Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Idea Farming—growing your plot #4—The Backyard Garden (Part II)


Idea Farming—growing your plot #4—The Backyard Garden (Part II)
This is the fourth of six, now seven, blogs on story farming. In this one, I’ll finish the discussion of the second farming method—The Backyard Garden (anthologies and/or novella-length pieces).
A good backyard garden might have different areas of plantings—like an anthology. But it might also have a focus that must be a single unit to be properly appreciated—like a novella.
The anthology approach to a back yard garden is like a buffet with stations. Each planted area makes a statement on it’s own. You might have roses, ground cover, annual color, and a perennial shrub border. Then again, you might have none of that—and still have a very nice backyard garden.
The novella approach to a back yard garden is like a meeting where lunch is catered and consists of ONLY one specific portion for each guest. No matter where you look, it’s evident that this backyard is a rose garden, a vegetable garden, or whatever the focus is.
ANTHOLOGIES used to be common forms of book publication. I’ve got shelves of them.


As you can see, some are collections from one author: John W. Campbell, Lester del Rey, and Cordwainer Smith. Other are anthologies of “the best” of something.
Both single and multiple author collections glean the best of the genre. My collection dates from the Golden Age of Sci-Fi when there was a plethora of science fiction magazines hungry for short stories to fill their pages. Anthologies still exist, but they are much less prevalent.
Since I like both reading and writing short stories, I needed a venue. I chose to use a Harmonic Overlapping of Time Location (HOT L) as the common thread in all eight stories in Traveler’s HOT L – The Time Traveler’s Resort and the seven stories in Traveler’s HOT L Volume Two – More Tales from the Time Traveler’s Resort.
In both books, each story shares common characters: Chronos and Eternity, proprietors of the HOT L, and Tempus and Epoch, time synchronizers. However, each and every story stands alone—that’s the emphasis in an anthology.
If you have several short stories that are connected by a theme—place, time, characters—you should consider publishing an anthology.
NOVELLA is defined by Merriam-Webster as: (1) a story with a compact and pointed plot; or (2) a work of fiction intermediate in length and complexity between a short story and a novel. Whether you choose the first or second definition, the process of growing a novella is similar.
In definition (1), the plot itself is emphasized. In definition (2), the length is the focus. Some definitions include the idea of “morality tale” in them. A novella is more commonly associated with the novel than the short story, however, in some anthologies, novellas are included—generally in a segregated section of the book.
If you have a point you are trying to make, I recommend the novella over the short story. The reason is because writing shorter forces you to FOCUS on where you’re going. If you ramble in a novella, it’s a lot like wandering through a back yard that’s just had plants stuck in where there is space. Over time—or pages in a novella—the garden gets so overgrown that finding any specific plant—or idea in a novella—is nearly impossible. When any plot becomes so convoluted or obscure that your reader can’t follow it, they will stop reading.
I’ll close with the most important lessons in writing for the backyard garden.
1.    Prune the plants. Edit judiciously. Remember the goal is completeness, not length.
2.   Keep it weed-free. Edit judiciously. Remember the focus of your story.
3.   Fertilize when needed. Edit judiciously. Remember to flesh out plot points as needed to move the story forward.
4.   Remove dead plants. Edit judiciously. Remember that even the best plot point in the wrong story is an impediment.
Next blog: Idea Farming—growing your plot #5—The South Forty – The Novel
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My website is: www.crdowning.com

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