How to Grow a Garden–or a Book

When my husband and I bought a house a year and a half ago, the first thing we started working on was the yard, both front and back. This old house had an in-ground drip-water sprinkling system, but the problem with it was that, 1) it was almost 40 years old, and 2) there was only one zone for the entire yard, both front and back. So, the first challenge was to update that system and add three zones: one for trees, and one each for front and for back.

Before we could do that, we had to have a rough idea of where we might plant future trees, bushes, and flowers. My husband drew up a rough draft of what we wanted and then the system went in. After that, we started putting in garden beds, block retaining walls, brick paths, a brick patio and pergola, and finally plants. We wanted a tropical and desert plant theme (we live in southern Arizona), so we started researching types of trees, particularly palm trees, and bought a bunch of those for the backyard. Trees needed to go in first. So we planted the palm trees, and slowly added oleanders, orange jubilee, bougainvillea, lantana, and of course some cacti. Of course, after the plants were in, we had to haul in rocks to put in the garden beds to protect them from the excessive summer heat.

Our yard is now complete. Is it perfect? No. Some plants thrive, others can’t take the excessive heat. Some of the plant get replaced with different kinds of plants. We’re still learning and make occasional mistakes, but we’re happy with the results. Does everyone who sees our yard love it? Probably not,because everyone has different tastes and preferences, but most think it’s really pretty.

Growing a book is a similar process. When I begin work on a new book, I start with a basic idea and then, with words, draw up an overall view of what I want to create. I’ll do a ton of research, usually, and then start putting together a rough synopsis. Then I develop my main characters (the trees, so to speak), and my supporting characters (the bushes and flowers). Then I develop the settings, a plot, scenes, sequels, and themes. Some of that development happens before the actual book writing begins, but much of it happens during the writing of the book. The book grows and changes over many months.

The first draft gets done. Is it perfect? No. Some of the writing is good, but some needs sprucing up and some scenes need more detail–or less. Hence, the rewrites and editing begin. It may take two drafts or ten, depending on the book.

When the book is ready, my editor gets it and does his magic, and then I proofread it and publish. Is it perfect now? Probably not. I’m still learning and growing as a writer. How can that be, when I’ve been writing for fifteen years? Well, writing is one of those skills that keeps evolving over the years, like our trees and plants that get taller and more majestic with age. Does everyone who reads my books love them? Probably not, because everyone has different tastes and preferences, but most of my reviews are good. That is how it is to be a writer.

 

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