Hope springs eternal; so do weeds in your writing
By Teresa S Friedman
I confess. I'm a bit obsessed with growing the perfect lawn my last lawn guy killed. There sit those new yellow patches of sod that the new lawn guy says, "Water every other day," and I desperately need to water them. Every. Day. The front lawn, I'm ignoring. Frankly, I've resodded it three times, and I'm not doing it again. TruGreen is dogging me. Weedman says it's mole crickets, but I've done a DIY test and found two earthworms and three spiders. How can you tell the difference between mole crickets and earthworm mounds anyway? Who knows?
So what does this have to do with writing? A few things. There's the obsession part, the overwatering. Can you kill a piece of writing by overediting? Oh yeah. But if you are a beginning writer, don't assume the great writers had a perfect piece in only one draft. NObody does it perfect the first time.
As for the people who make suggestions, what is their role? Know whose opinion is worthy of changing your piece. That requires you to weigh the advantages and logic of revision with the amount of expertise the person suggesting them has. An editor once made a great suggestion then told me to cut 15,000 words. Her house rejected the novel. Was it a better manuscript after that? I think so. The best advice to revise will come from writers.
Muddling right along, I contradict myself. One thing I learned from my MFA boot camp is that sometimes, the first piece of writing may pack the best punch. Very few changes are needed. You CAN edit out the passion you had when first writing it. I also learned during those long nights when writing was due the next day that you can weed whack/word change until you hit bare earth. Then all you have is a pile of words. At what point do you decide that section just doesn't work? Only AFTER it's written.
If you are really going in circles, try writing that section a couple other ways, or put it aside for a few days. Everybody have a junkfile? That's where all those cleverly crafted but ill-fitting sections belong.
As for that front section that I'm ignoring. Deep down, I know that's what I will be judged by. Once I've reached the end of the piece, that's when I'll circle back to the beginning.
How can you tell the mole crickets from the earthworms? Get rid of anything that doesn't move the plot forward. Junkfile it. Cadence can also be a factor. Reading it aloud will help immensely. You may also be able to locate those fire ants mistakes by reading aloud.
Clear as mud? May your weeds become the wildflowers of your prose.