Pruning Prose

We have a home orchard (only twelve trees) and last weekend was time for the bittersweet task of thinning the fruit. Bittersweet because every immature fruit is a future mouthwatering delight, but if there are too many on the tree then they stay small.

It takes a certain kind of ruthlessness to snip off a perfectly good young fruit to make room for its neighbor to grow and develop properly.

The same is true in writing (you knew there was a writing analogy coming, didn't you?), when we hit the revision stage where we decide which pages, paragraphs, sentences, words, punctuation, stay and which go.

But truthfully, when we remove extraneous prose, we're letting what remains grow and develop. To come into its own, in a natural evolution (survival of the fittest, you know) that lets their plumage shine.

So let "cut and paste" stand in for your pruners, and see what ripens on your page.


The Writer Librarian said...

Thanks for this! My question: When to know when all the pruning you can do still might not do any good? (Am thinking of trunking my novel, even though I'm about 100 pages in with final edits--because I'm not sure I'm making the book any better).

Angelica R. Jackson said...

That is such a difficult call to make! Sounds like you need some distance though, whether or not that leads to complete trunking. Or you may end up recycling portions of that hard-won polished prose into another book.

I've been on the verge of giving up on my first book, partly because working on another book helped me see the flaws in that 1st book so much better--but not necessarily how to fix them without ditching about 2/3 of the book. And that's what I'm going to end up doing--keeping some really good, crucial parts and rewriting the rest.

So I guess maybe that's a grafting analogy rather than pruning!

Toni Kerr said...

I've recently come to the conclusion that I have some duplicate brink-o-death scenes in my WiP-- Different locations and different places in the timeline, but nothing new as far as character development.

And, I can't honestly say both scenes are necessary to move the story forward-- the timeline, yes, the plot and development, dang it, probably not. :-)

Sigh. I'm awfully hard on my poor characters. Guess I should work on that. LOL

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Yes, I've combined scenes and characters before, to streamline the plot. That's where doing a scene chart comes in handy--shows you all the places where it drags.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Love this post! Short, sweet, and to the point. :D And it's a perfect metaphor.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Lisa, we're harvesting the peaches now and those are definitely sweet! It makes the earlier ruthlessness worth it.

Martina Boone said...

I love this! It is completely true, and I love the analogy.

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