Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trimming the Deadwood and Other Painful Experiences

Last week a tornado hit our small town, which was quite a shock for this area of the Mid Atlantic. As roads again became passable, telephone poles replaced, electricity restored, neighbors gathered at grocery stores, churches, schools and work comparing the damage and sharing their experiences. Everyone pretty much agreed that they felt lucky it wasn't worse than it was. The damage to our farm consists of broken trees, some hanging precariously over fence lines. The man hired to remove the deadwood gave me the unfortunate news that many of my trees could not be saved. When a tree sustains so much damage and the interior is exposed, it is open to disease, infestation, and rot. My beautiful shade tree in a small paddock has to be completely removed, lest on some future date it dies and falls on the fence. This hard news made me think of writing, of course! How often do we look at our work in progress and procrastinate over making the necessary cuts...cuts that will be for the good of the whole story. The first draft of my last book, False Gods, eventually got a deadwood trimming of nearly 30,000 in order to tighten the plot, keep the pace moving, and eliminate fluff. Oh, but how we fall in love with our own fluff! At first, I snipped a few leaves and branches here and there. Then a few bare limbs. Eventually, I saw that whole chapters had to go. Clear the deadwood. Make way for new growth. Rev up that chainsaw and do what's necessary, no matter how hard it is to say good-bye to that lovely shade tree.

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