Friday, March 30, 2012

Growing Weeds

Gardening Month it is... and unlike my previous post which was rather meaningless, I intend to have a worthy discussion today.

Let's talk about weeds. If your yard looks anything like mine, the weeds are already lower-calf height and begging for a run-in with the mower. (Yours will probably meet that fate. Mine however, will continue to thrive until the tractor gets a new battery.) And you've probably begun the yearly ritual of plucking unwanted shoots, laying out your garden or flower bed, and perhaps sowing a few seeds.

I wish you the best of luck. My thumb is dirt brown.

But there are some weeds that warrant discussion. Those found in writing and in the garden on your computer.

These weeds are called... (gasp!) ideas.

I've had many recent conversations with authors, both published and unpublished, that involve the general topic of idea overflow. We all have wonderful ideas, stories that pull our focus one direction, but really aren't going to lead us anywhere except for, perhaps, a great writing journey.

Note, I'm not talking about active pursuit of a different subgenre. I'm talking about that random idea that hits out of nowhere that we all know is something we shouldn't spend energy thinking about. Case in point -- I'm often struck with YA ideas. I have to force them aside. I don't write YA. I don't want to be a YA author, and all other things aside, I have no idea what the technical specifics for the genre are. So, while the idea may be way cool, the amount of time it would take me to put together that idea, into something workable, would eat up the time it would take me to write likely two books in something I already do.

So I'm encouraging all of you to sit down and look at your garden. Look at what seeds you have, what shoots are growing, and give some thought on plucking the weeds that might look pretty but are really a nuisance. (Like my damned ivy.) Focus your energies on what truly gives you the best opportunity while satisfying the craving of your heart.

Crafting that uber-cool idea might be fun as all get out. But if you have to relearn everything you thought you already knew, chances are your time is better invested on a new idea in your currently sown row.

At the same time, if you're stuck in between on one of these publishing plateaus (translation, your genre isn't selling), look at those seeds yet to be planted. Is it time to take the momentum of spring, the season of life, and perhaps put energy into something new? Is it the season to make a change?

As for me? I'm going to go on ignoring my YA muse and keep on telling myself, "Maybe when the demidemons are older and I can relate to the teens." Meanwhile, I'm looking at some older projects that I wrote in my current genres, analyzing the time required to polish them up versus the time required to write something new, and plucking those weeds. I'm also planting a few flowers by reviving my very first writing project. I'll continue to nurture the saplings that are growing -- The Templars, the Black Opals -- and spend more energy on making these shine better than the one before.

In between... I'm checking my email for some news about a brand new plant that I hope will have deep roots.

So... what about all of you? Are you weeding or sowing already planted seeds?



Jannine Gallant said...

I should have read this blog about 8 months ago. Really, has it been THAT long! Last summer I plucked one of those weeds, the first manuscript I ever wrote, and blew off the dust on the stack of 500 pages. This baby was saved to a floppy disc. You cannot resurrect a floppy disc (I asked.) How long could it take to type this masterpiece on a real computer - a couple of months? Easy-peasy. 8 months later, I have about 70 pages left to wade through. I could have started from scratch and written it in half the time. So beware that tough old weed disguised as a flower. Not that my story is bad, mind you. I actually think the plot is terrific. But my writing(insert moan)... POV had no meaning 25 years ago. And I was of the theory that more was better - kind of like this comment. LOL So, unless you have lots and lots of spare time, think long and hard about dragging out that first masterpiece. You'll be amazed at how much you've learned about the craft of writing since typing it on that ancient word processor...

Brenda Whiteside said...

Good post, Claire. Like Jannine, I took an old story and revived it. Years back I wrote a book spanning thirty years in a young woman's life. It was my first book, and I'd had ample rejections. I dug it out a couple of years ago, and when I tried to polish - well, that was too rough as was my writing back then. So I rewrote. Yes, Jannine - much easier. The book is Honey On White Bread. Actually got it published. Some of those weeds are worth the effort. I have a few more that are rightfully dying due to lack of light and attention.

Alison H. said...

Great post! I get those sudden random story ideas, too, and frequently they're outside any genre of my experience so I banish them immediately. My first two published books are stories I wrote many years ago, but I kept them fresh and polished until I found a compatible publisher. However, I do have that one completely unpublishable first manuscript around somewhere. It's a real weed, full of every cliche imaginable and not worth the time to try to save.

glenys said...

Lovely post, Claire - I think we probably all have weeds that we hope will someday become exotic plants :-) The weeds in my garden & in my writing are currently knee-high, and I keep reminding myself that some plants that are considered weeds in one country are prized garden plants in another...