I have been known, on occasion, to dabble with growing a houseplant. And now that I’m between growing anything (I plan to again soon, with all of that free time I have) I see certain parallels between making sure something grows and blossoms, and crafting a story.
Just a couple of nights ago I found out that a former coworker of mine, Kimmy Pagnotta, is self publishing her own comic book. Which is incredible! And it also got me thinking about my own struggles with my story, The Autumn Mage.
Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.
Trim the Dead Growth
This one is always intimidating at first, because anyone who starts a new project has that feeling that whatever they write is perfect. It’s not. Whether you’re on your second draft or your 20th, if something isn’t advancing the story, it’s gotta go.
But it’s my favorite part of the story!
While I’m sure your creative genius is without rival, cut it. You can always recycle an idea later, but if it doesn’t help the story, it hurts it. When a plant has a dead limb, you have to hack it off with a nice, clean trim. Doing so allows new growth to take place, as well as reallocates resources allowing the plant to grow healthier. Same rule of (green) thumb applies here.
Prune the Overgrowth
This is similar to the first tip in both regards. With landscaping, trimming is more cutting off the bigger stuff that has to go, which in writing may be whole subplots, paragraphs, scenes, even characters. Pruning, on the other hand, is more of a pinpointed removal of smaller problems.
Pruning is done to plants to help aid its overall shape, like with bushes and shrubs, and to allow better growth with trees and the like. When too much growth is allowed to take place, branches and leaves can start blocking out the sun, which leads to a vicious cycle of the healthier overgrowth on top stealing away food from the rest of the plant. By cutting it away it allows the tree as a whole to grow better.
In the same vein, if your have unnecessary portions of a story, it’s only going to bore readers. It may be well written, but it only takes away from the meat and potatoes of the story. No matter how well you crafted it, taking it out will lead to a healthier body.
Feed the Roots
Many amateur gardeners think that growing a plant is literally a Just Add Water! scenario. Unfortunately, like any living thing, that’s not enough. Sunlight acts as plant food, but more often than not they need a little help with fertilizer or other added nourishment.
Doing this feeds the roots, not the plant directly. Feeding the roots allows it to distribute the vitamins throughout the body, strengthening it as a whole. This is akin to having someone else edit your story. They’ll show you where you can improve, what works, and what doesn’t.
Find Your Own Way
When you go online for tips on a subject, you’ll always find a message board where Expert 1 is arguing with Expert 2. The Internet is great for sharing information, but sometimes people confuse opinions for facts. While a little bit of the right advice goes a long way, you should also find techniques that work best for you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone needs a little extra help or mentoring. Whether it be the employee working the garden center or a club or group online, it’s always a good idea to find something with helpful tips.
I am always available with writing and editing services! And if you’re working on a project and you’d like to feature it, just ask!
If you have any other writing (or gardening) tips to share, sound off in the comments below! I love hearing what works for others in their creative process.