Growing a story is like working a garden. With patience and a regular investment of time, the results can be lovely.
- The beginning of a garden–and a novel–is impulse-driven. What is the most exciting place in spring? The garden center, with wondrous rows of new plants. So many choices and colors! And yet I cannot buy everything. It’s the same with figuring out a new story. Ideas pop up everywhere. Which to choose?
- Decisions are not always rational. Around and around I go with my cart. I like to think I have an overall plan for the garden–and a new novel–but not really. I end up going with my gut, buying the flowers (and story ideas) that grab my attention.
- Love is the driver, structure is the support. I’ll be living with my new plants for a long time (if they live). Same with a story. The premise has got to capture–and hold–my interest. Then it’s up to me to tell it engagingly.
- The needs of the plants are important. Shade or sun? Boggy soil or well-drained? For the novel, minding the expectations of genre, play a part. For example, a Romance needs the Happily Ever Ending. A Love Story, not so much.
- Sometimes I come home with plants that I meant to put back but didn’t. I have story ideas like that too. Surprises. Ideas I don’t think will work that suddenly do.
- I plant everything in and then I water. And I will keep watering regularly–if I don’t become sidetracked and forget. Writing sidetracker, your name is Social Media.
- Growth takes time. Progress comes in slow stages. And suddenly, there are blossoms. I add up the chapters and find that I’ve amassed 20,000 words.
- With growth come weeds, and pests, and the need to prune. It’s a joy to cut deadwood from a shrub, or to pull weeds. Editing my precious sentences out, not so much.
- On the other hand, pruning brings new growth. The Spanish lavender, which was a mass of blooms in May, has new flowers in August–because I deadheaded. Similarly, discarded story ideas sometimes find new life later in the manuscript, or even in a different story.
- I keep the nursery labels so I’ll know how to care for a new plant. The writing application is to keep and back up files. Plenty of sad losses here. I’ve learned the hard way.