Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Cutting Away

By Susan Petroulas
Copyright 2009 by Susan Petroulas, All Rights Reserved

Some people can put writing into a neat little box that doesn't touch any other part of their lives.  Other people think of writers as isolated, with their word processor and their quiet writing time.  That's not what it is for me.

Parts of my life bleed into my writing, skills I've developed for other purposes are used in my writing.  And writing bleeds into other parts of my life.  Writing is problem solving and learning about my writing process has helped me figure out my problem-solving process as well.

In addition to writing, one of my (many) hobbies is pottery. I've taken classes for twelve years and there's a potter's wheel in my living room.  I love the way the clay feels and how I can make it into the shapes I imagine.  For me, that's magic and at least one of my magic systems is based on that.

I've written scenes describing pottery, how the clay feels, pulling the clay up and forming the shape of the vessel.  One of my wizards "pushes" the firing process a little with his particular magic, which I couldn't do if I didn't understand what happens in the pottery kiln.

But what I've figured out is that the process of throwing pots is parallel to writing a story.  It's more than throwing, or forming, the pot there's trimming, cutting and reforming and glazing.  All have parallels with crafting a story.


If you don't center the pot, it'll fly off the wheel or become so warped, you can't use it as a pot.

If you don't start off with a strong central idea, your story can spin out of control.

Having a Plan

If you have an idea of what you want from the beginning, a vase or bowl, you'll have less *fixing* to do later.

If you have an idea of the story you want to tell, you'll have less revising later.

For both pottery and writing, you don't need a plan and can just start.  And sometimes that works just as well.


Working quickly, you create the general shape and form of the pot - a vase, a bowl or a bottle

Working quickly, get the story down in a first draft.

Letting it Sit

You have to let the clay dry out, but not too much, before you can trim the pot.

You have le t the story sit, but not too much, before you can edit the plot.

Cutting Away

When the clay is "leather hard", firmed up enough to be sturdier and stronger, you cut away the parts that don't belong and shape the pot.

When the story has settled, you cut away (edit) the parts that don't belong and shape the plot.


After firing the pot, you put a glossy (or matte) glaze on it to polish it up.

After finishing the edit, you polish it up.

Okay, so it's cute.  But it's also true.  I'm cutting bits of my story away, the same way that I'm cutting bits of clay away.  And as I get to be a better potter, I'm cutting away more and more.  I'm also learning how to shape the pot so that I won't have to cut quite so much away.

And as I get to be a better writer, I'm cutting away more scenes and words to make the work tighter.  I'm also learning how to write, so that I won't have that much to cut away later.

Now, I've got this idea to make learning magic similar to learning how to throw a pot.  Hmmmm.