Donald Davis compares story-making to quilt-making. The first step, he says, is scrap-gathering. Scraps are, as you might suspect, just little evocative bits of experience: an overheard conversation, a scent, the way the landscape looked out the window of a car you rode in as a kid.

When you have enough scraps, you can think about stitching them together. But you can’t do that until you have a Place, some People, a Problem, and an ending that results in some kind of Progress.

What do y’all think of this model?

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  • kiplet
    November 11, 2005 at 9:26 am

    Define progress, he said, from the peanut gallery.

  • wildiris
    November 11, 2005 at 10:20 am

    Dia Calhoun referred to her ideas as a bag of scraps – I think her essay on this topic was published in VOYA a few years ago.

  • bridgeweaver
    November 11, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Doesn’t that partake of the same philosophy as Hemmingway saying to write what you know? I mean, if you’re attempting to write something that lives in a world with which you are unfamiliar, how does that model apply? I suppose even in a story set in the far-flung future, you ight still stitch in bits of your experience, but isn’t that limiting?

    I suppose Empress of the World might fit that model; at least I can say there were a lot of bits that were recognizable by people who knew you. I suppose I’m sitting on the fence.

  • indulgent_el
    November 11, 2005 at 10:17 pm

    I don’t write fiction, but this certainly works for me for essays . . . before computers I’d hand write, then cut the paper up and spread it out on the floor, moving pieces around and filling in blanks with notes.

  • blackholly
    November 13, 2005 at 12:35 am


  • thisisnotanlj
    November 14, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    thanks holly! and a belated happy one right back atcha. :)

  • capn_jil
    November 15, 2005 at 3:06 am

    regardless of what outfit they’re wearing you’re probably still writing what you know.