Sunday, September 2, 2007

On Writing and Compost Piles

Today I was turning my compost pile because it had quit "cooking." It made me think of how a compost pile is much like writing. In the beginning, you have a mish-mash of items such as grass clippings, manure, dirt, straw, potato peels, etc. Each is an interesting item by itself, but how can you throw them all together and end up with nutrient-rich dirt?

Starting a novel is much the same. You have characters, settings, plots, goals, conflicts, etc. You can throw them all into a pile, but unless you do it properly they won't cook, and the result will be less than optimal

Once you've started your compost pile or your novel, you can't ignore them or work only when you feel like it. Turning a big compost pile is hard work. So is writing. And if you blend your ingredients properly, the end result will be just what you wanted.

There is, however, one big difference between compost piles and writing. When you add manure to a compost pile, it just gets better. When you fill your novel with manure, it just gets worse. Sometimes it's hard for a writer to identify literary manure. That's where an editor comes in. Writers often have a difficult time evaluating their own work. They're too close to it. They wrote it and they love each word. An editor can help you identify manure. That is only a very small part of what an editor can do for you, but it's a very important part.

Composting and writing are hard work. It takes perseverance to be a good at both.


Celia May Hart said...

Bwahaha, Sherrie. I've just started a compost pile. Or rather, a compost bin, because I live in suburbia...

Jacquie said...

I, ahem, have several compost piles going in my office. I wondered what that smell was.


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, Sherrie. I'm hoping the compost I've been "working" starts to cook and make me something with nutrients soon!

I'll be checking back often. Congrats on the blog!

Judy L.