Hunting Cookies and Plotting

My current WIP bears greater resemblance to a tangled rat’s nest of ribbon and string than it does to any kind of ordered tapestry of all the elements of story working together. And you know when you start writing from the beginning AND the end simultaneously you’re really in trouble.

So anyway, then I found this great post through a post by Kate Nolan, which led me to “Coaxing Out the Magical Cookies” by Susan Dennard.

I highly recommend you go and check it out for yourself and then head out on a “cookie expedition,” but to give you the gist, the “magical cookies” are the essential reasons you wanted to write the story in the first place, and then the scenes you just can’t wait to write.

If you’ve been reading this post, you know I’m what’s often considered a “pantster” or what I like to refer to as a “Gardener.” In most areas of my life, I love being รผber-organized, and usually I am. I have a plan A, B, C, and D for most everything, and lists are my best friend … until it comes to writing, where for some reason, I like to work much more organically. Which gets me into trouble sometimes (see Exhibit A, the Great Rat’s Nest, aka my current WIP.) That said, I’ve come to a point where I know everything can be worked out in revision, and that sometimes, for me, coaxing out the story means going on the ride with my characters and sometimes going places I wouldn’t have considered or come up with if I’d tried to outline. (Or perhaps that’s my excuse … I’m also notoriously impatient, so getting directly to the writing works best for me.)

So where does this leave us? With a short blog post and a tiny note of advice that’s kind of stuck for me: Write what you love. Write the book you’d love to read.

Which is what I’m off to do right now. Well, after I dig out a few more of those cookies and figure out exactly where I’m heading again. ๐Ÿ™‚

What about you? How do you write? And how do you get yourself out of trouble when you’ve written yourself into a tangle?

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a terrific week.

Gardeners and Architects

Flowers in my garden - a good place to run away to.
Flowers in my garden – a good place to run away to.

I have been reading Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, and what really struck me was a question posed to George R.R. Martin who talked about Gardeners and Architects. And while Mr. Martin doesn’t believe there are many writers who are purely “Architect” or “Gardener”, here’s his explanation of the terms:

“Architects do plan everything ahead of time, just as a reach architect does, building a house. An architect builds a house, and he knows how many rooms it’s going to be, and how many square feet in each room, and where the pipes are, what the roof is going to be made of, the dimensions of everything, even where the plugs are going to be in the walls. He knows everything before a nail is driven, before the foundation is dug, and before all of the blueprints are proofed. There are writers who work that way.

“The Gardener just sort of digs a hole and plants a seed, and then he waters it with his blood and sweat before waiting to see what will come up. It’s not totally random, because obviously the Gardener knows what he’s planted: he knows whether it’s an oak tree or a pumpkin. If he’s not taken totally by surprise by further inspiration, he has a general idea of what he’s doing.” [- George R. R. Martin, source: Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer (2013), p288]

And I realized, of course, that while not a pure Gardener, I’m certainly more Gardener than Architect. And yes, perhaps I am drawn to the terms because of my own love of actual gardening. And the analogy works to consider it that way, too. I might plan what I’m going to plan where in my garden – and I do select the plants – but sometimes there is unexpected beauty … or what I thought was a great plant turns out to be a weed.

I’m reminded by a song by Karine Polwart from her Scribbled in Chalk album (which is gorgeous, if you haven’t heard it):

The lyrics for “Take Its Own Time” go:

You ceased to mow the lawn ten years ago
You just wanted to see how your garden would grow
You abandoned the pruning shears and welcomed each weed
You permitted the soil to select its own seed

But it would be unfair to assume you don’t care
For you pay great attention to all that goes there
But you simply abstain from a plan or design
You just let it all hang out and take its own time
You just let it all hang out and take its own time

And you follow a thread in a book that you’ve read
Or in something that someone you heard somewhere said
You say, “It’s all connected, it’s all intertwined
If you let it all hang out and take its own time …

And I wonder, while I consider that this is often how my front garden looks and my gardening style, that this may also be my writing style.

What about you? Gardener or Architect?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