I thought about this last week. I was in Vancouver and the ornamental cherry trees were at their best – froths of brilliant pink against the blue sky (yes, it was sunny and that’s a rarity in Vancouver in spring). Those blooms don’t last long, even with sunshine. In fact, some had already dropped, carpeting the streets in swaths of pink confetti. But before they drop, they put on a dizzying, pull-out-all-the-stops dance that takes your breath away. And then Mother Nature, aided by wind and time, comes along and encourages those blooms to drop so the trees can leaf out for another summer. And those trees will provide places for bird’s nests, and shade for picnics, and branches for kids to climb.
Those cherry blossoms are a lot like the ideal first draft – over exuberant, wild and a little uncontrollable. And beautiful. Stunningly so. But then we need to come along and let the pink confetti fall. We need to let go of words, sometimes entire passages, possibly even characters. It’s hard. We’re usually a little in love with those words and those characters. We see their beauty. Almost always. But in order for our manuscript to leaf out and become a reasonably good book that actually holds someone’s attention, we need to play Mother Nature. And sometimes Mother Nature can be brutal. We need to remember that too. But she is inevitably wise . . . inevitably in tune with the natural order of things.
So when it comes time to edit my next first draft, I’ll try hard to let the pink confetti fall. After all, spring rolls around every year without fail. And without fail, there is always another book to write.