Ahh the compost bin, a staple in any organic garden. In go the kitchen scraps and yard waste (and occasional veggie peeler, found the next spring).

Composting seems so simple, and it is: you pile everything in there, and out comes black gold. So how come it can go terribly wrong?

::turns on the Obvious Machine::

Composting is a metaphor for writing (composing). Sometimes your writing just isn’t working, even though all the ingredients are there. Your draft, for lack of a better word, stinks. But you can fix it.

Here are three tried and true ways to fix your compost, and your manuscript.

Vary your input: Add only kitchen scraps and you’ll have a wet, smelly sludge. Add only leaves or grass and you’ll end up with decomposing leaves and grass, not the rich soil every gardener craves. Do you have too much of one ingredient in your writing? Maybe it’s all stories, no structure; or all process with no examples. Your reader craves variety. Allow the elements to balance one another, creating something more generative in the process. If your compost smells, or is attracting flies, something is off balance or not needed.

Stir it up! You didn’t add the ingredients to your compost in equal doses, at a steady rate—you added them when you could. Your compost will benefit from a few great turns with a garden fork. Your first draft is not going to improve unless you dig in and toss it around. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Adopt an editing mindset and be open to revision.

Give it time: Great compost isn’t created overnight. It demands a mixture of ingredients, heat, and time. Oh I know, you’ve got the pressure, bright diamond. But don’t force yourself to nail your draft in the first go. You might need to step away for a while, let the ideas percolate.

Do all that, and you’ll have a draft that smells peachy keen, jelly bean, and rich soil that is generative. Your book will hopefully contribute to a bigger conversation. You’re trying to reach a target audience—not everyone will agree with your ideas, and that’s OK. Composting is about breaking down to create something new. Make your book something that promotes growth.

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