The picture above is from Michelangelo's unfinished 'Captives' series. These are my favourite of all his works; in them you can see the mind of the sculptor operating and follow the process of the form emerging from the marble. Even at this stage the tension, emotion and sheer beauty are already visible.
Michelangelo is reported to have said that the shape of the sculpture was already there within the rock and the skill of the sculptor was in finding the form and coaxing it out.
I personally think he was selling himself a little short by this. However, I do think there are parallels to the process of writing a novel. According to Margaret Atwood's wonderful 'Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing', I am not the first novelist to liken the sculpting of a novel to that of a stone statue; you begin with your ideas and slowly begin to rough out the beginnings of a form. As you dig into the mass the ideas crystallise and you begin to feel the shape of the story within. There is a definate sense that there is something already there and you are merely smoothing away the layers to find it.
That is very different to the analogy of building, that you start with the raw materials and add block by block, creating the details last.
Sculpture is the process of removal. The story is already there and must be released through determination, hard work and care.
Maybe what is more fascinating, then, is the question: if the writer or sculptor merely reveals the shapes, where do they originate?