Prune: Make Your Writing Live

My neighbors have three rosebushes growing beside their garage. Earlier this summer, the bushes had dozens of dark purple faded and wrinkly blossoms. They were pretty. They added something to the bushes.

But then, the house sold and the new owners  pruned the bushes.

Only two roses remained, but they were beautiful and pink, with perfectly-shaped petals. The purple ones lay in bunches at the foot of the rosebushes.

Writing is like that. Sometimes, we simply need to trim back some of the words and phrases that are cliché or repetitive. But many times, we think we have something beautiful, when all we really have is faded and dying dark purple roses. We settle for that when we could have vibrant pink, perfect flowers. We need to go back through and take out the scenes that don’t work, the dialogue that isn’t finished. The parts of our story that seem pretty but don’t add anything to the story. We need to rework backstory so that we’re not info-dumping.

Even after we’ve gone through it, there are our blind spots. The one purple flower that was less dead than the others that we simply couldn’t bear to part with because we felt our book wouldn’t be whole without it.

How do you prune your work? Do you have a critique partner who can point out bits in your novel that don’t seem to be playing a role? Do you think of your WIP as something that’s constantly evolving? Or do you write “The End” on your first or second draft and think you’re done?

What are some of the roses you like to hang onto? For me, it’s really pretty descriptions.

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  1. Hi Robin!
    For me it’s difficult to rip out a scene that’s been fun to write–especially those scenes with humor. But listening to a critique partner is important. What purpose does that scene have? If it doesn’t move the story forward and it doesn’t thicken the plot–chop, chop. Out it goes. Sometimes I think about using a part of that scene in a short story so I don’t feel like all that creativity is lost.

  2. Robin says:

    I like the idea of reusing things in a short story. Or taking something and using it in a different novel – maybe what doesn’t work for one is just what another needs…

  3. For me it’s witty comments. Great post!

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