Need a new book? Try The Last Day of Magnus Gariq (An Airwoman companion story)... Learn moreNeed a new book? Try this...

Writing is like Gardening

Except without the sunburn

*Reposted from 2017

Down under in the southern hemisphere, winter is coming to a close and the sun is starting to come out again. Suddenly I’ve started to look around at the garden and realise what needs to be done before spring growth sets in. Unfortunately, the answer is that so, so many things need to be done that I almost just shut the door and went back inside. It got me to thinking about how gardening is much like writing (and publishing) a novel.

Sure, there are differences. While writing a book, you’re less likely to get sunburned, or step in stray dog sh*t. Still, there are striking similarities…

The Enthusiastic Beginning

Part of the reason for my sudden and determined desire to put the garden into shape–bar the oncoming spring–was the fact that we had one of our trees removed this week. It was once a beautiful tree, but it was choked with vines which also carpeted the whole corner of the garden. Once the tree was taken out, I figured it might take a couple of hours to pull up the vines that were snaking across the ground. Without much thought to what it was going to take, I put on my gardening gloves and started work.

Most writers take on a new writing project with a similar kind of gusto. In the grip of a fascinating new idea, they get out their laptops and start studiously typing away, without much heed as to what it’s really going to take to complete the job.

It doesn’t take long, however, to get into…

The Dawning of Reality

At this point, you look around, exhausted, and realise you’ve barely even scratched the surface of the gardening work involved. This occurred to me at the point where I’d already filled up my green waste bin, and couldn’t even see the difference I’d made to the garden. This is when you know you can’t just go back, but the way forward seems too monumental to even contemplate.

Likewise, after the initial onrush of writing enthusiasm, those first scenes hastily written while the ideas came with gusto. Then, suddenly, you look at what you’ve accomplished and realise there’s a seed of an idea there, maybe, but little in the way of character, or even plot. It’s not a story–not yet–and though you can’t set the idea aside as a waste of effort, the reality dawns that this story isn’t going to write itself. You’re going to have to put in a lot more effort if it’s ever going to see the light of day.

Too Late to Quit…Or Is It?

This is where you find out what you’re really made of. Do you look around at your gardening, wish you’d never started, but know you can’t quit until it’s done? Do you decide that this might be a good time to bring in a professional to finish the job? Do you throw down your gardening tools and leave the rest for another day (no, really–another day soon)? Or do you chuck in the towel and decide that the wild, overgrown garden ‘look’ is under-appreciated in modern society?

At this point, the reality sets in that that gardening project that you enthusiastically started by believing it might take a few hours of work, is actually going to take sustained effort over several days or even weeks, before it’s done. It’s a much bigger job than you thought. For me, I know I’ll finish it. But not today (and thus I’ve taken a well earned break to write this blog post instead!)

Writing a novel isn’t done in a day either. Some novelists are amazingly able to write and publish novels within the space of only months. I’m aiming for having my next novel done in the space of a year. It’s a long haul, the writing isn’t done in a day. For me, its better to break it all up into some small goals–the first draft (scene by scene, chapter by chapter), the editing, the cover design, the proofreading, the marketing plan–to focus on the small stuff means the whole project seems more manageable.

The End is in Sight

This is the exciting point where the end is in sight and the enthusiasm bubbles to the surface again. You’re proud of the hard work you’ve put into the gardening and can start to see the garden coming together. For me, this is the point where I can start to see what I can do next with this patch of garden, once the vines are taken out and that corner of garden is reclaimed. I can start to plan what goes in there instead–maybe a tree, maybe some flowers, maybe even a vegetable patch? The point is, the project has come so far that nothing is going to stop you finishing it now.

I always find that writing the last part of novel is like that too. The end is the easiest part to write–as long as I know what’s going to happen and the story is properly set up, it seems the hardest thing about writing the ending is that my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with the flow of thoughts through my head. Such is the enthusiasm for writing the end of a novel. Likewise, when I come to the end of the editing stage, putting the finishing touches on the project and doing the final proofreading, the goal of publication is so close I can reach out and touch it. That’s so motivating.

It Never Ends

You think you’re done…then look around and realise that while you’ve been working on your little gardening project, weeds have overtaken the rest of your garden. Your project might be done, but you look around and notice all the other projects that haven’t even been started The thought is depressing in itself. The work never ends. The weeds never stop growing, the plant need pruning, the lawn needs moving.

Since publishing Airwoman, I’ve realised that the work of being an author never ends. Airwoman is a series, so I wanted to get started on the next book straight away. There’s nothing I hate more (as a reader) than a series that isn’t finished, or when the author takes too long to put out the next book. That’s just the start of it, though–there’s also marketing, promotions, tracking sales and payments, advertising, website maintenance,┬ámaking connections with readers though blogging, social media, and email newsletters. Then there’s the new ideas that won’t leave you alone until you write them too.

For me–in gardening and in writing–the end of a project has to be celebrated, no matter what else is on the to-do list. This is the time to grab a beer (or whatever is your drink of choice), put your feet up and celebrate the work that’s been done and leave the rest for next time.

There’s always tomorrow.

Can you relate to this? Do you have a major project that follows this pattern for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

*Photo by Francesco Gallarotti from

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *