s easy to give up here. To think that no one will notice the tiny imperfections. That no one really puts this much effort in. That your work is good enough in its current state.

Don’t fall into this trap. 

Just as a sculptor must shape every centimetre of their statue, you must shape every word in your manuscript. 

Yes, this is daunting, overwhelming, exhausting. Especially if your rough draft took months or years to craft in the first place. 

But this is what revising is. You’re not just checking for typos or literal mistakes. You’re reworking each inch of your manuscript, considering every word choice, to make sure you finish a great novel. Every sentence, every word, needs to invite your readers into the lives of your characters.

Little-picture shaping | The Editing Lounge

How line editing can help

Once you’ve come this far, it’s time to get a second pair of eyes on your manuscript. Hiring a professional editor means hiring someone who has studied the craft of fiction in depth and knows how to help you strengthen your language choices, ramp up emotional tension, and illuminate your story theme.

How line editing can help | The Editing Lounge

About Charlotte

Charlotte McCormac | Line Editor | Copyeditor | Content Writer | Shrewsbury | Oswestry

Charlotte is an award-winning writer and line/copyeditor who writes and edits for clients all over the world. She also works on the fiction team for Ambit, a UK literary and arts magazine. 

She holds an international literary prize from Hammond House Publishing Group, two writing-related degrees, various marketing certifications, and training certificates from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, of which she is a Professional Member.

Charlotte’s work has appeared in several anthologies, magazines, and literary journals, including IndigomaniaDream Catcher, and The Curlew

She has also created a series of free self-editing cheat sheets to help new writers hone their fiction before sending their work off to a professional editor.

CIEP | Professional Member | The Editing Lounge