Writing a Book is Much Like a Tree

We had some reprieve from the bitter cold for a few days, and even saw some above zero temperatures. Although it was nice, I personally don’t think it should be this warm and raining in January. Especially when we all know winter is far from over. All it does is turn the roads and streets into a skating rink.

The cold weather delayed my aborist from taking down some dangerous trees in my yard, but he’s going to be here this afternoon to see what can be done. Hopefully he can get through the snow so he can do his job. And the Weather Network is forecasting more cold weather by the weekend, so he wants to get this done.

I do love my trees, but sometimes we just need to know when it’s time to cut them and start over. Which brings me to scenes and chapters in the books we write.

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It has taken me pure willpower to cut scenes from my fiction, and entire chapters from some of my nonfiction. I sometimes even struggle with cutting words from sentences, but I do know that it’s necessary on all counts.

Our stories, articles, and nonfiction books are much like a tree. There has to be a good root system (plot/subject), storyline/strong body (trunk), and supporting characters/facts (branches). Without the three main components, we can easily end up with gibberish. And no one wants to read gibberish.

That’s why it’s so important to not get too attached to your rough draft. The roots may be strong, but the trunk may have a crack. Or the branches are going to break in the slightest breeze.

Write more than you think you’ll need. If your finished novel is going to be in the 50,000 word range, don’t be afraid to write 55,000 words. Chances are a lot of words will be cut during the first edit; and more in the second.

It’s easy to get caught up in using everything we write, but sometimes it’s not all relevant to the topic at hand. That said, put the cut scenes/paragraphs in a file for possible future use. Spinoffs for short stories, or the base for another series. And with nonfiction, short ebooks on a side topic you cut from your main book could be written.

Also, look for repetition during the editing process. Repeating yourself just to increase the word count is not a good thing. Not only does it make the reader roll their eyes, but it will also make them think twice about buying more books from you.

While no one is perfect, and some of the same references are made in different books, do your best to give your readers new and different content in each book you write. Cover one topic in your nonfiction, and if writing fiction, be sure to have some conflict, an interesting solution, and three-dimensional characters.

Your story needs life, just as a tree needs water, sunshine, and air circulation (pruning) to grow strong.

At the end of the day, write a book you want to read. Cut the crap out of it and you’ll be proud to put your name on it.

As I close this post, I have to say my trees will stand for a while longer. Mother Nature made sure she blew enough snow into my yard to make it difficult to get to the trees. And bless my arborist’s heart: he suggested we wait until spring so time and money don’t have to be spent on snow removal, just on tree removal.


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