Weeding the Garden

This post first appeared on February 28, 2010

when the words get in the way of a good story

I recently spent two weeks on a chapter that I really liked. It had great dialogue, my favorite thing to write, good descriptions of Blackbeard’s ship, Ocracoke Island during the Civil War at Fort Hatteras, Fort Clark, and Fort Ocracoke. I spent much time researching and writing about the different ships, the Union Army and the Confederate Army, and how Blackbeard acquired The Queen Anne’s Revenge which had been a French slave ship. The chapter was chuck full of information I thought would be great for y’all to read. Then…I chucked the chapter.

When reading the chapter back to myself I realized the information, no matter how well it was written and no matter how many times I revised it (at least two dozen times) it slowed the story. When I took it out and pulled together what was before it and what came after it, it read like a race between rabbits instead of a race between turtles. The writing got in the way of the story.

I would love to say that this was the first time this happened to me, but that would be a lie. I write like a garden is planted. The seeds are tossed to the ground and watered. When the flowers rise up and bloom, the weeds have to be removed. If they’re not, the garden flowers will be choked and overrun. I think I weed words and sentences and paragraphs as much as I leave in the story. Afterwards, I’m left with the perfect garden. Every sentence is a flower with room.

Writing the Kissing Hand series is completely different than writing the novel. Chester Raccoon is a little person and I try to speak to him and from him with a simplicity a five year old can understand. Barbara Gibson’s illustrations are amazing and well worth admiring. If you don’t have the Kissing Hand books you should read them at the store or library just to enjoy her art work. I am always amazing by my illustrators. I can’t draw a straight line.

Have any of you figured out my quiz? A pencil represents a segment. The segment (not the pencil) is the greatest gift you have ever received. It is a gift worth more than the price of rubies. What is the segment that represents this gift? Email me your answer. You might get the forth Blackbeard novel free.

Well, it’s back to my garden. Good writing, everyone.