Monday, 10 January 2011

Jam Jars and Pebbles

Have you ever heard the fable about the person who was asked to fill a jam jar with a mix of pebbles and gravel and sand?  They started by putting in the sand, then the gravel, then the pebbles - but they couldn't fit all the pebbles in.  

So the jar was emptied, the pebbles, sand and gravel sorted into piles and they started again.  This time, they started with the pebbles, then fed the gravel into the spaces around the pebbles, then finally the sand which duly trickled into the tiny spaces around the gravel.  Everything fitted neatly into the jam jar.  

It's a metaphor for editing.  We need to sort out the big stuff - the plot holes, the pacing, the character arcs - before we can start worrying about the paragraphs and sentences, let alone the individual words.  


Laura Wilkinson said...

Great piece, and so true. I do a bit of that sand and gravel stuff once I've finished a chapter, but aim not to get bogged down in it as it might all go anyway during next draft.

Sarah Duncan said...

Absolutely, that's another reason not to do too much sand and gravel until the end.

badas2010 said...

I've recently recognised a major problem with the writing I've done so far, and this post clarifies it so simply.
I hold the pebbles in my head while getting on with the gravel, and then the sand, only to realise I have a head still full of the wrong pebbles. Major rewrite needed.
Oh gawd! I hope I live long enough to eventually get it right!

Sarah Duncan said...

Oh I did laugh at your last comment - I can remember feeling like that on my first novel, and it's how I'm feeling right now on the new one, tho I think I've finally sorted out how the big pebbles are going to fit in. Courage! You will finish!