Monday, March 27, 2006

Varigated as a Leaf

While disturbing the winter's mulch over the front flower beds yesterday and bagging some of winter's detritus - branches, brown leaves, birds' nests and wind-blown trash - one of those conventional comparisons scratched me, just like the unpruned rose bushes around the sun dial in the folly.
How like spring clean-up is to revisiting a manuscript after a dormancy lay-away.
You never know if you'll find that the some plants have winter-killed.
You're almost afraid to look.
The March wind blows grit into your eyes and plays Flowers of the Forest on the bare, unbudded branches of lilac and forsythia.
Will the flowers that bloomed so brilliantly last fall be nothing but brown sticks, frost-heaved, frozen into dry rot and death?
Can they, should they, be replaced?
Have squirrels made off with your prize bulbs?
Will the violets and crocus that bloomed royal in the lawn be memory only?
Dead ground. Even the grass has aged.
The cruelest month.
After about the 12th review-and-edit and a long sleep, I find myself curiously reluctant to re-visit and revise the first book of the series.
I wonder if this is a case of familiarity breeds or simply ennui while new adventures in the series beckons like the new glossy varities at a garden center.
I remember that the Eliot's were Border Reivers.
I yearn for spring rains.

First Spring Flower: Just learned that Sela ( see sidebar) just sold a novel to Samhain Publishing.
Perfect bloom! Lovely colour! Smells very sweet!


Lady M said...

How very interesting B.

Yeah, it is like that. What you saw as a beautiful lush garden, before you put it away, once the snow clears --- will it be wilted, dead - or still deliver?

I like the hangars today. That's funny. My kid was playing music on the hangers the other day when I was attempting *I am the world's worst clothes folder* to fold the laundry. We picked them up and made rat-a-tat-tat noises with them until the laundry looked more interesting.


Hey - sweet dreams kiddo.

Oh oh oh - wait - do you know anything about fungus gnats for indoor vegetables and herbs? Like - as in - how to get rid of them without killing the plants or the humans eating the plants? I am suddenly populated by flying things. Grrr - and I want organics.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Very appropriate - it is always good to put a manuscript aside. And always painful to look and see the flaws in one's own style.

But then, the pain comes with knowing that the writer has matured in that time, so really, it's good.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lady M.
I would lean toward a soil drench - a tsp of bleach to the quart or 2 tbls of some insecticidal soap to the quart - avoiding the leaves.
Yes, Sandra, the delete key is very active.

Savannah Jordan said...

Yet another post that hits home with me, Bernita. I am revising my entire first novel, clawing through the leaf litter, pruning the dead weight of dry, new author speak, and revealing the fresh, vibrant story beneath.

And, while I toil in that garden of Fantasy, my mind slips ever to that lush loam of untilled erotica in my mind.

Oh, would that the dying winds of March blow sweet breath into all endeavors; mine, yours and all who stop here.

Happy Spring!

Bernita said...

Very nicely said, Savannah.

I toil in traditional beds and ancient herbs and admire tropic lush.

Erik Ivan James said...

I too yearn for spring rains and the buds of new opportunity.

Bernita said...

Hope spring, Erik.

We'll forget for a season that hope deferred maketh the heart sick.

Ric said...

Ah, spring. Bring it on.

The maple trees are tapped, the crocus are blooming, the sun is SO very comforting.

Older works are still not in the computer system. Typing them in creates a myriad of feelings: What was I thinking? to Wow, this is good. to Damn, this needs a lot of work.

But those bulbs we worked so hard on way back when still have the promise of blooming into the beautiful flowers we hoped for when we planted them.

All we need is spring.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you're describing something similar to what I've experienced. I used to think a writer can never enjoy his/her own book the same as a fresh reader. The words are too close, too tortured for the writer.

I've since changed my mind.

We let a manuscript sit, then go back. If it doesn't flash into life and draw us in, it's not "there" yet. No excuses. The dead material you find really is dead. That's what's so painful about the process. But Sandra is right. It's better to have improved enough to see the dead. Then, we can pull it out.

Otherwise, we'll always have an unsightly garden.

Bernita said...

Very thoughtful responses.
Thank you Ric and Jason.

Robyn said...

As I'm currently revising my ms, this post hits home.

And yes, Sandra, parts of it have been painful.

Ric and Jason, thank you for bringing me a bit of hope. The story stills "draws me in" as I prune, waiting for spring.

I appreciate the analogy, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Don't be too quick to prune deeply, Robyn, sometimes there's life under the bark.

Carla said...

I think it's a good test. If the novel comes to life and grabs hold of you when you re-read it, then I'd say you definitely have something there. I'm just going through something like that and I'm only proof-reading PDFs.

Even if you groan at the flaws, if the life is still there it tells you it's worth spending time on the fixes. If it's not, then it's probably for the box in the attic (the literary equivalent of the compost heap), where it may yet fertilise something new.

