I’ve been penning fiction for nearly twenty years and have learned a trio of essentials. One: don’t quit your day job. Two: Write something, anything, everyday. Don’t edit, don’t second guess, and don’t stop. Three: Back away from the computer sometimes, and experience life.
It’s the third essential that has me pondering today, as I consider the parallels between germinating stories and digging in the dirt. I think writing novels and tending gardens share some similarities. For example, both enjoy their day in the sun, both require weeding, and both endure criticisms.
You see, I’m gaga about gardening. It’s late May and my wild cottage garden is exploding with cooler and growth. Decaying spring bulbs, shooting ornamental grasses and early blossoming perennials scuffle for light and water.
It’s a gardener’s finest season. To me, the late spring garden is a like a polished third draft: the words flow, the characters pop, and the plots mature seamlessly. The writer lounges in the soft glow of the computer screen and hallucinates about success. Of course, edits and changes are inevitable, but they will be minor and effortless. Just like the snip or two, or the tug or three necessary outdoors to keep the early floral kaleidoscope flourishing.
You may think that the hot, heady days of midsummer are the pinnacle in a garden, but you would be as misplaced as a tendril of bindweed. Oh yes, summer plants are showstoppers, but they carry an air of impending loss. One blossom fades after another and another, in an inexorable, downward spiral of death. The promise of glory is spent, and with it, the anticipation of new life. Only drudgery remains for the plant lover. Hours ahead of deadheading, staking, watering and pest squashing.
A novelist’s existence echoes this slow descent into the mundane. The published final manuscript blossoms vividly, but often quickly fades, overtaken by brighter, newer titles. The writer’s fantasies of topping best-seller lists fizzle, and her spirit buckles under the dreaded humiliation and hassle of promotion.
Fortunately, all is not aphids and manure. As every day changes in the garden, there is always a glimmer of hope to catch the author’s eye. A glimpse of a fresh idea noticed on a soft autumn day. The germ of a kernel of a seed that begs perusal and hints at a novel world. It is the time to disappear into the slumbering garden, to dig and whack and transform, plotting and planting and praying for another, better season.
Followed by a trip to the computer to fertilize the seedlings of the next great novel.
Her first contemporary women's series, the Sisterhood of Shepherds, debuted with HEARTSONG in May 2014 (MantleRockPublishing). Nicola's swinging whodunit, TEED OFF! (republished in February 2014 by OakTreePress), features professional golfer and coroner Riley Quinn.
Her other novels include a psychological thriller (A HEMORRHAGING OF SOULS), six novels in The Church Choir Mysteries series and a multimedia online thriller, UNNATURALSTATES.
In addition, Nicola has published two writing e-book primers, YOUDUNIT WHODUNIT! HOW TO WRITE MYSTERIES & SELF-PUBLISH YOUR E-BOOK IN MINUTES!, and a gardening guide. She's recently released her first musical interactive children's book for the iPad, SAVING GRAPE-JELLY CHEEKS.
Nicola lives in a small seaside town on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia.