7 Ways Pumpkin Carving Is Like Writing a Book – Every autumn, I envision the cute costumes I could whip up in a jiffy without breaking the bank. The striking family photo taken of us in our coordinating outfits in the perfect pumpkin patch. And of course, displaying two award-worthy carved pumpkins (one for each child) at the entrance to our home.
Then I awake from my daydream.
The sad fact is that I’m not creative and I‘m certainly not crafty. I can’t sew on a button, let alone create an entire outfit, so I end up spending a small fortune on overpriced store-bought costumes that won’t fit again next year.
My family, apparently, cannot color coordinate nor smile simultaneously for a group photo no matter how many times we try in the fake farm setting next to the main road in the center of town.
And when it comes to carving pumpkins, well, let’s just say that it’s an adventure in humility.
“Pick something simple,” I instructed my youngest son.
Away to the Internet he went and a few minutes later, he happily supplied me with a printed image of Nintendo’s character, Kirby.
How hard can it be? I thought. It’s just a circular blob with eyes.
“Okay,” I agreed. “Let’s do it.”
From that moment forward, the steps involved in carving that pumpkin reminded me of the steps we authors have to go through every time we write a book.
Step 1 – Begin with a Solid Foundation
When carving a pumpkin, you have to start with something solid. For example, you wouldn’t carve a half-rotten pumpkin; it wouldn’t be able to hold its structure after you’ve cut out your design.
The same is true for your story.
Your main argument or topic needs to be based on a strong idea or belief that can withstand criticism and pressure from others.
Step 2 – Dig Deep
Don’t be afraid to get and get to the bottom of the story. Scooping out the innards of a pumpkin is a slimy and smelly endeavor. Those stringy membranes can’t simply be pulled out. No, you’ve got to scrape around the sides and bottom of the gourd to remove them all.
When writing your story, there’s often a level of vulnerability that’s required, especially if you’re writing an autobiography or memoir, or about a controversial topic. Our natural inclination is to gloss over those raw emotions and try to smooth them into the edges.
But it’s only by really digging deep into why we feel a certain way about a topic that we can offer a story that stands out and endures.
Step 3 – Keep the Seeds
Although tiny and seemingly irrelevant, seeds are actually very beneficial. If dried properly, they enable you to grow new pumpkins…or you can roast them and enjoy them as a delicious snack.
Likewise, retain the random ideas that crop up during the writing process. They may not be applicable for your current manuscript, but they often prove to be tasty tidbits for stand-alone tips or to add extra flavor to future projects.
Step 4 – Work with an Outline
Work from a visual guide to help create your masterpiece.
Just as my son provided me with a printout image of Kirby from which to work, your book’s outline helps you see what steps, and in which order, you need to take in order to end up with a beautiful, finished work. To help make the process go much more smoothly, it’s also helpful to use the right tools.
If traditional outlines aren’t helpful to you, try the Bubble Method (aka Mind Map Method) or simply use index cards or Post-It Notes. Rearrange them in different ways to determine which order works best for your book.
Step 5 – Carve Away
Trim away the unnecessary parts. Use a sharp knife. Be decisive and pay attention. This is often the hardest part for writers because they believe that each and every word they’ve written is necessary.
You have to trim away the excess in order to let the story line appear, just as you carve away excess pumpkin flesh to display a clearly visible design.
Step 6 – Light It Up
Add the light that will help your finished product shine and attract attention.
With pumpkins, you insert a wax or battery-operated candle. With writing, it’s incorporating the recommendations of others.
Editors can catch overlooked errors, early readers can make suggestions for improved structure, designers can add visual flair, and publishers can connect you to powerful sources.
Step 7 – Display Your Work
Just as replacing the top of your pumpkin signals that you’re done carving, you have to conclude your story. It will never be perfect – there will always be something that you wish you’d done differently – but it’s a great representation of what you can do at this point in time and is something you should be proud of.
Allow others the opportunity to see your work and derive pleasure from it. Just as you place your carved pumpkin on your front porch for all to see, you should also put your work out there, making it available to others.
Simply Do Your Best
So, how did my son’s pumpkin turn out?
Well, let’s just say that my kind-hearted son was gracious enough to say, “You tried, Mom.”
And as authors, that’s what we need to do, too. We need to give it our best effort and learn through the process.
We shouldn’t let our fear of failure prevent us from writing what’s on our hearts. Even if the book doesn’t turn out the way we initially envisioned it or it doesn’t receive the attention we feel it deserves, we’ve grown through the experience. We can take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them to the next book.
Because, after all, writing isn’t about perfection. It’s about sharing an idea, evoking emotion, and initiating conversation. Those are the qualities that truly matter.
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