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November 19th, 2012


Growing a Book

Those first ideas are as small as seeds, which gardeners can scatter, while writers seem bound to dive after them into the ground. It’s not particularly pleasant under the earth, though with the right clothing, one can get along. Murk, muck, mud, lots of m words come to mind. But ideas grow in the dark, and that’s where I’ve been, hoeing, roughing up the dirt, letting the seeds spread, get lost, or nestle. Gardeners don’t expect all the seeds to grow. I never liked thinning out carrots, but this meant I got a lot of scrawny and twisted vegetables. It’s better to be brutal. And add manure.

At last I can get to my knees and watch something sprout, before hacking it down not long after the first glimmers of light. I’m still coming up with bad ideas and even okay ones that I’m going to pull out to make room for the best. So I wait, watch, and after some vigorous weeding, it’s starting to look like a garden. I mean a book. I just started a file called Chapter Four, along with a title I might change tomorrow, and will surely change before I’m ready to taste anything, never mind consider a basket for friends. Between pages, I change point of view, and not in a meta-fiction but just messy way. Images flash and burn out. Characters come and go and evolve, trying out and losing all kinds of traits. But I’m starting to fall in love with some, though I can’t forget to push them into hard places. After a bunch of ideas that didn’t sprout, there’s a sentence that I scribbled Ta da beside and haven’t deleted it yet. There’s still enough murk in these drafts that anything could happen, and I try to let that be good news.

In the manuscript garden business, we have to not just conjure the seeds, but the dirt and water and sunlight, so there’s bound to be a lot of words, and we’re bound to take most out. I’m practicing the gardener’s faith. The plot of ground doesn’t look like much. But things have grown from patches of dirt before, and they will grow again.