Writing is Gardening

Mullumyard in the Rain

Gardening is like a hands-in-the-dirt kind of writing. That’s the thought I had about them both while I pulled out weeds this morning.

What I was doing there–with that thinking–was trying to construct a metaphor. You will have noticed, though, that I had doubts and inserted a ‘like’. The two things that I was trying to relate to each other at that moment felt like they are too different from each other and I settled for making a simile.

But what is there about gardening and writing that I thought I could bring them together in a metaphor? Thinking thinking thinking. I guess it is more about the ways that I engage in each process.

Gardening, you pull your garden gloves on, walk into the backyard and start weeding. For example. When you’ve picked all the dandelion flowers due to set seed and put them in the organic refuse bin, you’ll see that the newly planted pansy plants are looking a bit limp. Without having to wonder what you’ll do next, you’ll get a watering can, fill it and give the pansies a drink. Next, you’ll notice that the excess thyme plants you ripped out last week, are looking nicely dried. You’ll give them a good shake above the vegetable patch to release all those little dry leaves, where they’ll add to the mulch. Every little bit helps. And so on.

Writing, you’ll open the software you’re using, open the files you’re working on, and start adding into or subtracting from the section you last worked on. Soon you’ll discover that if you add this action to a character’s arc here, you’ll need to seed that character earlier in the piece, and you work on that for a while. While you are getting your lunch, you think of a nice metaphor with which to explain one of your most recalcitrant plot points, and so when you get back into it, you shift your attention to that part of the arena. And so on.

See the similarities?

Gardening is a hands-in-the-dirt kind of writing and writing is gardening with words.

‘Pantsing’ versus Planning

One of my typical ‘pantsed’ embroideries. Even the frame surrounding it was unplanned. Proof is in the areas where it touches or goes over the inner design.

This week I started to rewrite my work-in-progress before I have even written the last two chapters. Since I already know how they must proceed, it didn’t seem as important to finish the work as fix the holes I was finding while re-reading.

Some of these holes are places where I need to ‘seed’ facts to familiarize readers with concepts that will later be used as part of the plot. About five of them, so far.

For example, in Meld, the novel I’m working on, I’ll be writing a time-jump scene. There’s a space shuttle involved that I can’t just have appearing out of the blue … I’d be accused of using a plot device known as a deux ex machine ‘whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and seemingly unlikely occurrence …’ (Wikipedia)

I’ll need to ‘seed’ the shuttle earlier in the story to show that it belongs.

A second problem are the areas of credibility stretched thin by an over-use of descriptive detail, or an over-use of dramatic elements. The former is easy to fix. I just need to decide which bits of description the story can’t do without, and delete the rest.

The latter, the dramatic elements, are more difficult. In several cases these consist of personal characteristics of one or other of the characters and as such have been used to influence outcomes of behavior throughout the novel.

First I had to plot all main characteristics of each of the 6 most important characters … I hear you asking … why wouldn’t you do that before you start writing? And I would say to you … there speaks a planner. Which I am not. I’ll always will be doing this kind of thing half or three-quarters of the way through a project because I am a pantser.

I get an idea for a story in the form of a piece of dialogue between two characters. Or a thought. And I start writing. Dialogue and narrative are the first of my output. I plot and plan down the track. Insert and rewrite. Often.

Pantsing is a lot like sketching. I write and rewrite until a distinct story/image forms among the crowded words/pencil marks. How do you get your story out?

Blog Post Titles

Every so often we all need to revisit lessons from the past. I’ve been blogging for over nine years now, and have learned a thing of two about the tagging system as used by Google and now WordPress.

Titles are more important than tags!

I’ve often thought that a blog post, to be read or even just glanced at, hardly needs any other tags than a really good, snappy, catchy title.

Five days ago I posted a blurb with the sort of milk-coffee title that has much more milk in it than coffee. We all forget ourselves sometimes. And as can be expected that post gained no hits whatsoever.

Google and or WordPress just weren’t interested. The phrasing was wrong. It started with a pronoun. Had no keywords in it. I could go on and on with the parsing.

Usually I prove my point by posting up a great title with either no tags, or just a couple of seriously general ones. No problem getting hits.

As this is an experiment about titling, I won’t even include an almost obligatory interesting image. We’ll see how I go.

Writing, what else?

When I’m My characters out of time, in the first draft of Meld are stuck in a patch of mud and I ,part 2 of the Doomed series, as I am today, and don’t yet know how to write my characters them through that experience. I nowadays turn to another project.

Drat. The sentence above had 45 words as it stood. Why can’t I write long sentences in my fiction? (Editors and beta readers often complain.) But I guess I’d better unpack it in the interests of readability.

Something to look at in the meantime … one of my embroideries … Fleeing the Heat

Yes, so I murdered my first first sentence. I’m limited showing you exactly what I did, not yet knowing all the possible ins and outs of what I can do here. The new first sentence reads …

My characters in the first draft of Meld are stuck in a patch of mud and I don’t yet know how to write them through that experience.

When I’m in that kind of situation, I don’t call it writer’s block. That story-stew is merely waiting for new ingredients. Because it was a time jump that got them into their present predicament, the characters need to have a ‘where-are-we-in-space-and-time’ discussion while at the same time protecting themselves from the wild life. I need to research all the ways in which they can discover ‘when’ they are.

In the meantime it’s OK to write a blog post, work on a short story, or even re-organize your media collection so it can be housed on the internal hard drive. It’s all part of writing.

Synchronicity …

One thing leads to another. It all began with me trying to find a place to start publishing my Eleven Islands saga. This blog isn’t it. Blogs are structured for journaling and or writing episodic narrative, as everyone I know who writes a blog has told me. Yes, yes. I will knuckle down and blog.

Though it doesn’t mean I will let the other idea go. I started to look at different kinds of platforms. At the same time re-read some of the material I was deciding to rewrite to fit the new parameters.

Glaze representing water on a ceramic tile that looks like water
Example of a serendipitous event is this glaze that represents water in this ceramic mosaic
that also looks like water from a certain angle.

Synchronicity happened. While I was writing short blurbs for the Eleven Islands Saga … they are still up, see The Eleven Islands page on this blog … I came across a romantic interlude between two of the younger characters. Inquired about its suitability for the next Worldbuilding Magazine … and away I went, rewriting it to suit.

So, writing has been the go all week on a project that took off after an impulse that led to me joining Worldbuildingmagazine.com

I love synchronicity.