At long last, more than a month after I finished the &*%$(@ project, my tortured fingers have recovered from grouting long enough to write about my summer tiling experience. As with my gardening entries, I managed to find quite a few similarities between tiling and writing, and the time it took gave me a chance to mull over these nuances and, perhaps, improve my writing in the process. At least these offer me a way of perceiving the process of writing differently.
So that you can see I know what I'm doing, here's a picture of my finished tiling project:
Looks pretty fantastic, doesn't it? And I'm an amateur, too. First time tiling ever. I'd make a long, arduous blog about this (and brag a whole lot more), but that would be too much to remember (and endure), so I'll start with the first part of the tiling process, preparation:
1. Prep the space for tiling. That means tearing down the previous tile, which in this case was a glossy white bathroom tile intermixed with bright, ugly wildflowers. The eighties-inspired bathroom look was pretty awful, but I have to admit that the bare wall devoid of eighties tile looked worse. Once it was chucked off, though, I knew there was no going back.
In the same way, revising my novels (i.e., "ripping them to shreds") often takes a similar path. I create a new document, name it novel revision #2 (or #7, or #25, depending on the novel), and then paste chapters of the old document in one at a time, revising them fully before pasting in a new chapter. At some point, I realize the rest of the novel is complete crap, and I stop pasting. It is then that the old draft disappears back into my novel folder and I begin composing for real. Tearing down is really hard, and turning my back on entire chapters (or the whole second half of a book) is even harder, but sometimes it's necessary.
2. Plan out where you are putting tile. I made a template of my backsplash, especially the part above my stove (shown in the picture above), in paper so that I could fit the tile into it on the floor of my dining room before I set the stuff in thinset mortar on the real wall. I even used the little spacers to set them apart from each other properly, so that my measurements would be exact. Why? Well, it gave me a chance to see the finished product. In fact, my plan changed, for I realized the accent tiles would be set too high on my template, making them almost invisible, and I arranged them differently. I even changed the angle during the planning stage, opting for a far more graceful diamond pattern instead of block squares. Had I waited to plan until I started mortaring all the tiles, I would have two choices: Live with the inferior setting, or tear the whole thing down and start over. Neither one would have been any fun.
Sure, when one is in the throes of NaNoWriMo, one can just applaud oneself for getting the requisite 1,667 words written each day--or even throw a party when one writes twice that many. But writing off the cuff, at least for me, means shredding most of it somewhere down the line, and I will have far less work to do in revisions if I write a plot outline and plan out the characters before I really get the novel going.
3. Tiling happens in a particular order, which cannot be changed. I had to prep the space, plan out where the tile was going, cut the tile, mortar the tiles up, let them dry completely, then grout. Had I tried doing any of these things in a different order, I would have messed the whole thing up. Had I mortared the tile over the existing tile, it wouldn't have stuck. Uncut tiles would never fit together. Had I grouted before mortaring, the grout itself would have no hope of keeping those tiles up. They needed to be glued first. The order of the process matters.
That seems self-explanatory, but writing's steps also follow the same logic. If one hasn't written anything--or if the writing has fundamental problems with character or plot or content that have yet to be addressed--editing for grammar is silly. I need to prepare for the writing, write it out, revise for content, then revise for grammar, then send it out to beta readers, then revise again, and only then (at the earliest) can I call the novel finished. The steps aren't arbitrary rules created by your much-hated English teacher. They are necessary to help you create the best quality work you can. Only a supreme writing genius can avoid some of these, and I don't know one of those.
Now that the preparation is done, other elements happen. I'll cover them in another blog as soon as I can.