Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wordy B Raves a Bit About Weeding, Manure, and the Importance of Some Good, Hard Pruning Now and Then.

After some aerial combat with technology (Big raspberry, HP!), the Wordy Bird is back online. And with my brand-new, barebones, interim PC (thumbs up, Mac!) I’ve come into the garden. I'm an avid gardener. I like to watch things grow: plants, manuscripts, people, etc. I’ve also inherited a green thumb from Dearest Mother Bird. She and I can make just about anything grow.

Grown from a seed by Sarah F., one of my lovely RISD students,
and given to me as a seedling on our last night of class.
As Nestmate (Thoughtful, Steadfast, Funny, and So Perceptive Nestmate) noted the other day, gardening satisfies part of my soul. Gardening, like many things really soul-satisfying, is quite hard work. Just like all the things I love—hiking, kayaking, editing, marriage, parenthood, and, of course, writing—it’s a bit of a slog now and then, but worth every bead of sweat. Yes, yes, I know a gazillion writers before me have discussed the similarities between gardening and writing and… *Life!*. But that’s neither here nor there to me, because what I really want to talk about is weeding and pruning and the ingredients of perfect compost.

One of my favorite gardening activities, funnily enough, is weeding. And like gardens and *Life!*, manuscripts grow weeds. It’s easy to let them run rampant—whether they’re consistent grammatical issues or even whole plot points that threaten to engulf one's narrative without reason—and usually they'll do so quickly. I’ve been thrilled to see one of my favorite repeat clients brave enough to do some severe cutting of the bits that were overtaking her MS recently. The transformation and growth! (Hearty kudos to you, Ms. You-Know-Who-You-Are.) Happens to us all. I had to throw away half my MG novel last year, and another third of what was left a few months ago. It can be hard, but oh the relief. The liberation!   

Consider using your *Life!* weeds in your writing. I wrote all three of my Ginny Giles books by examining sources of my own discomfort. My RISD alumni will attest to the importance of Stream of Consciousness Writing. You’ll end up with a lot of weeds (persistent little buggers!) and overgrowth, it's true. Weeds make an excellent addition to writing compost—great stuff for growth! Pull those weeds out and throw them into something positive. What the hell else are you going to do with them?

Oh, I know they seemed pretty at first. Weeds can be seductively beautiful. But weeds (insidious little suckers!) are full of self interest. They care nothing for the beauty of the whole garden. Weeds choke your precious creation. They keep it from thriving. 

WIP's also need a good HARD prune, now and then. Look at your MS; what is not adding to the whole? What’s the thing that’s choking it? Which former beloved plot point is getting in the way? Weeds and overgrowth take over your *Plot!* if you let them. Don’t let them!

Sometimes even deadwood can have a little life left in it and sometimes weeds reject rejection. They creep back in, send out some shoots. Sometimes their roots are deep. Sometimes, alas, a dash of poison may be your last and only resort. But get rid of them (narcissistic little f*ckers!) you must, if you want your thing of beauty to thrive. It may take your style or *Plot!* a little while to recover, but it will thank you for the compost.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Sorry Jenna, I didn't mean to delete your second post. Hit the wrong button!

  3. LOL. S'ok! Here it is again... I'm so inspired to dump a bit of my own dead wood right now.

  4. You make an excellent point. I can think of a couple of life weeds that need pulling out.Maybe that will unblock my writer's block.