Friday, March 03, 2006


I was weeding the henbit out from the poppies this morning -- the little frilly weeds are so thick that the long, pale green poppy plants are thin and spindly, drooping over even after I pulled the offending henbit bunches -- and thought how similar those persistent little green weeds are to the ones that grow fast and furious in most writers' heads. Those editing weeds -- if we don't watch out, they'll choke off our idea seedlings!

I know a ton of writers -- once you start writing, they just pop up everywhere -- and there's one common issue that crops up among those who are digging into their first books. The problem? Their self-editing (nasty henbit bunches) gets in the way of letting their ideas sprout and grow to any size. They sow a plot seed, but do nothing about those nasty weed thoughts ("Why are you doing this?" "This is awful, no one will want to read this," "You'll never finish this book!") and finally give up when their ideas seem to wither. Eventually, when they get up the courage, they sow another garden, only to be overcome by weeds again, and then another, and another....

In the end, they have nothing to show for their hard work but plot after plot of weeds... discarded manuscripts that never got a chance to see the light, or get a drink of water.

So what is a writer to do?

1) Weed out the bad thoughts. You can write them down and put them in a jar, make a mental 'circular file' for them, whatever. Don't let them stop you from moving ahead.

2) Give your idea seedlings regular infusions of light and water. Keep writing, keep letting those ideas grow, keep thinking about them -- and have faith in yourself, and in the process. A regular writing time in a regular place is a huge help -- you'll learn that no matter what critical thoughts your inner editor sends up, you'll persist and do it anyway.

3) Give yourself permission to let those editorial thoughts back in -- and do a rewrite -- but only when the manuscript is FINISHED. Even if it doesn't turn out to be the best novel ever written, it will have a huge advantage over all your other seedlings -- it will be DONE. And you will know that you can do it again.

So, those are my gardener's tips for the day. And as I was writing this, I just got news from my publicist... a review came in for Murder on the Rocks... and there's a comparison in there that just makes all the pain and agony of writing worthwhile! If you're curious, it's at

Anyway, it's a gorgeous day out there, so get gardening! And remember, give your ideas lots of water, light, and space... and send those weedy thoughts packing!


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