Kate Flora: Dorothy Cannell is unable to blog today, having been overrun with unexpected house guests, so I’m going to rerun a post from a few years ago that seems to have particular relevance at this season:
The way that writers see the world is a subject I return to fairly often, as you faithful readers may have noticed. This is the season that I slip away to the garden as often as I can. I love watching the tiny shoots of green grow taller every day until they become large, lush plants with the promise of flowers ahead. I prowl along the edge of the perennial bed, looking for those tiny volunteers that have escaped and are trying to survive in the grass of the lawn. I dig them up and find them new places to grow.
What do these shoots of green that seem to change overnight teach me? Perhaps about how this is much like the way a book begins. First it is just a tiny idea, and by pondering on it, it gradually grows to become the plot of a book. Like those tiny shoots, a book idea will need attention. It will need to be fertilized with essential questions like: What is this about and why is this book about this particular set of characters? It will need space to grow to it’s full size, in the brain and on the page. It will need the unnecessary ideas to be weeded out so that the plant can grow. Sometimes it will need to be cut back to make the plot fuller and less straggly.
Like a tender plant needing a gardener to tend it, a book idea needs the author to figure out what the story needs to make it grow into a successful book. What will fertilize it? How much water (or perhaps, in an authors case, how much alcohol) will it need to make it grow and achieve its full potential? What kind of research must be done to make the setting, characters, and plot feel authentic to a reader. And as in a successful garden, the plant, like a protagonist or antagonist, will need complimentary plants around it to illuminate it and compliment it. What complimentary shapes and sizes and colors will enhance a perennial bed? What sidekicks, bosses, clients, or love interests will shape and enhance your protagonist?
And of course, as in any garden there will be the weeds, roots, rocks, and pests, that will want to thwart successful growth to a mature plant, there will be the obstacles internal and external, and the antagonists, both natural and human, which must be overcome in order for the story to come to a successful conclusion where order is restored to the world.
Finally, like a well-told story that is coming to its conclusion, there is the moment in the garden when that plant has been successfully fertilized, watered, and protected from weeds and insects, and it fulfills its purpose by producing colorful leaves andglorious flowers. With the book, that is the moment when the writer types: The End, and sits back with a smile of satisfaction.
Of course, just as in a well-tender garden, plants need to be divided, cut back, or shuffled around to new locations, generally typing: The End is not the end. It is simply the beginning of the next process–revision.
May your words flow and your garden grow!