I visited a rather unique place last weekend.
It’s a temporary exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, and seeing as my family 1. Loves Star Wars, and 2. Mostly hadn’t been to the art museum (I’m the only one who had), it was a good opportunity to gain some artistic insight.
Isn’t this post about the writing process, you may be thinking. Bear with me for a minute. We’ll get there.
The exhibit featured costumes that appeared in the movies.
Descriptions were about fabric choices, design, and embellishments, among other things. There were costumes from every movie and every character you could think of and those you wouldn’t (the galactic senate, for example). There were also quotes from various people/characters on the walls, including this one, in the room representing a design studio.
I took that at a funny angle, so allow me to transcribe.
Your first drawing has the thrill of imagination, the next the authority of your research. Your final drawing combines the two, resulting in something familiar, yet strange.
– Iain McCaig, Concept Artist
This quote manages to capture the creative process in two sentences. Impressive.
It’s not a stretch to apply a quote about costume design to writing, as they’re both creative arts and are alike in many ways. Planning, trials, and feedback are required, and thought must be given to every element to make sure it’s relaying what you want it to.
When I was an elementary school teacher, I taught my students a quick trick to remember the writing process:
Get it out (planning)
Get it down (drafting)
Get it right (editing)
Getting an idea out and down is all imagination, and getting it right is the “hard part” – research, working with critique partners, editing, and rewriting.
And those are the three steps – not just important, but required.
Even if you’re a pantser, some planning occurs. You have an idea of your characters and probably of the major plot points. You get to play with motivations, try different directions, and maybe bend the rules of genre. The only boundaries here are your own imagination, and the same could be said for the next step…
I think every author has experienced the phenomenon of their story or character going in a different direction than they expected. This is getting the planned ideas down on paper, crafting scenes, chapters, and arcs. Plausibility (that is to say, research) isn’t important here, though if you’re like me you’ll get a question answered before continuing or it bugs you. Other authors make a note to check back later when all the ideas are down.
I’m using this term broadly. It refers to analyzing the draft, fixing what needs fixed (with the help of an editor or critique partners), making sure the rules of your narrative world are followed, and rewriting. This is by far the longest step in the process.
Did you notice how many “drafts” the costume designer referred to?
- The final, combining the two
Getting it right on the first go is impossible, I would say, though I’ve met a few writers who are so brilliant their work needs no revision (read that again sarcastically if you didn’t the first time). I can’t (or don’t want to) tell you how many rewrites my books have required.
And what about the last part of the quote? Though it doesn’t speak directly to the creative process, it reminds us of our ultimate goal: to offer a new perspective. We take something familiar and turn it, asking, have you looked at the world like this? Doing so isn’t easy. It takes time and commitment, but if you get it right, you might just get your words stenciled onto a wall someday.