Creating a Text – Sarah Salway
What phases are involved in the creation of a text?
I have been thinking about your question. I think my first creative phase comes visually – I can see a picture very clearly and then normally an idea or a theme will come, either in discussion with a real person or from the page which brings the image into techno-colour, if you like. It’s only when I have the two things that I feel there’s enough to carry on. Normally there’s some tension between the two, so in my short story ‘Chains’ for example, I was thinking about the daffodils that have been planted in very straight lines in our park and knew I wanted to do something about them. And then a friend said something about chains which I misunderstood and which made us laugh a lot, but after that I knew the two – the straight edged daffodils and someone being misunderstood could work well together. Another time another friend gave me five random pieces and somehow, once I had picked one – Stockholm – I knew what the story was going to be about. I had such a strong image of the harbour there. Does that make ANY sense?
That’s about all I need to start because really the creative process for me, once I have got started, comes in the writing. My first drafts rarely make much sense, and I edit and edit, which I see as very creative too. Like polishing a stone until it’s a jewel! Another key creative aspect for me is finding the right voice for the piece. Sometimes I think this comes instinctively – Verity’s voice in Something Beginning With felt very natural until, six months later I had to come back to the manuscript, and couldn’t ‘get’ it at all. It was only when I played the same music as I was playing then that it came back to me, so there was a rhythm involved there, I think, as well as a mood. Recently I’ve been playing with changing my endings. They can feel very firm and fixed to me, so carrying on, or giving a different feel did, at first, make me feel I’d crossed some awful line and might get shot or worse. But hey, it now feels amazing. I try to link up my beginnings and endings, either with an image or with some words – I’ve been really excited looking through my bookshelves to find other writers do that. I guess I was away from writing school the day they taught that and have had to find out the hard way! Of course it’s made me want to do the opposite. I guess that’s another creative phrase – reading and thinking hey, that’s not how the story should go, there’s a much better story in this. And writing something completely different, but which nevertheless has its creative roots in another piece.
That’s very exciting to me – I love the idea of writing and reading as a conversation between us all.
Sarah Salway is a poet, short story writer and author of the novels Something Beginning With (ABCs of Love in the US), and Tell Me Everything (both published by Bloomsbury in the UK and Ballantine in the US). She blogs at: www.sarahsalway.blogspot.com