I spent Saturday afternoon working in my flower beds. Plants had blossomed and looked sorry. It was time to cut back dead stalks and get the beds ready for winter. I was happy to see that most of the new plants I’d scattered through my old perennials had survived. One on the end died, but that was because bees–a friend said they were Indiana bees, not honey bees, even though they look the same–burrowed under the ground and killed its roots.
My writing’s sort of like my flower beds. I write a scene one day and concentrate on getting the story and characters right. The next day, I polish what’s there–sort of like maintaining the perennials already in my bed, pulling weeds that sprouted and pruning and deadheading–but also adding details to bring the scene to life and adding layers–like planting new plants to add more vibrancy to what’s already there. I always go through a scene twice, once to move the plot and characters, again to add details and layers. I write sparsely. Sometimes, I go through a scene a third time to add more.
I have friends who gush words. Whole chapters spill onto their pages, and they have to go back to trim and discipline. They make me jealous. My words come in fits and starts, scene by scene. I wish that made my words more wonderful, more weighty, but not so. It’s just the way my brain works. I think I’ve said before that I’m SLOW. Always have been. I was never the first student who understood a concept. It had to let it bubble in my brain for a while before it gelled. Same with writing.
Friends ask, “How’s the book coming?” And the truth is, for me, it’s an every day in your chair, boring process. No one’s ever going to get excited about it. Sometimes, not even me. Once in a while, I don’t WANT to put butt in chair, but once I start looking at yesterday’s work, I can’t wait to make it better, and that leads to the next scene and the next. And if I keep at it, eventually I have a book. And just like a flower bed that’s been weeded and cared for, when the flowers bloom, all the work is worth it.
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