I wish editing were as easy as gardening.
*Does some actual yard work*
I wish editing were like hiring someone to pluck unruly overgrowth from your plot.
WARNING: Mangling of Metaphors, Shameful Similes, and Tree Torture Ahead—Proceed with Caution!
I have, on occasion, taken a side-long look at my collected literary efforts and sighed–gusts monsoons would envy. In those glances, I have seen the colossal effort it would take to shape them into something even vaguely resembling sense. Instead, each year I write a new, rambling incoherent piece like a prolific procrastinator of pandemic proportions. *
Do you remember my promise that I would provide the critique of my work following winning a review at last year’s writer’s conference?
Well, you are all still waiting. Because the biggest take-away from that evaluation is that my story is starting in the wrong place. Book one of a three-books-at-least series, is mis-planted. It isn’t a weed, exactly, but it is a sprawling volunteer in my literary garden. It is like the tree in my backyard–it is a moss-encrusted mess!
It isn’t a bad tree. Yeah, sure, it has oozing cracks running down two sides, but it is lush and otherwise verdant. It’s just planted in the wrong place and threatens to split in several directions. And like my over-grown novel, it has got to go.
Faced with massive edits and rewrites, I say: “Bring on the shredder and let’s make some confetti!”
It would be so much easier to chuck my writing aspirations and plot a life without creative expectation. To slash and burn every word I’ve placed in a holding pattern, using up the data of an entire computer until I have to buy a new one to store version 15.2 of the same damn novel. At least, that’s how it feels. It’s either that, or actually sit down and try and straighten out the mess I’ve created.**
Trees are unlike writing, as it turns out. They are actually pretty easy to dismantle. At least the guys from 1, 2, Tree made it look easy.
I watched them turn probably fifty-year’s worth of growth into so much mulch in less than three hours. I admired their editing talents greatly. ***
I did learn something from watching them. They didn’t start at the base of the trunk, trying to tackle it all in one go, but a piece at a time.
First a little here. Then a little there. And, before long, Cal, the stump man, was there grounding down what little remained.
There’s part of me that wants to do this. Instead of taking pruning shears to the 150,000-plus word opus, I’d chainsaw that forest of typographical nightmares and run-on story tangents and turn them into wordy wood chips!
But that isn’t what I want for my novel. I don’t really want to render its multi-syllabic magnificence into so much mulch. But, trim its excess maybe? To make sure it won’t crush my house in the next strong breeze to come through our neighborhood? Sure.
Now all I need is a studly team of guys on standby who will cart away the bits that fall away as I work.
A big shout-out to Jacob, Jeremy, and Mick at 1, 2, Tree for very considerately not dropping anything on my head while I took pictures! I’m sure the temptation was overwhelming.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*I will also assault you with assonance.
**Looking at un-edited work without protection is like staring into the sun…while masturbating—you’ll go blind and you won’t have any fun while doing it.
***I so was NOT ogling them. I’m old enough to be their…well…aunt, at the very least. And an aunt does not ogle young men no matter how bulgy-their muscles are.
———————————–You Read This Far Poet-Tree Bonus—————————————-
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never write fiction
That isn’t pruned of coherent diction.
—From “This Tree is Not a Metaphor” by Me