Gardening requires constant care and, more especially, weeding. Stories are exactly the same, they need developing, writing, and especially editing. Like a garden, however, it is important to understand how to weed.
If anyone has had a child help with weeding, they know that everyone does need to learn how to weed, it doesn’t come naturally. Not only learning which plant to pull, but also being able to pull the root up as well.
Any plant is a weed if it isn’t where you want it to be. Likewise, all weeds are plants if they are in the right place. All elements of a story and every idea is brilliant, but only in the right place and the right story. This concept is tied to the writing advice of “kill your darlings“.
My family grew a lot of corn when I was growing up, so that is what I would weed a lot. I quickly learned, that when the plants are still small, wild grass looks exactly like corn. My mom taught me that if you leave the grass growing with the corn, very soon it becomes easy to distinguish the difference.
In the process of writing a story, at the beginning, you don’t know what pieces and ideas belong. As the story takes shape, the misfits become evident. I personally like to get the story completely mapped out before I pick out the stray ideas or weeds.
I also learned that onions and grass are very similar as well. Generally I discovered my mom’s row of onions when the grass I pulled up had a bulb attached.
A sure way to know if something is essential to a story is: when pulled, does it bring other things with it? An interesting idea or scene may seem unimportant but ends up having a bulb attached which would unravel the plot if removed.
There will always be weeds. Don’t halt the progress of your story to pick out every single one. As you go over the story as a whole, you are able to take out the weeds over time. Don’t put off writing your story because you haven’t cleared out the weeds. Editing is always a process and you’ll never be able to do it all at once.
Grass doesn’t necessarily become apparent until later on. You will be able to tell what needs to be taken out of your story and what belongs as you continue to develop your story. This is the hardest thing most writers face. The overpowering desire to perfectly edit the beginning of a story before ever reaching the end.
How Editing is like Weeding
Editing is an ongoing process and is a part of creating and developing a story. It is needed in different stages throughout the process, just as weeding is done differently at each area and time of a garden.
When you embark on a new story, be sure that you have all the seeds planted and sprouting before you rip up the ground looking for weeds. You need to allow the ideas and scenes to develop before determining wether or not they belong.
Good luck on cultivating your story and share with me how seeing editing like weeding has changed the way you develop and write your stories.