Lately, I’ve been sending queries off to agents and spending a lot of time waiting. Not idle time, mind you, but it’s given me some time to go through, over and again, my writing and tidy it up a lot.
You know . . . fixing typos and spelling, ensuring punctuation is not only correct but consistent, making sure grammar is spot on.
The path through my literary landscape was well balanced and esthetically pleasing. The gate at the beginning told you this was the beginning. There was just enough color and diversity to even things out. I had little labels on all the unusual things to explain where that came from, how this grew, and even why and something exotic and seemingly out-of-place was included in my garden of words. Everything was nicely labelled and laid out so anyone viewing it would know exactly what was planted there.
A garden is a wonderful place to go and just sit on the bench and take in the surroundings. A place to relax and just look (from that ubiquitous ornate wrought-iron bench) and see everything as it is. Sometimes, that exactly what you need. You see everything from your comfortable seat and since you know it all just from that one sitting so that when you close the gate at the end of the path, you have no reason to go back.
Then, yesterday morning, as I was walking down to fetch the trash containers from the alley, I looked down at the path I knew so well, and found some late blooms on the wild rose bush, and a toy that had disguised itself as one of those blooms. A rustling noise near the fence brought me to a breathless standstill. What was there? A mouse? A mole? A rabbit? Just the wind? I looked for clues but the mystery remains. Back on the pathway, the moss binds the stonework yet there was a single dandelion and I wondered at its lone presence. Why not more? Why one at all? A few steps later, the soft moss disappeared, leaving the pavers bare. Again, I ask why? What happened here that left the stones bereft of the gentle moss? Would it make a difference if I move some of the plants around so the sunlight hits the garden differently?
And I realized immediately what I needed to do.
“Show me—Don’t tell me.” Who among writers hasn’t heard that time and time again?
I don’t want just tell you what you need to focus on moment by moment. I want you to wonder what’s under that rock, what made that noise. I want you sitting on the edge of that uncomfortable metal bench, wondering what’s going to happen next. Then I want you to jump up and dig around; I want you to find out what’s happening.
I want you to ask, “How did I miss that? Was it there in the background all along”?
Of course it was there, but I want you to come back again and again to discover things you missed the first or second or third time!
So I’m pulling out the deleting hoe and weeding out not only the unnecessary words, but I’m chopping out entire scenes if that’s what it takes. I’m taking out my copy, cut, and paste shovel to rearrange events and scenes to make a more exciting and interactive garden.
There are many types of gardens and needs for every type: Neatly labelled, or motivating, or secretive and compelling.
The garden path in my backyard in late September is nothing compared to the magnificence of Woodard Park in Tulsa in April but both have exciting secrets to be discovered. You may never find even find all of them.
The fun is all in the search!