Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Aging Rhubarb is Like Finishing a Novel?

I weeded my strawberry patch this morning. It's beginning to really take shape. There's some bare spots, but in another year or so it will fill in. This year we were able to pick enough to have Strawberry Shortcake a couple of times. And the berries were so yummy.

But that's not my main goal.

See, I have a plan.

When I was a little girl my mother had a strawberry patch and a place in her garden where she planted rhubarb. She let it grow for three years and then made awesome Strawberry-rhubarb Pie that was to die for.

And I have the recipe.

But no rhubarb.

After hearing me complain that I didn't have rhubarb, a friend of mine gave me some of hers. And I was so excited. Her rhubarb plant was only a year old, but it looked fine to me. So I made a pie.

It looks pretty good, doesn't it?

My mouth watered, and I could hardly wait to have a piece. However, I was sadly disappointed. The rhubarb was woody. And that was when I remembered my mother saying that rhubarb had to grow for three years before it would taste good in a pie.

Three . . . long . . . years . . .

So, I decided to plant a rhubarb plant of my own. It's really taken off. This is the first year and if it keeps going I'm going to have some awesome rhubarb (though I do see a hole in one of the leaves. Hmm.).

Anyway, I'm hopeful that in 2016 I'll have rhubarb and strawberries to make my own home grown Strawberry-rhubarb Pie . . . just like Mom did.

What does aging rhubarb have to do with writing a novel?

Sometimes writers are so anxious to become published they send their manuscripts off to publishers before making sure the book is ready.   Or worse . . . the writer decides to epublish a manuscript before it has been thoroughly critiqued. In other words, they pick the rhubarb before they should.

Here are three steps I go through before sending a manuscript to my editor.

1) Once I finish a manuscript, I read through it with a critical eye looking for plot holes, character motivation gaps, and punctuation and grammar errors. This can take several days or several weeks of reading and rewriting. And I hate to admit it, but yes, I find a ton of errors.

2) Next I have a couple of  people, whose opinions I value, read through the manuscript. This is invaluable. They can see things that I've missed and help me firm up my story.

3) Once I've made the corrections my friends have suggested and that I agree with, I read the manuscript once again. Believe it or not, I still catch typos.

Following this process I've had much better luck selling a manuscript. Like waiting for rhubarb to age, it takes a lot of patience to finish a good, solid manuscript.

But it's so worth the extra effort.

What is your process of making your manuscript shine before sending it out into the world?




  1. Enjoyed reading this post. I didn't know that it takes this much effort to publish a work. Great !

    3 more years to taste the pie ! hmmm..., try to get a 3 year old one from somewhere and feast us all through this blog. Can't wait !

    1. Rajiv,
      I will do just that. :) I can hardly wait, too.



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