Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How to Grow Your Writing

‘Now is the month of maying, 
When merry lads are playing,
 Fa la la la la la la la la la la 
Fa la la la la la la.’ *
 English madrigal, Thomas Morley (1595) 

There are many similarities between learning to be a successful gardener and learning to be a successful writer. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned: 

Sunshine = Praise. Both are necessary and make your garden or your writing ‘bloom’. Too much, however, can lead to sunburned leaves or dangerously over-inflated egos.

Stones. Most gardens suffer from some degree of rocky soil, so work is necessary before anything decent will grow. Removing pebbles from soil takes time and so does decent writing. No one becomes an expert in a day. Or a week. Or ever. However, you can never get rid of all the rocks and carrots will grow around them. Your writing will adapt too - twists are a good thing.

The necessity of fertilizer. Remember a little goes a long way. And... remember what natural fertilizer is made from. A garden takes time and work. The only things that grow by themselves (and seemingly overnight) are weeds. Think of weeds as sloppy or lazy writing and clich├ęs you’ll need to get rid of before growing something nutritious.

Crop rotation. Moving what you grow where is good for your plants. I also highly recommend to try writing different genres - or try your hand at non-fiction or poetry or a screenplay. No one says you need to try to publish the thing. But who knows what you’ll grow?

Stretching. Stretch before you work. Stretch while you work. You'll be amazed what you can see from different angles.

Showers. Never underestimate the worth of a shower - either from nature or the other. Some of my best ideas or ways out of plot holes have come to me while I’ve bathed.

Keep records. Keep track of what you’ve planted where. This applies to gardening and to what I write, which are mysteries.

Learn from the experts. Be it in gardening or writing, there are resources out there. Use them.

Look at the calender. Have a deadline. If seeds aren’t planted by a certain point, they won’t have sufficient time to grow. It’s the same with writing. Even self-imposed deadlines are better than none. Pushing back the date doesn’t make you feel better. Trust me on this.

Enjoy the fruits of your labours - both in the garden and on the page. None of it would be there without your hard work. Rejoice.

* I even know the tune to this madrigal thanks to an excellent choir teacher when I was in school (no, not in 1595).

Elspeth Futcher is an author and playwright. Her murder mystery games A Fatal Fairy Tale, Deadly Ever After and Curiouser and Curiouser are among the top-selling mystery games on the Internet. All thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by Her newest game, Once Upon a Murder, is now available and published by Red Herring Games. Her 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.


  1. Great comparison, Elspeth. I am, in fact, working on crop rotation right now. Of my 7 manuscripts in various stages of completion, 4 are thrillers, 1 is a mystery, and 2 are romances -- all cozies.

    1. Good for you, Linda! I've got a murder mystery event, a historical mystery which may morph into a modern day thriller and a play on the go.

  2. Great advice. Especially the shower, which I can forget when in the zone. You can cross train with other creative endeavors in lieu of writing other genres. Though you can learn alot about structure, rhythm, word usage, and brevity from writing poetry.

    1. Your last sentence resinates with me, Diana. I haven't tried poetry since my meaningful teenage angst works! I find trying to write a short story requires similar discipline. You have to make every word count.

  3. This is a great analogy, Elspeth! And it works for marketing too--we plant our seeds and hope they will bear fruit some day!


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