Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Story Taking Shape

This post idea has been knocking around for awhile and is one of those gardening pondering topics. Starting in the spring I've been pulling out a multitude of seedlings. We have a maple tree in our front yard along with two Roses of Sharon "shrubs". I use the term shrub loosely here the one "Sharon" is taller than our house.

With both the maple and Sharon seedlings I noticed that the first set of leaves are unique from the rest of the plant's leaves. At first I wasn't sure what the plants were until I saw more leaves grow. The picture in this post has Roses of Sharon seedlings, which I took back in May. Two of the plants in the picture only have their sprout leaves, which are wide and rounded. The plant in the front has it's first true leaf, which has a narrower shape and the little ridges. This true leaf is a small version of the leaves on the adult plant.

Yes, a little gardening mention to transition into the writing related thought I had while gardening. Seedlings are like stories. In that the first set of leaves are the start of a story idea and that the true leaf is the story all polished and found.

For me my first draft is the sprout leaves. I do some light outlines, but my novel drafts are still rather rough and exploratory. I'm currently working on notes in preparation for revision in which I want to get my novel closer to it's true form. I know where I want to take it, what its true leaf looks like. My process currently is working out the details and deciding various character and world traits that will make my story arrive there.

For other people who have more details figured out ahead of time, they could be closer to their true leaf in the first draft then I am. Or maybe the first draft is really exploratory.

Where would you say your sprout leaves are for your process? What helps you flesh out your idea enough so that the writing stands up to your true leaf idea? Or have I been spending to much time pulling weeds?


J. L. Jackson said...

I noticed that my first draft could be considered an "outline", a rather long one, but it is very rough. My edits take a lot longer than the first draft. I am hoping my writing skills will improve with time, but that is where I am at this moment.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I'm also in the middle of revisions, well, sort of. I decided to outline my entire novel before proceeding with the re-write. This approach has really worked for me. Now my plot is more cogent and flows better. I also read a few "how to" books on characterization and point of view. Instead of approaching the chapters in omniscient, I decided on third person limited. When my outline is complete all that will be left is the writing...Yeah, like that will be easy.(:

KarenG said...

Writing & gardening seem really closely connected. Weeding is editing and cutting. Creativity is planting seeds. Submitting is waiting for something to grow for Pete's sake.

Claire Goverts said...

J.L. - I hear you on the rough first drafts. I'm sure your writing skills will improve, the more we write the more we improve our craft.

While I would like to improve my own first drafts I do like Anne Lamott's "Shitty First Draft" essay. She calls the first draft the "down draft" for getting the story down so that it's there to be revised.

Andrea - Doing an outline before revising is a good idea. I'm planning on one myself, though I have more details to flesh out first. I love third person limited.

Karen - That is a nice analogy of the various components of writing and gardening. I wonder if the bugs could be the distractions in writing life, or maybe the naysayers. I live not to far from a local creek and get rather eaten by mosquitoes when outside.