Writer as Gardener

Autumn is a time of harvest. As a former 'green living' columnist* the environment and the page are inextricably linked for me. Whether it's planning for the season to come, falling in with the rhythms of the year, or taking careful note of what's developing, the metaphor of garden as creativity was - and is - ever present.

Sometimes the words fail to germinate and lie waiting in a notebook. And then, by some unseen signal, physiological dormancy ends (thank you, Carol Klein!) and the ideas burst into life.

Occasionally you forget what type of seed / idea it was and you find yourself tending and nurturing a mystery. We always have a guest or two in the garden. This year it was corncockles and knapweed; last year it was an oriental poppy that miraculously appeared. 

Like plants, some ideas take a long time to become anything recognisable. Words can be medicinal, fragrant, colourful, toxic, and even nutritional. They can provide cover, or privacy, and are laced with hidden meanings and history. Sometimes they are just pretty to look at.

While the veg garden largely capitulated to the slug hordes (although the garlic was a notable success), it's been a better harvest as a writer. 

I started the year with my green living column coming to an end after two and a half years, and my debut thriller, Standpoint, a dormant seed. All it needed was favourable conditions. Joffe Books provided the right environment for Standpoint and for Line of Sight, and we're now working through the final stages of the third novel, Cause & Effect. I've also started a new column about writing.

The thing about gardening is that you never really know what's going to work. You can no more predict the coming weather for the year than you can which plants will thrive. It's a constant process of response and adjustment. I think that's part of the attraction. All that matters is you keep going and you focus on whatever seems to be thriving, and don't get too caught up in the failures and setbacks. As in the garden, so on the page.

* 18,000 words of second rights' material available!

Read anything!

A while back I was reading about crowd-sourcing and the flak that the actor and writer Zach Braff received when he opted to use a crowd-sourcing site to get funding for a movie. 

In a filmed reply he said that he had supported other creative projects as a funder, and that the main players in the industry were still reluctant to back one of his projects financially. Therefore, it made sense to try the same avenue. 

Critics said he was sucking out funding from other projects because of his fame. His response was that, if you don't enjoy the things he does, don't fund them. However, he added, check out all the other great projects that need backing - and if you see one you like the look of, back that one instead.

Books, like the movies, are awesomely diverse. If my thrillers are not your bag (even after you've bought one and started reading), don't let that put you off thrillers, or Brit thrillers, or reading in general. 

Reading is more than just words. It's about empowerment, connection, finding a voice that speaks to you and, perhaps, developing a creative voice of your own. 

Here's a graphic from grammarly.com that paints an eye-opening picture. 

Last minute nerves

Plot holes or windows of opportunity?
I'm writing this when I ought to be editing, tweaking and freaking out. I needed a break (especially from that last one). 

The third book in the Thomas Bladen series, Cause & Effect, is fully plotted, largely written and ready for some sanding and sculpting. I have chocolate on standby (for health reasons, naturally) and a writer friend ready to do some sanity checking over the weekend.

I'm aware that I'm bloody fortunate to have the 'problem' of getting a third thriller ready this year. But there are challenges.

A squint at my reviews on Amazon will tell you the books are either fab or fooey, and that one reader's meat is another's tofu. I have my own agenda of course, envisaged over five novels (although I'm already wondering about other plot ideas beyond that). 

For loyal readers, you may find this book a little different to its predecessors.

Points of interest:
1. It's shorter than Standpoint and Line of Sight, and hopefully more pulpy
2. A plot element from book one is resolved.
3. A character returns from book one and there's a cameo from someone in book two.
4. There's a new key character and another slice of Karl's backstory.
5. Swearing is still very much on the menu.

What has definitely changed are my expectations as an author. Yes, I want Cause and Effect to do well and for virtual cash registers to ring throughout the land. But...I'm much more aware of the bigger picture, of developing as a writer so that I can tackle the other stories taking up space in my head. I'm now clear about the outlines for Bladen books four and five, and I know I have to make decisions about Thomas's future. Or maybe he does and I have to try not to get in the way.

Mostly, frankly, it's one long rush. A ride every writer hopes for that validates persistence without blinding me to the importance that luck and timing have played. Mostly, I'm just glad I kept on writing.