Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Necessary Pruning

I pruned one of my rose bushes today.

What? I live in a place where the roses sometimes bloom nearly year round and "Spring" begins on January 1st.

Actually, I think what I did is technically called "renovation." It was a bush that had been neglected for a long time and in the interim had embraced its Manifest Destiny with boundless enthusiasm and grown, perhaps, twice as tall as me.

In one morning I cut out three quarters of the bush, leaving behind a framework of simultaneously pathetic and threatening canes. Despite my doubts, my rose book assures me they will "produce plenty of new, vigorous, even growth and an abundance of flowers."

Even with that assurance, I cringed inwardly every time I chopped a piece of living rose bush. I had to remind myself to think of flowers and not to imagine little screams of plant agony every time I snipped a twig.

It occurred to me, while I was leaning on my shears and screwing up my courage to take another chop, that this is actually what I am and should be doing with my novel. My major revisions look a lot like what I did to my poor roses: cutting off bits that may look fine right now, but sure won't in the future and getting rid of branches and twigs that I might be fond of but aren't helping anything, in the interest of the whole.

My novel.

I just need to have faith that somewhere under all the prickly, confusing tangents, random character development, bad descriptions and other problems that plague early drafts is the solid, maybe even elegant, framework of a good story that will grow purply-green shoots and a rose or two someday.

The Deletions File.

Mean time, I have to keep telling myself that what I'm doing is good for my novel and my rose bush.

This is good for it. This is what it WANTS. Please let me be doing this right. Please let me not kill it. This is, after all, what the diagram in the book LOOKS like, DARN the thing. It needs this. This is good for it. It needs thisitneedsthisitneedsthisitneedsthis . . .



  1. I am absolutely loving this analogy.

  2. This is a great analogy, Tyler-Rose, and one I need to remember as I take the pruning shears to my NaNo project this month. :)

  3. This is great. I stayed in a blogger friend's home in Fiji one August, the time we usually prune our rose bushes in Australia. Hers were looking woody, so my husband pruned them hard as he is wont to do. Now I get emails saying how wonderfully they're flowering. A little pruning always helps.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and for your helpful advice re writing fantasy.

  4. That's a wonderful analogy. I'm glad I'm not the only one who imagines tiny plant screams of agony.

  5. Great analogy. Prune out all the unnecessary stuff to make the brillant florish!