Work like a Sculptor to Create a Great Story

Creating and writing a novel is akin to being a sculptor. Sculpture is, of course, the branch of visual arts utilizing all three dimensions. There are a great many techniques and materials sculptors have used throughout the ages. The media available to sculptors is varied and unlimited. Stone, metal, ceramics, wood and a variety of others.

Writing is the creation of three-dimensional characters and life-like stories in your reader’s minds. It is mental sculpting. The writer is the artist.


For me, the sculpting technique that best represents the writing process is the lost wax method or investment casting used for creating bronze sculptures. The actual process is far more complex than I will depict here. I have generalized and summarized for purposes of illustration. An in-depth and excellent explanation of the process is available at by Susan Wagner.

To create a bronze, a pattern of the model is created using clay. The sculptor starts with a rough block of clay for smaller sculptures (like a bust or a piece of fruit). For larger pieces, the sculptor would apply clay directly over a framework called an armature. Starting with larger, rougher tools, he carves away at the clay forming a rough three-dimensional image of the final product (let’s say, he’s creating a bronze apple). Utilizing smaller chisels and scoops, he gradually forms, molds and carves away just the right amount of clay. If he takes away too much, he adds (models) clay. Repeating these processes, carving and modelling, he refines and perfects, until the perfect pattern is achieved.


After a series of intermediate steps, a shell mold is created from the pattern using ceramic. Into this mold, liquid bronze which has been melted from ingots is poured into the mold and allowed to cool. The piece is removed from the shell and the unfinished bronze casting is revealed.

Sprues are cut off and the piece is sandblasted to remove pieces of the ceramic shell and eliminate imperfections. After some final refining processes, the bronze sculpture is complete.

Writing employs a similar mental process to reduce creation to paper. Like the sculptor, we start with a rough idea, an image in our minds of a story or plot. We sculpt our first draft, getting the story down onto the page as fast and as furiously as possible. It will be filled with gaps, holes and imperfections. That’s okay. Great writers never write the perfect book on a first draft.

Once the first draft is down, I allow it to sit for a time, perhaps, a few weeks. This break allows me to revisit the story later with a fresh set of eyes. When I re-read it, I’m looking for the gaps, holes and inconsistencies in my plot and characters, making notes to correct the issues like the sculptor carving away at his pattern.

The second draft is then crafted, using my notes and first draft as a guide. I repeat the above process. With each draft I write, I am carving away imperfections. If I find a hole, I add material back into the story in the same way the sculptor adds clay or wax. Peel away a scene or a paragraph there. Add a just a touch of language here.

Like Auguste Rodin, this process continues until I’m satisfied with the story, until the plot is as solid as bronze.

I am often asked how many drafts are required to write my stories. My answer is: “As many as it takes.” I keep sculpting until I’m satisfied.

When your story’s plot is solid, you can begin the final re-write, putting in place each scene at its perfect location and with all the elements required. This is like breaking the shell mold after pouring the molten bronze. The story has cooled and is cast.

What remains is to sandblast and polish your grammar, sentence structure and spelling to perfection. This too may take one or two passes.

Once your story is polished and you as the author are satisfied, it is ready for presentation to your audience

Let me help you sculpt a great story. E-mail me for more information.

©Copyright 2015 David Perry

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