Where do the Eliots come into it? I haven't read anything good about the border reivers since The Candlemas Road.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I too, am in this same position of editing my first manuscript. I don't feel the eloquence of words that everyone else has expressed up above. All I can say is...

"I think the damn chipmunks got my friggin' bulbs over the winter!" !LOL

Bernita said...

The first time I read it through, I liked it.
Thought it zipped right along. Wow.
The second time through, I thought it stunk.
Sorry I was obscure, Carla. T.S. Eliot is one of my affectations, and I'm presently fixated on the North Countree.

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing'
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."
- The Wasteland.

Bonnie, the little critters never get them all.
Sometimes I think they get a bad rep, they're just after the black walnuts they buried last fall.

Carla said...

Ah, right. Dur. Excuse my ignorance; I never got very far with The Waste Land

Dennie McDonald said...

I hate Spring gardening - a necessary evil and sometimes you gotta start over from scratch and re-plant everything!

Bernita said...

I'm afraid he's a permanent influence on me, the ritual to romance sort of thing - even based my thesis on him.

I do, Dennie, the new every morning, the heart-stopping promise of it, the green unfolding, the secret life flowing forth - but I tend toward hardy perennials to avoid too much disappointment.

Eliot again - possibly misquoted -
"Brown hair is sweet,
Brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair."

Rick said...

My cycle tends to run opposite to some of you. I'm usually tolerably happy with my work right after I do it. (Not yesterday's work - a rescue raid that I fear makes no tactical sense.) When I go back and read it a few days or weeks later, it stinks.

But when I go back and re-read much later, often it isn't that bad, and just needs a bit of touch-up. In one nearly embarrassing case, I retrofitted a section into Catherine of Lyonesse in which Princess Catherine is bundled off to a convent to adjust her attitude. When I wrote it I hated it so much I wanted to kill that girl and delete her manuscript. Now, in long retrospect, I think it's one of the stronger parts of the book.

Bernita said...

It's true,Rick, sometimes a cutting-out expedition can arrive too soon.

Tsavo Leone said...

M'lady Bernita, do you sit each day and stare into your crysatl ball, drawing from it's heart the sure knowledge that your soon-to-be-guests will be in exacty the predicament you refer to?

So far I have found the process of re-reading my main WiP to be a highly pleasurable one, which hopefully reinforces internally what others have told me (that it really is that good). Granted, some scenes have had me highlighting and deleting/re-writing, but...

My only concern is that once I have reached the end of my editing phase I will have to continue telling the tale, which has lain dormant for some time due to a variety of conflicting interests, and my own fears as to whether I can keep up the good work...

... but then, don't we all have that fear?

Bernita said...

Milor' Tsavo, my daughter once said that her mother could have been a witch if she had wanted to...

And yes, plainly, without any bullshit, your work IS that good. So glad you've finally recognized that.
And yes, you CAN keep it up - and it will just get better and better.

BTW, are men pants called trousers in GB? Are car hoots still called bonnets?

Sela Carsen said...

Yes, trousers are pants, and pants are underwear. Hoods are bonnets and trunks are boots.

And thank you for the note! It does, indeed, smell very sweet!!

In addition, since I just went after the thing again this weekend, I've decided that distance is a wonderful thing. I found plenty of things to fix, but I also found that I genuinely enjoyed the story. What a relief!

Bernita said...

We are all very pleased for you, Sela.

Tsavo Leone said...

A pair of pants = a pair of trousers (although you may have to clarify this, one character to another, since pants also refers to underwear depending on the context).

hood = bonnet (in automotive terminology, although 'popping the hood' is as much in use in the UK as the US).

trunk = boot (in automotive terminology, as in 'popping the trunk/boot').

Bernita said...

Thank you.
I'll have to correct my short. Did call the hood a hood instead of a bonnet.
It matters because it's from John's perspective, rather than Damie's.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I forgot (in my haste this morning) to tell you a story for your cartoon.

When I was in Sweden, there was this German fellow and his wife, talking to me and they learned I played a musical instrument. The German man played piano, and he said, "We can make beautiful music together."

My American friend and I laughed so hard... And that couple stared at us like we'd lost screws. Of course, it wasn't the idea of losing screws we were laughing about!

Rick said...

Sandra, did you explain to him what making beautiful music together means in US idiom?

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Bonnie Calhoun said...

the little buggers aren't fooling me...there isn't a black walnut tree within a mile of me!

Sandra Ruttan said...


Eventually. Once we stopped laughing!


Bernita said...

What bugs me, Bonnie, is that they never find them all and I have to uproot the ones that sprout. Chestnuts, too.
Squirrels need GPS.

Idioms make idiots of us all in other languages, but begod, it's funny!