A Scissor Job

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Not my box hedge…

SnipSnipSnip. I don’t want to do this. SnipSnipSnip. But my magnificent box hedge, whose green fingers burst into all directions, needs to be pruned.

The gardening experts have told me so. And I must admit that elsewhere in the garden, where I left the box to flourish in all its splendour, the hedge has collapsed in drunken decadence. The peeling wooden bench now props it up and stops it sprawling over the drive.

SnipSnipSnip. Just outside my office window is the neat and tidy box hedge I prune every year. Well, about six times a year. It’s my procrastination hedge, the one I can see when I’m writing at my desk.

Strangely, the whole slice of garden outside my office window is weeded, pruned and perfectly manicured. Bulbs simmer underground, preparing to explode into colour and scent as soon as spring arrives. Wildflower seeds pepper the soil overground and the bird feeders are full. This part of the garden is ready for inspection…

…unlike the manuscript of my current novel, which I’m also pruning at the moment. It was rather like the hedge, with tendrils shooting out in all directions. I wasn’t sure how to attack it with my editing scissors, so six months ago I sent it off to a few readers. They sized it up, showed me the parts where it leaned too far over and made some suggestions to spruce it up.

I left it for a few months, edged around it, considered it from afar. I had to size down one hundred and thirteen thousand twigs to something more manageable, something neater. I suspected what I had to do but couldn’t face it, having made such an effort to grow it.

It was time for a decision: should I abandon my scruffy, overgrown work and begin a new one instead? It was tempting. Lots of editing was necessary to bring it into the shape it required for a public audience. And I had a packet of seeds all ready to plant.

They say time heals everything. By the end of September I no longer felt so sentimental about my scraggly oeuvre’s magnificent shape. I took out my tools.

SnipSnipSnip (actually, it was more of a HackHackHack). Off with Dot’s head – or rather her voice – as I cut out her point of view and rewrote the relevant parts from her daughter’s viewpoint. SnipSnipSnip as I cropped those weird, wordy, boring inner thoughts and endless endless endless repetitions.

SnipSnipSnip. A little more analysis and some name changes – and I’m nearly there. All that’s left to clip is the bottom corner, just there where you’ll trip over if you try to pass.

Soon I’ll have finished pruning. Perhaps that will be the moment to take a synopsis photo and send it out for inspection: eighty thousand trimmed twigs of mystery thriller.

What do you mean, pruning needs to be done every year?

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