Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of editing, is brought to you by science-fiction author Yvonne Anderson.
Pruning Season for Writers
Keeping my language clean and concise was difficult for me at first. For one thing, it seemed wrong to cut off all that beauty. Or at least, what I perceived as beauty. Also, old habits are hard to break even when you’re convinced of the need for it. Which, at first, I wasn’t.
When I finally realized all that verbiage made my writing clumsy, not cute, I discovered something surprising. That is, the most helpful guide for trimming the fat from my fiction was the same book that taught me the art of backyard pruning.
For several years now, I’ve been applying these guidelines to my apple trees, grape vines, and writing with equal success.
Why do we prune fruit trees?
1 – To remove diseased, broken, or old branches;
2 – To thin out extra limbs;
3 – To remove crossed limbs and prevent weak divisions;
4 – To allow more light to reach the inner branches;
5 – Removing old limbs that have lost vigor allows new ones to replace them, thus renewing the whole tree every decade;
6 – To train the tree into proper shape and size.
The very same principles apply to our writing:
1 – Confusing phrases and misused words are the literary equivalent of diseased and broken branches.
2 – Redundancies and repetitions are extra or crossed limbs.
3 – Side tangents that don’t move the story forward are weak limb divisions.
4 – These extraneous words must be removed to let the sunshine of clarity shine in.
5 & 6 – Once the clutter is cleared, our writing will take on the proper shape and size to be beautiful and fruitful.
When undertaking the task in the garden, the orchardist recommends removing everything you dare. The next day, go out and do the same thing. Again. To the same tree. That should yield the desired result.
I’ve found this to be true with my writing as well. I remove everything it seems possible to cut, let it rest awhile, then go back and do it again. That seems to do the trick.
Unlike the orchardist, the writer needn’t worry about temperature or sap flow. So scribes, get out your clippers and saws, and start trimming; it’s always pruning season!
That was great. Thank you, Yvonne. I’m off to do some gardening! 🙂
She also has five grandchildren who live too far away.
Formerly a legal secretary, Yvonne works part time as a Virtual Assistant but spends most of her time on the planet Gannah researching her books.
She is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), the Lost Genre Guild, and International Thriller Writers.
Yvonne is a regular contributor to the blogs Speculative Faith and The Borrowed Book, and serves as contest administrator for Novel Rocket, named four times to Writer’s Digest list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.
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