I’m digging into the revision process now, wielding my shears with abandon as I rip out words and lines and paragraphs to let new light into the living, growing core of my story.What’s surprising me is how much fun it is.
I got good feedback on my first chapter from my critique partners. They told me about words I overuse (one of the hardest things to find in your own work) and about places where the action wasn’t clear or the character motivation was off. Mostly, though, I learned that as a writer, I’m mint.
I had a friend who grew some mint plants in a pot on her back porch. She enjoyed snipping fresh leaves for tea or tabouli, releasing that heavenly sweet/sharp scent. A neighbor, who saw how much she loved her mint plants, decided to grow some himself and made the mistake of putting them in his garden. From then on until he sold the house he was fighting to keep the mint from taking over his entire garden and his lawn. It turns out that mint is invasive in many climates, and unless it’s physically contained by a pot will choke the life out of everything else.
That’s me. My writing is generally strong, but if not contained it spreads out invasively and smothers my story. As one reader said, “You’ve got good ideas, but you tend to go one idea too far. Pick just the best ones, the right ones, and take everything else out.”
So as I fix the other things, I’m keeping a wary eye out for overgrowth that needs to be pruned back. A key question I need to start asking about every word and phrase, is: “If I took this out, would the meaning still be there?” If the answer is yes, then it goes. I don’t want to kill the mint, but I want to keep it in its pot. The pruning shears are going to be an important tool in my revision arsenal, and I wouldn’t have know that without my critique partners. Thank you, readers.