Spring is here and I’m getting excited about going outside and starting my garden.
But just scattering seeds and walking away is not enough to make it turn out beautiful.
Yes, some seeds will germinate and grow, but for it to be all I dream of there’s more work and dedication needed.
In that respect, writing is a lot like gardening.
Let’s take a look at how.
Selecting the plants for a garden is more than just picking out ones I think are pretty. It requires some knowledge about what will survive in the combination of soil and sunlight conditions of the bed’s location. I also need to know how big the mature plants will be, how much work they will require later, and which plants will look good together. Regardless of whether it is for vegetables, flowers, shrubs or a combination, I need to plan the garden plot.
For writers, there is also a planning phase. Yes, even “pantsers” who typically jump right into the story and let it lead them need to do some pre-planning Locations and topics that are unfamiliar but will be in the story need to be researched.
For “plotters”, who plan out everything in advance, this is where they do things like write outlines, draw time-lines, and create character sketches.
But whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, there are other things that need to be considered at this stage of writing.
A writer needs to know the story’s genre and what that genre’s readers expect. The best way to do that is to read.
This is also the time to start building your platform, which is a fancy way of saying that you need to start forming relationships with potential readers and people who can help your career as a writer. This is where accounts on multiple social media sites come in handy.
Prepping The Soil
The basic plan is set, but you still need to create the best possible environment for the chosen plants. It’s time to purchase the materials and prep the soil. Next, you lay out the border, loosen the dirt, and add compost or any other amendments the soil needs.
In the same way, a writer should create an environment for writing.
The ideal setting depends a lot on the writer. Some need a quiet place. Others write best with music playing. Will a coffee shop be better than a home office, or the other way around? What time of day do you write best? Some writers follow a certain ritual. I’ve even heard of one writer who has a specific model of ink pen for novel writing.
Only you can determine what works best for your process, but whatever that is, you need to create that atmosphere.
This step may seem small, but it’s one of the most important.
There’s a lot of science behind it that I won’t go into right now, but this is how your brain gets the signal that it’s time to write. And that’s why it needs to be repeated every time you sit down to pen your thoughts.
The plants are selected and the bed is prepped. It’s finally time to sow the seeds or dig holes to put the plants in.
Now for the fun part! It’s exciting to know you’ve started, and you can see the garden starting to take form.
It’s also the fun part of writing.
The ink begins to flow; fingers start to move on the keys; words start to fill the page. This is when you let your creativity go and write your rough draft. You add muscle to the skeleton and your story really starts to take shape.
Writers who are pantsers get the joy of discovering what the characters are like and where the story will go. Even plotters can be a bit surprised when one of the characters does something they didn’t expect.
It’s pretty exciting!
After the seeds germinate and start to grow, they need to be thinned out or they’ll get overcrowded. If you used plants instead of seeds, you may need to trim parts that got too stressed or damaged when they were transplanted.
If you guessed this is like the editing phase of writing, you’re right.
You cut scenes that aren’t doing anything for the story, tighten language and make sure everything fits and flows together as best it can.
So now you have a beautiful garden, but you’re still not done. Now the real work begins. Many don’t think of this as the fun part, while others love it.
You have to weed the bed, fertilize it, add mulch and more compost, and water regularly. In order to keep it beautiful and fresh, you may need to change out any annual plants with the changing seasons. Some plants will need pruning. Others will need spent flowers removed or seeds collected for the next year.
How does this compare to writing? After all, the book is done, so what do you need to do now?
Marketing. Like maintaining a garden, this phase is not loved by all. Some do learn to like it, though. Regardless of how you feel, it’s crucial to building a long term career.
Relationships you started building a long time ago are important, and your readers can now leave reviews and recommend your book to others. Do blog tours and promos.
By now, if you’re anything like me, your next book is clamoring for attention, and the cycle starts over again. This is a good thing, because, if you’re lucky, your fans will be waiting impatiently for the next book as soon as they finish this one.
But all this work is worth it, especially when your book turns out to be everything you dreamt it would.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are there other things about gardening that can help your writing? What does your perfect environment look and feel like? What do the changing seasons teach you?