In the garden, the last several days, I’ve been thinking about the similarities between weeding brand new baby vegetable plants and editing a manuscript. I’m probably thinking about that because at this time of summer, I’m doing both.
Teeny carrot threads of green poke up and grow feather leaves. The weeds grow with gusto and threaten to choke out everything else: grass, crabgrass, and sundry other plants I have no names for besides “weeds.” It’s very hard to get the weeds out without yanking out the baby vegetables along with the weeds. The baby basil looks astonishingly like weeds, and so does cilantro. When I kneel down to start trying to clean out a row, I find myself asking, “How am I supposed to weed this when I can barely find the plants I’m trying to nurture? The answer? “Pull everything that isn’t basil.” Or “Everything that isn’t a carrot has to go.”
This is so much like editing that it astonishes me every time I have half an hour to pull some weeds. Pull out everything that isn’t the story. Scrap everything that doesn’t move the story forward. Throw out whatever slows down character development, plot, or story texture and development. And so in June, besides riding my bike like a madwoman, that’s my task: weedit. The garden and the story I’m working on. Gently pull out everything that doesn’t belong in the story and in the garden. If I don’t, I lose both: a smooth, flowing story, and the chance for thriving veggies.