Thursday, July 05, 2007

Haying and Writing

While sitting on a tractor driving back and forth raking the windrows, my mind wandered to writing and how putting up hay is a lot like writing a book. (Metaphor for you, Alice)

When growing and putting up hay you first watch the field sprout in the spring, add water, and watch it flourish under the spring and summer sun. With a story you start with an idea and feed it with “what ifs” and characters and arcs.

Then you cut the hay in neat rows. Your story starts setting up in your head or on a graph or chart or note cards. Next you rake the hay, flipping it to make sure it all gets dry before you bale. With your story you toss around ideas, characters, and plots making the story grow and take shape.

After raking, you bale the hay in neat little bundles. In writing, you put your thoughts and ideas down on the paper sometimes stringing them out in a line and some times dumping one haphazardly to the side wondering if it may not be right or just taking a wrong turn in your story and dropping ideas into the mix that might not make it into the story at all. Those are the bales that land wrong and won’t go up the bale wagon without you getting off and straightening the bale so it will load properly. Picking up the bales and stacking them in neat stacks are your scenes coming together and making each chapter. As those stacks of bales and chapters are put together in a long row, the hay stack and book come together in a nice neat bundle.

Oops, one stack fell. The bales didn’t mesh right, which means hand stacking. What about your book/story? If it falls apart somewhere you need to go back in and reorganize and reestablish where you really wanted to go with the story.

And then there are the edits- the clean up. Once all the bales are out of the field, you go through with the rake and sweep the loose hay together, then hop on the baler and bale up the last little bits to make the field spiffy and add to your hay stack.

Not only did raking hay the other night help me realize I had some loose ends to tie up in Outlaw in Petticoats and gave me a scene to enhance my ending- but it showed me that everything in life has a method and structure to it and everything I see- equates to writing in some way or another for me.

What in your life reminds you of the writing process?


Alice Sharpe said...

Ooh, Paty, I like the whole hay thing. Very nice.

I was thinking about this the other day as I weeded in relation to rewriting.

A weed is nothing more than a plant growing in a location in which it's not wanted, right? It can be very pretty, like the morning glory vine with delicate white flowers and heart shaped leaves. But if it doesn't belong (i.e., the nice description, narrative, titillating bit of dialogue, brilliant introspection, etc... does not belong) it doesn't matter how pretty it is, it has to go.

Sometimes you may try to transplant that "weed" to a new location and for awhile, it seems almost as though it fits, as though it might flourish. Sometimes it does. But often, once the weed is taken from the garden where its tendency to wrap itself around the adjoining plants and drag them to earth in its goal to reach the sky, it wilts and droops and is best discarded.

All that beuty lost! All that work! Not to worry. Everything returns to the cycle. The weeds become mulch -- and so it goes.

Fun blog!


wavybrains said...

Oh neat metaphors, Paty and Alice.

Knitting is like writing. You start, and you're all excited, but then you quickly realize how LONG it takes to get each inch. But, you fit it into you day, here and there, a row at a time, and before long, the shape of something starts to emerge. Even once you get close to the end, you can't get cocky b/c there's a rule of knitting that says the last inch will take 10xs as long as all other inches! And, then it comes off the needles, and you're so excited, but it still needs to be finished--loose ends woven in, stretched to fit, steamed, seams pulled tight, and transformed into the finished product. And it's still not really done until you show or give it to someone. Who usually says something like, "oh! you whipped this out so fast!" or "what a cool use of your spare time" and you just smile and nod and hide your sore fingers.

Paty Jager said...

Alice and Wavy, Great comparisons! I've weeded and I've done more crocheting than knitting, but they make sense and I see the comparisons to writing.

The great thing is everyone may follow the general way of raking the hay, pulling a weed, or knitting a sweater, yet we each have our own twist or method of which we do it. Which is what makes one writer's story different from another.

