Monday, June 29, 2009


Seems my morning rounds in the yard take longer and longer each day. Not because, I'm watering more, but because the plants are requiring a good pinching back and deadheading. Sometimes I am brutal, not even sparing a slightly faded bloom. Off with his head! I declare while I dig my fingernail into the stem. I know the payoff will be a fuller plant with more flowers.

Sometimes I have trouble sacrificing the blooms. Maybe later, I'll reason, maybe this is the best it will look. Isn't a little color from leggy stems better than nothing?

This dilemma extends beyond the garden. As far as first drafts go, I tend to underwrite. Rich details and developed characters require many drafts. Still there are eliminations to face, pinching back scenes and deadheading needless words. Those acts don't happen without a struggle. Maybe I fall in love with a sentence even though in my gut I know the line doesn't fit the story or character. This happened while writing When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. My editor pointed out a paragraph that she didn't think belonged. "The writing is lovely," she said, "but I just don't think Toby would say that."

I disagreed and decided against cutting it. This went on with each draft--Christy gently pleading for me to revisit the paragraph, me refusing to do surgery. Finally at the last step that I could make changes, she asked, "If you won't cut it, would you consider changing the words a bit so that they sound like something Toby would say?"

This time I reread the part with an open mind. She was right. I cut the sentences. The chapter was better because of it, and of course, ultimately so was the book.

Pruning plants brings forth a bountiful garden. Pruning our writing means reaping rewards, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment