How It Goes… Or Grows

Life here has continued insanely busy… I’m happy to report that the two events this weekend for Artemis Awakening went really well. I had a great time talking with the folks at the Albuquerque SF club on Friday evening. The questions were wide-ranging and thoughtful. Answering them gave me an opportunity to talk about some world-building considerations, including oddities like linguistic drift. I must have not been the only person to have fun, since a bunch of those attending also showed up at Page One Books on Sunday afternoon to buy copies of the novel and get them signed. It was also great to both catch up with some of my long-time readers and meet some new ones.

Replanted Radishes

Replanted Radishes

Remember the Cover Art contest I talked about a of couple months ago? (If you don’t, see the WW for 1-29-14.) The winners have been chosen and are really amazing.   If you’d like to see which pieces won, you can look here: www.sffcontest.com. It’s amazing how many really good pieces were submitted. I’m still mulling over which of the winners will inspire my promised short story.

However, writing that will need to wait until I respond to my editor’s comments for the second Artemis book (probably to be titled Artemis Invaded). I’ve been so busy with promotional stuff (including the Tor.com pop quiz, two short essays for the Writer’s Read site, and a completely different Q&A for the Riffles site)that I’ve had to put my writing more or less on hold. I’ve promised myself that this week writing moves back to getting priority.

Here at home, Jim and I are viewing our garden with some anxiety. First there was the plague of grasshoppers, then the hail storm, and now our already-battered plants are being harassed by high winds. We had to replant a lot of seeds – probably because the winds have been persistent enough that the seeds were buried beyond their ideal germination depths. This past weekend, we went out and purchased three tomato plants to replace ones the grasshoppers harassed and the hail finished. We also over-indulged in jalapeño pepper plants.

I’m pretty worried about two other tomato plants that are holding their ground, despite nearly having their stems snapped. I’ve been tempted to give up (except I hate giving up on anything that’s struggling to stay alive) and buy new, large plants. Of course, those might not handle the winds as well… If they got battered, they’d break, not bend.

As I was writing about my concerns regarding our garden,I realized how similar they are to worries I have – and have heard other writers express – when a story is “planted,” but doesn’t seem to be thriving. So often the impulse is to rip out and replant, rather than trusting that with time and effort the plant – or story – will survive and thrive.

Certainly, especially after the hail storm, our east bed looked very pathetic. The pepper and eggplants had shredded leaves and bruised stems. In two cases, the stems on pepper plants had snapped. The temptation was to give up on them entirely. But, as I said, we have a lot of trouble giving up on something that’s alive and trying to keep living. We decided to give them a chance. Now, a couple of weeks later, all but the two plants that had their stems snapped have recovered. We have a Hungarian pepper just about ready for picking. A few eggplant have set. The rest of the plants have flowers.

If we’d torn them out and put in new plants, would they have done better? Not necessarily. These plants, battered as they were, had put roots down, roots that sustained them when the winds have blown. Admittedly, the situation has been harder on the west side of our yard, since winds here are often from the west or south. Still, roots are often a lot more important than foliage, especially when the going gets tough.

That’s true with stories, too. Sure, revising is valuable, but I’m a firm believer that you need to have something to revise before you start in on the story. It’s one thing if you realize that what you’d thought was a vegetable plant is a weed, but too often writers get insecure about the value of what they’d initially “planted.” Maybe they think about it too much or talk about it too much, and don’t write very much. A story can lose its freshness that way.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is see if with a little attention the story will start growing again. At the very least, your efforts to take the project forward may help you see if you need to rip out the whole garden or maybe just a plant or two. One thing is for sure, if you keep ripping out, your plants will never flower, much less set fruit.

The same, or so I’ve found, can be true for stories…

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One Response to “How It Goes… Or Grows”

  1. Paul Says:

    The late author Nelson Bond compared story ideas to holding a fragile bird. Grip it too tightly and you’ll crush it, too loosely and it flies away…

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