Friday, May 14, 2010

Some Thoughts About Writing and Gardening

I've been away from my post this week, doing what writers are supposed to be doing -- writing. Well, and doing research, too, for coming interviews. But, research done, I got back to revising and editing, querying, writing the ever-ominous (to me) synopses, and submitting manuscripts (three). With all of that done, I wandered out to the back yard to do some work on my raggedy flower garden.

While I was gardening, I couldn't help drawing parallels: How is gardening like writing a novel? Let me count the ways:

To begin with, you start out with an idea. An appealing idea. The overall plot. (Forgive the pun.) In the heat of your enthusiasm you plant your plants and stand back to look at the result. "Not bad. Pretty good, really! Although...." Now the real work begins. What exactly did you have in mind? Did you mean for such a bushy plant to go in that spot? And mixed light--does that plant really need more sunlight or more shade? And, oh dear. Western sun in Sacramento seems to be a little hotter than "full sun."

So, revision. You start shifting the plants around. I think of plants as characters. You know how some characters start hogging the limelight, pushing the other characters into the background, but the story originally wasn't about them? Well, some plants do that, too. And then you have to decide. Is this the main plant (character) after all? Or do you need to put it in another section (maybe another book?)

After revising and replanting, results start looking better. The novel shapes up, the characters are in their places; the garden has shape and color. Flowers are blooming where they should; this plant's leaves aren't shriveling from too much sun; that plant isn't pining for more sun.

There's still more work to be done: editing. Pesky adverbs and adjectives, and all those cluttery words, like just, even, really, very, but, and, then.... (Who knew you had such a "then" habit?) This is like the weeds in your garden. They have that way of cropping up everywhere. You have to dig them out. Sometimes more than once.

True, there is a point where parallels break down: For one thing, no one ever sends you a letter saying, "We regret that your garden doesn't meet our needs, and we wish you luck elsewhere."

On the other hand, the upside of a rejection letter is that it doesn't give you a sore back!


Rachna Chhabria said...

Lovely post Elizabeth! I agree with the point that no one rejects our garden, and neither does a rejection letter give us a sore back. But then, both gardening and writing give one absolute pleasure. Its nice to watch both: a garden and writing grow.

Nancy Herman said...

I like this post, Mitty. (Just now catching up on my blog reading!) You should submit this to SCBWI magazine. I think it fits in beautifully with some of their articles by writers and illustrators.

See you soon!