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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

TENDING THE GARDEN

"...words are the daughters of earth,
and things are the sons of heaven." Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784 "Dictionary"

I have a little balcony garden, but while I was away it wasn't tended properly, so I've been weeding, snipping off dead blossoms and leaves, and replanting a few of the bedding plants that failed to thrive during the very cool, wet month of June just past. We must cultivate our gardens if we want them to thrive. Just so, as a writer, I must cultivate my 'garden of words'.
So this week I've been revising and editing some of the old chapters of my novel, weeding, snipping, and replanting.

"Now' tis spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now and they'll o'er grow the garden." Shakespeare, King Henry VI pt ii

In rereading my old writing I understand just why this novel has grown into such a long saga: there are just too many words! Like weeds, they have overgrown my lovely garden. So I must cut and trim and give some nourishment. There are many excellent passages, but there are also many places where the action drags because of the excess wordage and information. A reason for this is my particular attention to details, and the excessive research I've done making sure things are correct. I realize now that much of the information is not necessary and that many of the sentences can be fine-tuned and reconstructed. In the end, it will make a much better story, faster paced and yet still rich-bodied with all the elements I wish it to have.

It's slow work, retyping these old chapters, but it's a good exercise for me and not wasted time, because I am editing and revising (or marking the places where this is necessary) as I go along.
In the end, it's going to save me a lot of time when I'm ready to write the final draft.

Whenever I've been away from my novel for awhile, such as the five weeks I've just spent in Greece, I always begin work on it again by going back to retyping the old chapters. This gets me back into the cadence of the prose and the spirit of the story. By the weekend, I should be ready to progress with the new writing and I look forward to that.

"Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south;
blow upon my garden, that the spices therof may flow out.
Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits."
Song of Solomon 4:16

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