How is a Novel Like a Sock?

They both have heels? No?

I was re-reading some old posts the other day and rediscovered my Master Metaphor: knitting a sock. The big long-running effort in my life at the moment is finishing the accidentally-epic first draft of my current Work In Progress, working title Tsifira. So naturally, my mind turned to considering it as a sock. A purple sock, of course.

Marknadsföringsbild för utställningen Under ytan på Hallwyl 2013 - Hallwylska museet - 91265

Writing a sock is actually a lot like knitting a novel. Getting started is fiddly, and sometimes takes more than one attempt. After that you seem to be just going around in circles for a very long time. Then it gets more complicated.

There’s a lot of going back and forth, the pattern changes, and what used to be sideways becomes up, and vice versa. You have to pick up a number of threads you thought you’d finished with, and then you’re going in circles again. It’s not til you look back you realize that you’ve turned the heel.

Then, just when you’re thinking there will never be an end to this interminable circling, you realize you’ve got so far that it’ll be too long if you don’t start tapering toward the end.

This is where I am at with Tsifira at the moment: shaping everything in to the end. And once that’s done, there’s only a bit of grafting the loose ends together and it will be finished.

Jabberwocky-sock

Not quite how I expected my sock to end.

Of course, this is a first draft, so there are all kinds of mistakes I don’t even know how to make with a sock: surplus beginnings, several heels (and quite a few turns!), extra length where not required (okay, I definitely know how to do that one) and the toe shaping could well turn out too pointy or too blunt.

But that’s a first draft for you: messy as, and looking like nothing on earth. And this is where the sock metaphor falls down a bit (hur hur), because it’s really very hard to rewrite a sock. Either you undo the whole thing and start over (not recommended) or you cut and paste (definitely not recommended).

The point of the master metaphor is not, of course, that one thing is analogous to another, but that having done one thing that seemed difficult or impossible, it is possible to do another. And so with this.

A great deal of rewriting lies ahead, no doubt, but one day I shall hold my finished sock novel in my hot little hands, and that will be awesome, even if it doesn’t keep my feet warm.

Albert Anker - Strickendes Mädchen beim lesen (1907)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some toe-shaping to do.

What’s your Master Metaphor? Know any good metaphors for rewriting? How is a raven like a writing desk?

Wardrobe Cheats: The Doily Cap

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when you rely on a simple solution, you will find at the last moment it won’t work. Last weekend, I hosted a Pride and Prejudice marathon for a few friends – the BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, naturally – and I thought I’d dress up a bit.

Benethom

Not being the kind of wonder-woman who can whip up a full historical outfit in a day or two (while writing a best-selling self-help book and raising a tankful of orphaned cuttlefish), I decided to wear the Empire-est clothes in my regular wardrobe, and Regencify the accessories.

Being in possession of a bonnet, my thoughts naturally turned first to that – but no sensible Regency woman would wear a bonnet indoors, in her own home. What she would wear, especially if she was a respectable married woman such as myself, is a cap. White, lacy, frilly – you get the idea.

Lodovico Giori Portrait Charlotte Luise Bennecke

Actually, even unmarried ladies of A Certain Age would wear caps – going bareheaded was a sign of being in the market for a husband. And from the Regency point of view, I am a lady of A Certain Age already, having passed the grand old age of twenty-seven. Jane Austen herself took up wearing them at about that age, “and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing,” she wrote in a letter.

The classic cap-cheat is, of course, to simply plop a large round doily on one’s head. Nothing could be easier! Until one reaches the charity shop and finds there are no large round doilies to be seen. Clearly, there has been a lot of dressing up going on in these parts lately.

Dressed young female Brielle

Desperation drove me to purchase a large rectangular doily, rejecting the genre/gender-bending little-old-lady yarmulke look suggested by the small round doilies on offer. Like Lydia Bennet, I would have to tear it apart when I got home and see if I could make it up any better.

After one or two false starts, I found a simple, suitable solution. The moral of the story: do not be abashed by staring at your reflection with a doily over your head. You look a fool; it will pass.

I pinned the two short ends together and sewed it up into a tube which would fit over my head. Then I realized my mistake and unpicked nearly half the seam.
I then turned it right-way out and ran a ribbon (all right, a shoelace, but I’ve replaced it with a ribbon) through the doily at the end-of-seam line, pulled it tight and tied a bow.
Now I had a sort of lace beanie with an enormous frill hanging off the top – a frill nearly as large as the cap itself.
This I arranged over the cap, and voila! a lacy cap with two rows of scalloped edging, and a bit of ribbon dripping down the back.

Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

Jane Austen is not impressed.

It’s so soft and comfortable I find I keep putting it on – as Jane Austen noted in her letter, it’s just the thing for a bad hair day.

What are your secrets for wardrobe short-cuts? Please share!
And remember: dressing up is not just for fancy dress parties, Hallowe’en, or cosplaying at ComicCon. Dressing up is for eccentrics.