Every Writer Should Have a Story Garden
Find your literary green thumb
I have a little garden of ideas tucked away in a Onenote notebook.
In this garden, I grow seeds of story. Some of them are lines of dialogue, while others are anecdotes. Some are quirks of taste or personality. Some are character features. I have philosophical ideas, pet peeves, rants. Fears and goals and dreams, waiting to be assigned to one of the little fictional people floating in my head. I plant them in my garden when they first come to me and there they stay until the time when I decide that they are right for a particular story. Then I get out my pruning shears and cut them free.
This garden was inspired
It was years ago, innocently scrolling, that I first stumbled upon the inspiration for my little garden. This gem of a post sparked a change in the way I think about brainstorming. It prompted me to begin a writing habit that has served me faithfully for years. I even managed to hunt it down again for this story. Here it is. Let’s forgive the typo.
My list began as a simple collection of things I would like to read in a book. But over the years, as my writing practice grew and improved, it evolved into so much more. I built up an entire database of seeds to drop into my writing. This garden serves my writing in two stages — planning and drafting. It can do the same for you.
To continue with the gardening metaphor, a story garden transforms the planning phase into the ultimate gestation period. By gathering and recording your seeds in a notebook, they will also find a place in the back of your mind, where all your magic simmers. As they sit and soak in your subconscious, some of them will naturally fit together and grow from a few simple, connected ideas to an entire theme, an entire subplot or character arc, an entire element of the story. That little one-line character description or plot point may end up filling your narrative with harmonious colours and soaring motifs.
The garden is just as bountiful in the drafting stage. Because here’s the thing about writing. Every scene or chapter or section that you write needs to have a little acorn — something that you really want to write about, that reminds you why you love this story and subsequently convinces the reader to love it too. It might be a major action sequence or a revelation that launches the story forward, but it might also be as simple as a badass line of dialogue or a character wearing a cool outfit.
Enthusiasm is contagious and your passion for your story will rub off on your readers. The goal is to make sure there is always something that will keep you inspired and excited and that, in turn, will translate into inspiring and exciting words. The story garden is a stockpile of these acorns. You can pop them into your scene or chapter if you need something charming or quirky or interesting. It’s like a little energy boost for you and your story.
Categorise your flower beds
My story garden has a flowerbed for fantasy and one for science fiction. One for romance, one for short stories and one for big, sweeping series. It also has beds for specific stories. This is pure logistics. When you’re working with that many scribbled ideas there really needs to be some semblance of order.
Take it everywhere
Whether you are writing in a physical notebook or using a platform like Onenote that syncs across devices, make sure that you can access your garden from anywhere, at any time. This is Writer 101 stuff, but it’s particularly relevant here. I’m not kidding when I say that these seeds have popped into my head in the middle of the night or in the middle of nowhere. And they can disappear just as fleetingly.
It’s never too late to start planting. By beginning your story garden today, you are investing in your stories tomorrow.