Lately I’ve been knitting, and it got me thinking about my writing. If you are not a knitter, you may not have noticed that people knit from round balls of yarn but yarn is not sold in round balls. It’s sold in skeins. The reason people have round balls of yarn is they take the skein of yarn and unwind it and wind it back up into a ball.
Knitters do this in order run the yarn through their hands. You have to examine all of the yarn because if there is a knot somewhere in the middle of the skein, you need to know about it. If you find a knot, you can cut it out. You’ll be left with two smaller balls of yarn, neither of which will have a knot in it.
A knot in the middle of a row of knitting looks terrible and can ruin a project if it happens to fall in the wrong place. Thinking about this process in knitting led me to thinking about abdominal surgery.
In trauma surgery, the surgeon will “run the bowels” if a patient has trauma to the abdomen (such as a stab wound.) That means the surgeon holds the small intestines in his or her hands, examining every inch of it for any perforations, as even a tiny hole can lead to infection and death.
As writers, we have to do the same thing, metaphorically speaking, with our pieces. I’m currently working on a short story that I started last year. There’s a part of me that is entirely sick of it. I’m so familiar with the story by now that it’s easy to skim through it and miss obvious mistakes, never mind the subtle nuances of style and effect.
One way that I “run” my story is by reading it out loud, which I do periodically. Another way is by retyping it into the computer from a printed out version. I find this to be unreliable as I can skim as I type, but it’s better than nothing.
The best way I know to “run” my story, once I feel it is nearly complete, is to have someone read it to me (or to listen to it after I’ve recorded it) and retype it as they speak (or as I listen to the recording).
While this process can be tedious, for me it’s a necessary step, to make sure my piece doesn’t have any knots or holes in it.
What’s your process for polishing your writing piece?
Diane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m currently goggling at the fact that two months of 2015 have almost gone by already! I can’t believe it’s almost March. I need to keep plugging away at my writing goals before the end of March–the end of the first quarter of 2015!