Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gardens of my mind

A friend asked me to water her garden whilst she camps at a seaside park, wandering the shore, watching for dolphins and breathing in the salty, moisture-heavy air. We live in an arid zone where plants would turn brown and crisp quickly without a hose gushing into pots and trickling into the ground. It's a pleasure for me since I am currently garden-less. I love green. I adore trees. I am a nut about fruits and vegetables bursting forth.

As a bonus I got to eat a handful of those little tomato gems, which surely have been touched by the Flavor Fairy's wand. They do not seem to be from the same planet as supermarket tomatoes. There is a sci-fi story in there somewhere.

All of which leads me to writing. I was bummed to miss the SCBWI conference in LA this weekend but have come to realize I have an abundance of inspiration around me--from the mini-world of a garden to the enormous reach of the internet.

Lady Glamis has been posting a superb series on mapping your novel. I am not a outline whiz and fall straight to sleep if faced with making a list that involves Roman numerals. I like to write as if possessed by a story, to let the characters lead me on a merry dance, to submerge myself deep in the enchantment.

I must do a weird tangent thingie here and thrust in one of my favorite anecdotes from Neil Gaiman. He said in a blog post that he was traveling with his daughter after the death of his father and when the plane landed, she interrupted his writing to tell him it was time to get off. He said: 'But I want to find out what happens next.' If that isn't going deep, what is?

Back to my taskmistress the lovely Lady Glamis. I have decided that my Mr. Toad's Wild Ride writing needs me to examine its structure, to map its arc, to study each scene's tension. Since I have her great suggestions, I have something to start with but it's still going to be daunting when facing a 300-page story.

Therefore, I'm announcing that I'm starting today, in lieu of conference. I could have done that without a peep, or told a writing buddy, but if I stand on my mini-platform and shout it out to any who read this, I feel like I'm making a commitment, a goal. And I honor those.


Unknown said...

Do the *same* thing. One reason why I posted all my revision plans on my blog was because I knew if I did it there, I'd feel obligated to do it in real life.

Good luck!

Corey Schwartz said...

Good for you! You've thrown your hat over the fence. Now you HAVE to go get it :)

storyqueen said...


if you are a seat-of-the-pants writer, you might enjoy this post. I am a seat of the pants-ter and I found Janet Lee Carey's description of writing really dead on.

(Outlining doesn't seem to work for me until far later in the process, when I am tightening up....)

Anyway, good luck. I, too, an sitting her missing the conference. But you are good and working. I am bad and writing on people's blogs to avoid my work.



Unknown said...

The best thing, besides new friends, about blogging, is the ability to make proclamation that we can and DO stick to! I always heave a sigh of relief when I give myself a task and let the blogosphere know. Good JOB!

MG Higgins said...

I struggle mightily with knowing when to allow my dream-mind to take the lead and when to insist that my "organizing" mind lay on some control. Thank you Tricia for the Lady Glamis link and thanks also to storyqueen for the brimstonesoup link. Think I'll wait until my first revision to get out the spreadsheet.

Good for you for making that commitment, Tricia!

Stephanie Faris said...

I was a VERY active RWA member for 7 or 8 years and I'm just going to say something that I observed. Writing conferences, workshops, meetings, etc. are GREAT in moderation. But I see far too many people use them as an excuse to put off writing. Writing is only part networking but when all you're doing is playing politics, you have to stop and ask yourself if you really want to write...or just talk about writing. So, for me, I found it was best to get that base of knowledge and then fly on my own. I found it way too tempting to count "attending my monthly meeting" as some sort of progress toward realizing my dreams.

Sarah Wylie said...

I'm always reluctant to talk about my writing progress on my blog, but what you said is true. It's a way to hold yourself accountable and make a commitment to reach certain goals.
Good luck with the ones you've set.
PS: I'm glad I found your blog!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Well I'm cheering you on full force!!!! Outlining and planning doesn't work extremely well for me until after the first draft. I'm wishing you the best of luck and personally inviting you to email me if you have any questions or you get stuck anywhere.

Good luck!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Beth: I admire what you're doing so I'm glad to follow your footsteps. Just hope I don't fall on my face. ;)

Corey: See me run! You gave me a giggle, Corey. *scrambling over fence, jogging through field, hat bouncing ahead*

Shelley: Thanks for that link. I read a Janet Lee Carey book just recently and really enjoyed it. I also checked out Laurie Halse Anderson's blog after you mentioned it and I definitely like that blog and her writing challenge.

Suzanne: Yes, it has more weight knowing I've committed. Stick to it. Indeed. But now I have a mental picture of a cartoon character with sticky paper all over and the more he tries to get if off the more sticks. Hopefully, I will be in control and not vice versa.

Melissa: Isn't it grand the people we meet and the things they share on these blogs? The very notion of spreadsheet gives me headache but I'm going to do this, I think, more visually. I'm thinking of five sheets of paper for set-up, first disaster, second disaster, third disaster and resolution. Then doing brief scene outlines for each of the five sections. I also like the idea of hanging a long piece of paper on a wall and showing the story arc with pivotal scenes. That's where I might add picture cut outs or drawings to make myself a picture book of the outline. That's the sort of thing that makes such a project excite me.

Stephanie: Good to hear your experience. I've gathered so much information already it's like overload. I know I need to write, write, write for the time being.

Sarah: Thank you for coming for a visit. I love your blog; you've got great voice. I think Suzanne pointed the way there.

Lady Glamis: Thank you on many levels! I'm just starting the second draft as a rewrite, so this is perfect timing. It's so generous of you to offer help if I get myself lost. I think my map will have to have visuals!

Donna said...

Thanks for the garden walk and for inviting us to visit Lady Glamis' blog. I look forward to mapping, just as soon as I get this first draft done.

Dave said...

Fun post, and I loved the Gaiman thing. That's how I want to be when I write. I want to be in the moment and find out what happens next.

Now, I just read Lady G's post, and it is impressive and daunting all at once. Let me know how it goes. I'd be interested in knowing if you make it through any of the steps or all of them. The map was pretty cool. I liked how the arrows pointed back as a way of signaling that foreshadowing is needed for each of the main plot points. If I was to go for it I would probaly just try to map it out by using that visual. I'm afraid my circuits would overload if I tried to do the whole thing.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Donna: Ah, you're brave--looking forward to mapping!

Dave: Glad you loved the Gaiman thing, too. I can see him look up, eyes unfocused, confused and not willing to have anything so mundane yank him out of the magic place
Yes, I'm totally concerned about my circuits. this is really pushing my comfort zone.

Donna said...

So that's where Gaiman's imagination and productivity come from. He lives in that magic place, and the mundane is a blur on the sidelines.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hi Tricia,
You have an amazing blog and list of followers for a newbie. You have obviously been very active, and I appreciate the effort that takes. I liked this post because my sister lives in the desert of Palmdale and I feel her angst as she tries to grow a tomato or an eggplant. She never gives up and struggles to keep a small patch of grass in honor of her Michigan upbringing. While her neighbors have all given into cactus and gravel, my sister stubbornly waters her own little tomato gems. It's not unlike the fortitude a writer must have to succeed. I admire perseverance in any form.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yvonne: Welcome to my blog. I love yours--the beauty and depth of the poetry and photographs. You are so right that a writer is much like a garden under all kinds of stresses. But the rewards can be so sweet.