I usually plant heavy and I tend to write long. That means my garden overflows even after I thin and prune. And it means my novels sometimes get a little out of control before I revise them down to an acceptable length.
I can plant sparsely. I’ve done it plenty of times. I can write lean prose too. I do it when I produce novella length books for reluctant readers (watch for In Plain Sight coming in 2017).
Gardens and books start with seeds – the seed of an idea or the seed of a tomato – and in the beginning stages, it’s my nature to seed heavy. With garden seeds, you rarely get 100% germination so it’s prudent to allow for some failure. With novels, you never know which tiny tangent, random piece of dialogue, or secondary character might play an important role in the final novel. I outline, but not rigidly, and I like to leave room for surprises.
Then I need to take that overwritten book and revise it, and take that over seeded flat and thin it. I like the process. But last weekend, as I worked outside transplanting peppers I’d grown from seed, I felt a little sad at the number of plants that wouldn’t make it to the garden. They’d germinated but they were either stunted or so far behind the other seedlings that there was no point potting them up.
Coincidentally, the day after I finished my garden work, I was back at the computer editing Million Dollar Blues and feeling a little blue myself at the passages and phrases I had to delete.