It’s a lot like my garden. Crowded, colorful, and slightly out of control. Words and plot threads are popping up where I don’t necessarily expect them, much like the weeds and flower seedlings randomly sprouting in the garden.
Years ago, when I first started gardening, a friend who was a professional gardener told me I shouldn’t plant so heavily, that I would regret it, that it would lead to disaster as the strong, vigorous plants would crowd out the more fragile specimens. I listened, I considered, and I planted. I planted heavily because while I admire the clean lines and austerity of, say, Japanese gardens (and I’m passionate about Bonsai) I gravitate to the lush, riotous color of a blousy and overplanted cottage-style garden.
In the garden, my mantra is ‘Look here. And here. And here.’
When I write, my mantra is: ‘Then this. And this. And this.’
My books tend to overflow with people and events and details, especially in the first draft stage. Though I always start with an outline or loose synopsis, at the same time I also like to follow my instincts and the plot threads that come from that. One Good Deed has multiple plot threads. Some I conceived before starting and some are occurring to me as I write. It’s exciting, yet nerve-wracking.
In the garden, I plant what I want where I think it will work. I put some thought into it, but I don’t overanalyze. Self-indulgent as it may sound, I’m creating the space for me. I know there’ll come a time – maybe in mid-summer when the rush of the garden season is over or in fall when I’m putting things to bed for the winter –when I’ll thin things out or reposition plants or dig up volunteers to share with friends. If I don’t get to it, well there’s always next year.
I don’t feel that same sort of luxurious abandonment when I write. For one thing, writing comes with deadlines. For another, it’s not about self-indulgence, it’s about telling a story readers will love. So, even after 18 published books I fret about the tangents I’m creating, the various plot threads that may or may not weave together nicely. I’ll revise, I always do, but it’s not time effective to write so much that you need to dump a third of the manuscript in the rewriting process.
Writing a novel is a delicate balancing act. At times it’s a bit of a muddle. And I’m in the middle of it. Wish me luck.