Ornaments: Christmas Traditions
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Last week while in Houston I visited with a professional Christmas installer. Apparently, many of the well-to-do hire professional installers to create holiday themes and decorate every room in their homes. A full install costs upwards of $10,000. (Definitely a first world occupation, right?)
I’d never want to give up decorating my home. It’s one of the best traditions. Every year as I deck the halls for Christmas I savor the day. Each ornament reminds me of the person who gifted it to me or the year we bought it. To me these are some of the touchstones of our family.
But before I even begin to take those ornaments out, we set up the foundation. We assemble two trees, testing lights– one in the family room and one in the living room. Lights go up on the house. (No small feat because there is always a strand or two out.) Garlands are refurbished and draped. Wreaths hung. Those are the bones, so to speak. The ornaments flesh it out.
As I was hanging ornaments on the tree it struck me that it’s much like our books and our stories. We need to get the bones right before we begin to flesh them out. The structure may not show but the ornaments won’t hang properly unless we have the foundation in place. I love the way Tacitus said it: “Style, like the human body, is specially beautiful when the veins are not prominent and the bones cannot be counted.”
Like the human body and like Christmas. And like our writing.
I talk to many a novelist who tells me that he or she writes “by the seat of their pants.” They like the style to develop organically. They say they just follow the characters and watch where they go. I admire that kind of writer but I could never let myself in for that level of work. They may allow the story flow in the first draft stage but at some time they must deal with the structure. It’s like our Christmas “install.” It’s a lot harder to fix a flaw in the structure when you have ornaments all over the tree.
It’s the same with nonfiction. A writer can certainly just start writing but much time will be spent on words that will fall outside the eventual parameters of the book. I’m too stingy with my time to meander around until I see where the book is going to go. I want to come up the structure first and then hang the words–hang the ideas– on it.
How about you? How do you decorate for Christmas? Does it bear any resemblance to how you write a book?
Decking the halls or writing a book: It’s all about the bones. Or is it? Click to Tweet
Writing a book. Don’t put ornaments on it until you have the structure worked out. Click to Tweet
Decorating for Christmas illustrates a key structural point for writers. Click to Tweet