Sometimes, I reach the end of a story and realize that it’s grown too long. Offshoots and tangents distract from my plot. Lacking focus, a believed to be exciting tale instead branches into unexplained, different directions.
I thought about that yesterday evening after work as I pruned the backyard’s flowers. The Confederate Jasmine that I’ve trained to wind its way up and over the pergola needed all sorts of attention after an isolated winter. I snipped here and there, trying to give it back its natural look. Needless to say, this vine would have looked much better had I done a little at a time. It would have taken less time to fix, too.
Stories are the same way. Just like with a plant, you have to know how you want it to look before you start shaping it. Remember in KARATE KID, Mr. Miyagi carefully trimming his bonsai tree, slowly shaping it as it grew? The end result of any carefully groomed plant will be a prettier plant that looks much more natural. Authors want the same with their stories. It just takes a little foresight and a little grooming as you go.
Now, if only I had kept up with the Confederate Jasmine this winter …