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Last month I went to Hidcote, one of the most famous gardens in England. High up in the Cotswolds, it’s not easy to find — especially if your GPS goes wild as mine did, and sends you hurtling down precipitous one-lane country roads, where one moment you’re gaping at a dizzying panorama of rolling green hills, and the next you’re slamming on the brakes because a tractor’s coming out of the hedgerows.

The nerve-wracking journey is worth it, though, because at the end you find something spectacular:

These beauties are worth appreciating for themselves, as are the other pleasures of Hidcote: the play of sunlight and shadow, the drowsy hum of bees, the raisin-dappled apple cake from the kitchen.

But as I plunge back into my WIP, I’m thinking about that journey to Hidcote and seeing writing metaphors everywhere: The tortuous climb. The maps that lead the wrong way. The sinking sensation that I am hopelessly lost. And, now and then, the glorious views of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

As I work, I’m also reminded of something else about Hidcote: Beautiful as each flower was, what made the garden work — what made it shine — was the way those plants were put together.

Hidcote’s designer, a reclusive American, didn’t just plonk one stunning flower next to another. He thought about contrast and form and perspective and pacing and balance. And he and his gardeners kept planting and replanting and culling and pruning until they got it right.

And that’s what I’m trying to do with my manuscript, too.

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