Organic Growing, Organic Writing

Edith here, delighted to have ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part – my second Local Foods mystery – out and available! And huge thanks to the Wickeds and so many other fans for helping me celebrate all week.

My protagonist in the Local Foods mysteries, Cam Flaherty, is an organic farmer. She’s working hard to get her new farm certified, and has to confront several challenges to that certifiedorganicgoal.

As you might know by now, I was a certified-organic farmer myself twenty years ago, and I’m an organic gardener now. I also, for the most part, write organically. But what does writing organically mean?

Some mystery writers plot out their stories in advance. They write outlines, create spreadsheets and timelines, produce detailed synopses. Others start with a few headlightscharacters, possibly an idea for the crime, an inkling of the villain, a vision of the victim. Then they follow these people around and write down what they do. This has been called writing by the seat of your pants. Writing organically. Writing into the headlights. Writing organically.

My path of least resistance is to write organically, although these days my editor requires me to turn in a synopsis of the next book before I write it.

So how does writing organically compare with growing organically? When I garden, I set compost-pile-curing01-lgup the best soil I can. I add lots and lots of organic matter: compost, wood ash, decomposed leaves, seaweed, whatever I can find. I work the soil only when it is dry, so it doesn’t destroy the natural structure of air and particles under the surface. I either raise my own seedlings or or buy them from a local farm, and plant only organically raised seeds. I water my baby plants only when they’re dry and always when they’re dry. And then I follow my plants as they grow. I prune off unnecessary suckers on the tomato vines. 2011-04-02 22.28.33I harvest the best cucumbers and Asian eggplants and put anything that’s damaged or diseased in the compost. I cut a dinner’s worth of salad, knowing the mizuna, arugula, and baby lettuces will regenerate for another night’s meal.

Same with writing. I prepare myself by taking online courses, studying excellent writing, reading constantly. I create my writing IMG_2925space, both physical and mental, so I’m ready for unimpeded creativity. I churn out a first draft, bringing myself back to the garden of my story over and over again. And then I prune. I weed. I train the vines of my scenes so they work, so the plot is at once complete, fair to the reader, and also a guessing game. I up the suspense, enrich the characters’ motivations and secrets, and also leave a few things unsaid for the dinner in the next book in the series.

Or at least that’s my goal, both in the garden and in the book.

What’s your gardening method? Your writing method? Is there any parallel with reading?

12 Thoughts

  1. Is it really o.k. to put diseased plants in the compost. I was always told not to. Thanks.

    1. You’re not supposed to put blighted plants in the compost. If you make a good, hot compost, I think it kills pretty much anything.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful analogy between organic farming and writing by the seat of your pants. It makes perfect sense once it’s been said. Most important, though, is that it reminds us “pantsers” that even though we are not tied to an outline, there are some essential elements that will help guide the story and that it’s ok to prune, trim, and just sometimes hack away and what isn’t going to make for the best result!

    Loved the book, by the way, and just posted a GRs review this morning. Now I’ve got to get to work, so I’ll see you in virtual space over the weekend.

    1. So funny, Sherry! But it’s good material for mysteries, right? “Why is my soil so toxic? Is there a body under there…”

  3. I’m a pantser. Whenever I try to outline a story, I get so consumed with following the outline that the writing suffers. Now, I just jot several ideas down, make sure I know most of the ending, and wing it the rest of the way.

    Sadly, my thumbs are the opposite of green. Though tomatoes, radishes, and cucumbers manage to thrive despite it.

    1. So at least you have salad to eat, Violet. I’m a pantser by nature in part because I think, “If I know what’s about to happen, my reader probably will, too.” Thanks for stopping by.

Comments are closed.