Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Writing is Like the Everglades

We watched a documentary tonight on the Everglades. So gorgeous. But it struck me, all those strands of water moving (slooooooowly) toward one large body.

It takes ten days to make your way via kayak down the waterways to the Florida Bay. You have to map your way out because it's very easy to get lost in there. Once you're lost, it's said to be next to impossible to find your way back out.

I've felt that way writing. I certainly can write without an outline, but it's about as recommended as jumping in the water without a map or any supplies. I can get lost in the story, tangled in the threads that I'm trying so hard to weave together. I could drown. So I plot it out well and set out armed with supplies. The most vital supply in the Everglades - fresh water. The most vital supply in Jennie's writing - fresh post-its.

When I'm weaving a story, all of those strands wander through the pages much like the fingers move through mandrakes, under the raised roots of the cypress, around the pine. I have post-its all over the house - my laptop, my nightstand, The Hubster's computer. If I don't write them down, I could lose some vital part of the story.

The words pour over the limestone foundation, moving faster than the actual water in the Everglades. It takes a month for one gallon of water to flow through it. We can't take that long with our stories or we will lose our readers. My strands move steadily, connect, veer apart and all end up flowing into the same ending - that Florida Bay in my book.

Everytime I rewrite, I'm pushing off and into the waterways again. It's just as important to be prepared the second, third, fourth time around. I don't ever want to get lost out there.

What about you - do you like your stories meaty? Weaving those strands together? Or do you prefer the more direct way - just the one plot line, no veering off but staying the course?


  1. I'm a very meaty/strandy kinda reader and writer (I hope). I like there to be definite direct front-burner stories but a lot of subtext and subplots. I grew up watching daytime and primetime soaps, I can't help it!

    Breakfast Every Hour

  2. My first book kept to the basic plotline, but its sequel will have many subplots.

  3. well, naturally it depends on the story... :D But you know they've got those big anacondas in the Everglades now. Found one trying to swallow a gator... yikes!

    I feel like there's a writing analogy in there... :D <3

  4. I can’t write from an outline. When I start a story, I have one main plot in mind and two main characters. Then as I write, supporting characters sneak in there, a million subplots make their way into my writing. Half the time I have to cut subplots out rather then put more in.

  5. I think I've got a relatively straight line from here to there, plot-wise, in my stories. But, I do like my tangents and subplots. I'm not sure how meaty and navigationally intertwined they are - but, that's what the revision process is for, right? :)

  6. I like having smaller plot lines to flesh out the story better. I think it gives the story a lot more depth. But it really depends on the type of story too. Each story has different demands. Great post Jennie!

  7. I like meaty, but then again, I'm not sure I have a choice. I can't seem to help but explore where things go, even if that means branching out more than I intended during a first draft (which then means in revisions I have to scale it all back). But I always try to make my stories layered, because that's the kind of story I like to read.

  8. I'm not a good outliner, so I can't do a lot of subplots or I'll drive myself batty (okay, battier). I tend to have 1 main plot with 2 subplots, but that can change too! :)

  9. I love having different strands of story intersecting with the main story. I'm going to be visualizing these as the Everglades from now on!