Large parts of the country had little to no winter this year (and many ski areas had little to no snow). The same swathes are now well into spring: daffodils, crocuses, and tulips are out in glorious profusions of color. Maybe wisteria and a few lilacs. Cherry blossoms and other blooming trees. The Easter Bunny didn’t need snow boots this year but doubtless brought lots of Zyrtec – achoo! – to go with chocolate eggs and jelly beans.
Even in the snow-capped mountains of Idaho, spring is slowly emerging from the receding snowpack. The birds that headed elsewhere for winter have returned, cheerily chirping from dawn until dusk although, judging from the rapidity of depletion of local birdfeeders, they haven’t quite gotten around to worm patrol. (Where is their commitment to local and sustainable food?) Underneath the layer of last fall’s late leaves blanketing flower beds and lawns, there is green amidst the brown soil and brown castoff branches as the bulbs we planted last fall push their green shoots out into the open.
Writing is a lot like planting bulbs, something we, Maddi, have had reason to know in the last month as we take stock of the incipient garden that is Book 2. There were a lot of bulbs that we planted in drafting the book – major themes, minor themes, “growth opportunities” for characters. Now that the garden is blooming, we’ve seen some of the mistakes we’ve made. In other words, it’s already pruning time! And unfortunately, we’re pruning some of the plants that don’t belong. Yes indeedy, cactus and crocus do both start with c and end with us, but somehow, they just don’t fit in the same garden. So that whole section about Grundy and his minions being bad asses but looking like Tweedles dum and dee? Gotta go.
Like gardening, sometimes your best writing tools are the ones you use to prune, pare and pluck. We found in reviewing book 2 that parts of the book were too much like “we planted one of everything.” We stepped back to consider what we wanted to say – major plot (1) and minor themes (>1 but <10). Not too many of them: we aren’t writing War and Peace. We found the pacing was inconsistent, like having one part of your garden with a flower every 5 feet, and another with dozens of flowers crowded in a small space. It doesn’t look good in a garden and doesn’t read well in a book.
Reader’s quiz: Which is better, A or B?
A. “What is a rose?”
“It’s a rose.”
“But what do you think about it being a rose?”
“I think a rose is a rose.”
“I agree. It’s a rose.”
B. “A rose is a rose is a rose,” (Gertrude Stein)
We thought so, too. We had too many sections that resembled the former. So we’ve spend a lot of time weeding, pruning, and replanting, and can already see the emergence of much more harmonious garden we are calling Book 2.
And what’s a garden without a few bugs? Spoiler alert: In Book 2, Emma learns the legal ins and outs (mostly outs) of bugging, fights with a sperm whale, fends off a late night mugger and tap dances on her parents dining room table. Okay, we made some of that up. But you still want to read the book, right?