About the Book / Advice

Writing a novel is much like completing a sewing project.


Image I happen to enjoy both: sewing and writing. After spending a day shuffling between projects, I couldn’t help but notice how much sewing and writing have in common.

1. It’s not as easy as it looks.

When you watch the contestants on Project Runway butcher one outfit after another, you can’t help but feel a little indignant, certainly, even you can do better than that! Anyone can see these fabrics don’t go together, or those pants don’t fit as they should. That is until you actually try to create something on your own. Nothing looks like it did in your head. Sure, your sketches are beautiful, but the skirt is too short, the shoulders on the blouse simply don’t fit, and let’s face it, the jacket is asymmetrical, and not because you planned it that way. Well, outlining a novel and writing one can be just as torturous and frustrating. Every great idea might fall flat. And even after you think you are done, examining your work closely is likely to reveal numerous flaws that make your novel ugly and “unwearable”. Not everything you will sew, or write, will end up a masterpiece. That’s okay.

2. You might have to rip it apart and put it back together to make it work.

Maybe you’ve been working on this great pair of pants, and after you finished, you realize that you have mixed up the sides and sewed two sides together that shouldn’t have been connected at all, and the pockets are finished inside out. There is nothing you can do about it, except to pull out a seam-ripper and cry your eyes out as you cut through the thread you just spent hours carefully sewing into the darn pants.

After you finish your novel, you might realize that you are far from done, and will have to do a major rewrite in order to make things work in a meaningful  way. This chapter might need to be rewritten from another character’s point of view, while some plot-lines simply need to die. You will cut fluff, move scenes, and wipe your tears as you delete 22,056 words describing a character that should have never appeared on the pages of your story.

3. Practice makes perfect.

One doesn’t master the art of making beautiful clothes in one day, one week, one month. Even if you are a quick learner, you are bound make mistakes and stumble, and try a variety of approaches to the same problem. You will test different fabrics, experiment with points of view. You will find that you have a predisposition to certain elements of each trade: maybe you are really good at conceptualizing your outfit. Maybe you are great at making dresses. At the same time, you might be great at writing dialogue, or scary scenes. Or maybe you have an outstanding eye for color combinations. Everyone has a strength. Everyone also has a weakness. It could be that you can’t wrap up a chapter, or maybe you choke when it comes to writing romantic scenes. The point is in recognizing what you are good at, and what you need to work on. An honest examination of your own abilities is a powerful thing. Only with practice will you ever improve. Sew. Write. There is no way around it.

4. Every trade has its tricks.

Pressing your fabric while you work on a sewing project will make your life easier. Trying to  sew without careful pinning will be a nightmare. Same with writing: trunking a novel after you are finished with it and revisiting it with fresh eyes a month later is not a gimmick. It’s something that works. Writing regularly, with a reasonable, reachable word goal in mind is not only advisable, but invaluable if you are determined on becoming a serious writer.

5. Both are critical for success: design and execution. 

The most fabulous, the most innovative ideas are not worth much if you are not willing to develop the technical skill necessary for completing your sewing project or a novel. At the same time, even rich voice and perfectly formulated sentences will not carry you far if your plot is boring at its core. You have to spend the time developing precision with words, just like you have to spend hours laboring over the sewing machine.

I think I made my point, which you might find amusing, if you are interested in either sewing or writing. Either way, I hope my novel turns out as fabulous as the purple jacket that sits on the form next to my sewing machine.

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2 thoughts on “Writing a novel is much like completing a sewing project.

  1. Great post! I like to sew too, although I’ve made mostly children’s clothes (the ones I made for myself were all disasters…). Sewing is surprisingly difficult — making something 2D into 3D — but it’s very rewarding when you get it right. Please post pictures of some of your clothes! 😉

  2. ah, thank you. Maybe I will make a post of it. I just always wonder, why would anyone be interested in my sewing projects? 🙂

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