Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Growing a story garden

Maybe I'm getting old or turning into my mom or something, but I've recently been gardening a lot. (Too much?) It's relaxing, low pressure, and nobody cares really if I succeed or fail. The patch of green stuff is in my back yard anyway, so who would know if every plant in it just dried up and turned to dust? Nobody. Which is what makes gardening perfect for folks who fight anxiety.

One thing I've discovered about gardening is that the phrase "you're comparing apples and oranges" is not trite. It's absolutely true. Every plant in the garden is different, requires different handling, different planning. Some want more water, some get testy when they're over-watered, some need constant sun drenching them, and others prefer a bit more shade. I tend them all every day, but I don't tend them in the same way.

Stories are kind of like that.

Over the years, I've written stories of every length: flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. I've adored each process and am not quite sure I have a favorite. They all bloom differently and brilliantly, but where they're most like plants is in the planning and expectation. I have never planted a short story and unexpectedly gotten a novel. I don't even know how that happens.

I did once start to write a novella for a submission call and about 10k words in realized that I was in fact writing a novel. The pacing is different, the feel, the ... I don't even know how to describe it. Each kind of story is unique, and you can't transmorgify one into another by simply adding or deleting words. That's not how grown things work.

Right now, I'm sitting on a novella that I wrote specifically to be a novella, but I'm told it raises some juicy worldbuilding questions and concepts, and a couple of early readers have expressed interest in knowing more. (A good thing! I think!) My first instinct was to expand on what I've already written, but the more I ponder it, the less I want to dig up and replant this guy. Better to write an actual novel in the same world to accompany the novella. Maybe?

No idea, honestly, if that's the right decision, but it feels right. And like any other organic process, writing kind of has to go on feel.