A Gardener’s Guide to a Weed-Free Narrative

Live to Write - Write to Live

The new fence, with a purple gate! The new fence, with a purple gate!

Last year, I worked a small garden in small pieces and wrote about how that was a good metaphor for writing a novel – or tackling any long project, for that matter: a little bit at a time. [Six Writing Lessons From the Garden]. Because my garden was so small, I protected it with a

Wire & Ski-pole fence, 2013 Wire & Ski-pole fence, 2013

makeshift fence of wire held upright by ski poles.

My small plot was highly successful, yielding leeks, shallots, lettuce, fennel, endive, cherry and heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers both sweet and hot, green beans, Brussels sprouts and assorted herbs. It gave me confidence to expand, but to do so would require more than a makeshift fence. I needed a sturdy and reliable fence to keep our grazing chickens out.

Other years, my gardens have sprawled across the landscape, often resulting in more…

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Scrapbooking Novels

Aside

I’ve had a fun evening putting together a couple of scrapbook pages, and it got me thinking. If I were to do one for my novels, which I will now I’ve thought of it, what would be on them?

The current novel would have stuff about WW2-era starlets, bingo, Art Deco, cocktails and London apartments. The other one would have beer and cider, ghosts and students, pubs and the history of York. My longest running story, and fanfiction that Will Not End, would need several pages of London and Cardiff and Weddings and the Doctor and long distance conversations.

What would be in your story’s scrapbook, or your character’s journal? Should we do an exchange of scrapbook pages?

I Have a Cunning Plan

Since the disastrous meeting of apple squash and my story notes, I’ve been sort of drifting aimlessly through the plot, and that worked out really well… Wait, I mean the other thing. I’ve got four scenes, not in any sort of order, possibly not all relevant to the story.

This time, it was A3 paper and many colours. It did take a while to figure out what I needed to exorcise the details, and I cycled through post-it notes, note cards, notebooks and Evernote before the penny dropped and I decided that what I really needed was to cover the whole of the kitchen table.

Mind map showing characters, plot events, locations and a SWOT analysis.

Nothing beats a mind map for planning. I started out with my characters in the top right corner, then (because I’m a masochist) I did a SWOT analysis for the business, then fished out my key plot events, the romance subplot and then finished off with my locations.

After a week of failing to work this out, I managed the lot in a couple of hours. Next I need to transfer it into an organised layout (coming right up… tomorrow), and then stick it to my wall and get on with writing.

Of course, there’s a disadvantage with pen and paper

I had a stack of notes, a page for the overall story arc, a page for each section, and a few pages of characters. Loose sheets for sticking to walls when I needed them.
Had is the operative word here.

I also had a pint of squash, but when the pair came together across the kitchen table I lost both. When I write on my computer, I save to my external hard drive and to Google Drive in the same action. I should back up more, but the only computer problems I’ve actually had have been losing small backups (I have memory sticks everywhere, but never the one I need) and just not having computer access. It’s a lot harder to put down a computer and forget where you left it, or spill a pint of liquid over it.

Rule 1: Backup. And then backup again.
Rule 2: Backup some more.

I should know this. The last ten years have been the sort of years where losing my work would be a Very Bad Thing. GCSEs, A levels, degree, ten years of NaNoWriMo, living overseas for six months, really not a good time to lose things irretrievably. So all my work stuff is in one attaché case, the journal I keep my notes in, my business plan, even my passport.

Yeah. I’ll just, um… Go and fix that. And get out a really big piece of paper to redo all my plot notes.

Our cat fails at catting

We’re pretty sure that last night he fell in the pond. The back half was wet and muddy, the front half was just sad. It’s only a shallow little pond, but he wasn’t pleased. We got him mostly dry and gave him a wipe down and then brushed him, and finally let him be to go and lick his wounded pride.

Aren’t cats supposed to be sleek, elegant creatures? He once fell off a chair by lifting his leg to wash it. And when we took him for his jabs he escaped from the carrier and hid under the seat instead. One day I will write a children’s book about him and his brother, who is as sure as Tyb is clumsy and likes to climb… everything.