ROW80 has been an incredible learning experience for most of us, even more so for me. As a sponsor one of the things that I noticed in the last round of 2011 was how we each grow to the heights of achievement followed by a downtime of creative famine. Euphoric despair. Which I feel is an apt way to describe the life of many writers I’ve met in the past year. This thought brought to mind the farming cycle (yes, I’m odd like that). Crops are chosen. Seeds planted. Nurtured. Grown and harvested. Followed by a fallow time allowing the nutrients of the soil to rebuild and refresh so that the following season another crop will find bounty.
As writers (and I believe this applies to all creative minds) we pass through a similar cycle. Our story idea is chosen. Just a whisper, a first vision. A mystery or space odyssey. A dragon on a mountaintop or an autistic werewolf that collects stamps. An idea of the crop we wish to plant.
The idea, once envisioned, transforms and a story comes to mind. The mystery will involve a serial killer that stalks nurses on nights of the full moon. The space odyssey is launched in advance of a global killer asteroid and those on board face an uncertain future as the last of humanity. The dragon claims a princess, the favored of a powerful king due to her talent with song and harp. The werewolf falls in love with the owner of a stamp shop but her aggressive landlord is trying to force her into marriage and blocking the shy changelings advances. Seeds, also known as log lines, themes, character arcs and plot points, planted in fertile ground and watered by our imaginations.
I’d suggest having at least a basic knowledge of all of your stories seeds, just as a gardener knows all of the requirements of the seeds they plant. The depth, the amount of water and light needed, and the spacing needed between seeds to be sure they grow to their full potential. Additionally, as every row of crops is in a straight line, for a writer, this basic knowledge keeps our story on a straight path.
We nurture these seeds by exploring the story (pantsers) or plotting out potential outcomes (plotters) or something in between. We choose the opposition and follow their line of trouble. We craft a hero that can overcome and survive and in the final crucial moment bring a satisfying win (or die with honor trying). We watch the story grow and take shape from sprout to a full-shafted stalk of corn with fine plump ears and silken tassels.
Then comes the harvest. The labor of bringing it all together and while it is a labor that most writers enjoy it is exhausting work for our creative muscles. The once rich ground left churned and punctured by the corn stalks of the story its nutrients depleted. Yet on our table rests a beautiful plate stacked with corn that we will enjoy for weeks to come, a completed manuscript, be it novel or story, full of all the rich nutrients of our imaginative minds and ready for others to feast upon.
It is at this point when many writers, myself included, stumble. We feel the urge to immediately replant and think that delay is an evil to be avoided. However, this is not always the case. Allowing our imaginations to recharge is essential to the process of creation. We have to breath and live and experience the world around us. This is when we explore options for future crops (brainstorming ideas), learn about new seeds (craft books), study new tricks for planting (reading fiction) and then consider the list we have of potential projects and see what speaks to us.
This time allows us to dabble in other things, perhaps a mystery short for someone that normally writes chick lit (as a ROW friend did during NaNoWriMo last round). Or maybe, a light fantasy adventure instead of dark urban paranormal. Allowing our minds time to recharge in an area is a sure way to find creative energy when we return to plant in our favorite fields.
I would encourage all of you, fellow ROWers to remember that forward progress is true success as a writer, not that you turn out x number of pages every day until the end of time.