Yesterday, while taking a break from writing, I checked out my little plot in our community garden. I thought how much creating a novel is like growing my veggies.
When I plant my tomatoes, squash, cukes and beans, I always have high hopes for a hefty harvest. I look forward to the delicious salads I’ll toss together within minutes after picking vine-ripened tomatoes and cutting crisp lettuce.
In a similar way, when I begin planning and working on a new book, I envision a finished novel that I’ll be pleased with. But—and here’s the big difference—I also want others to like my book, too. I want my readers to be intrigued, entertained, enthralled by the drama. I want them to find my story delicious. It’s no longer just about pleasing myself, it’s about pleasing other people.
In either case, I need to be realistic about my expectations for the outcome of my ventures—garden or book. The truth that all writers and gardeners must face is this—we can only control so much of the process of growing either a tomato, a flower, or a novel.
I can water, feed, and protect my veggies from vermin and insects. But too much rain will drown fragile young seedlings, and a sudden hail storm may wipe out even the sturdiest vines. Likewise, I can develop believable characters, an exciting plot, and intense emotion in my story—but I can’t guarantee that readers will love my story as I do.
Is there a lesson here?
Perhaps it’s just this. Books and gardens are a lot like the rest of life. There’s only so much we control. So we’ll continue tending our gardens with love, and writing to the best of our ability. And hope that the Fates (and our reviewers) will be kind to us.
Happy cultivating, of all kinds! Kathryn
Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.