Thanks for chiming in!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Great analogies!! Though I have to say about the weeds...sometimes what you think is a weed is really a volunteer. And if you leave it alone and let it grow, it can turn into something you never expected. Like the tiny volunteer that started growing between my house and the neighbor's and is now a beautiful 15' Birch tree which offers shade and privacy. I never would have planted a tree there, but I'm so glad it found its way there regardless of my "plans".

Karen Duvall said...

I love all the analogies thrown out here, too. Makes a lot of sense.

I just had to put these analogies into play when I revived the book I'd started writing a while back. There was a section at the beginning where my character does something totally in character for her background and personality. But in the next chapter, what she'd done doesn't work well with the situation at hand (makes her look stupid, actually), but I kept it in, mainly as a placeholder until I had a better idea where the story was leading and what the consequences to her actions would be. Now that I'm at the middle of the book, I was able to go back and tweak that scene to fix the problem. It was difficult to cut out that section of the scene (such a pretty weed!), but it had to go because it wasn't fitting as originally planned. Writing is, after all, rewriting. 8^)

Alice Sharpe said...

This has been a very cool blog. I love your beech tree, Eli and the weed vs. volunteer theory which is certainly true in writing as well as gardening (and in the broader scope of life.)

Karen--I like the way you said you used the scene you knew wasn't going to work as a place holder. That's exactly what those are!

And Wavy, the knitting thing is perfect.

Now someone explain to me the difference between a metaphor and an analogy, please.


Paty Jager said...

Here you go Alice!

In literary analysis, a metaphor (from the Greek: metapherin) is a rhetorical trope defined as a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects. In the simplest case, this takes the form: "The [first subject] is a [second subject]." More generally, a metaphor describes a first subject as being or equal to a second subject in some way. Thus, the first subject can be economically described because implicit and explicit attributes from the second subject are used to enhance the description of the first. This device is known for usage in literature, especially in poetry, where with few words, emotions and associations from one context are associated with objects and entities in a different context.

Analogy is both the cognitive process of transferring information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target), and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process. In a narrower sense, analogy is an inference or an argument from a particular to another particular, as opposed to deduction, induction, and abduction, where at least one of the premises or the conclusion is general. The word analogy can also refer to the relation between the source and the target themselves, which is often, though not necessarily, a similarity, as in the biological notion of analogy.

Paty Jager said...

Eli, I liked the weed vs volunteer! That happens in writing and in life!

Karen, good luck on the book!

Alice Sharpe said...

Paty -- huh?

(thanks, LOL)


Karen Duvall said...

Metaphors and analogies... Well, I'm not as detailed as Paty, and I don't even know if I'm as accurate. A metaphor is when something resembles something else, and an analogy is when something is compared to something else. Make sense?

Karen Duvall said...

Thanks, Paty, for the good-luck wishes on my WIP. I'm going to have to blog about some of the issues I've had with this story, and it isn't really the story's fault, it's my processes and how I've experimented with a few different ones. Kind of like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks, then it's done. That was an analogy, by the way-- Comparing writing processes to cooking spaghetti. Anyway, I'll report my discoveries on Monday. 8^)

Anonymous said...

Great Blog Post Paty!

You all had some fun replies too.

I have no idea off the top o' my head what reminds me of the writing process. I'm sure if I were to sit and think real hard about it I'd come up with something brilliant. LOL Whatever.

Now I get to go agonize of what the heck I should post for tomorrow. Sigh.

Paty Jager said...

What's a matter? Don't you all read Wikipedia? LOL I figured it was easier to copy and paste than try to figure out what it said! LOL

Genene said...

Hey, Paty, can sure tell what you've been doing! Haying can be hard work -- but so can writing!

I don't knit, but I can also can relate to the weeding analogy. I've transplanted "weeds" and they have become great additions to other plants in my yard that come back every year.

I also draw similarities between fostering dogs from the shelter and writing -- or perhaps more accurately, the things I learn from these experiences are lessons and experiences I use in my writing and in life.

Also chuckled about Karen's analogy that writing is like cooking spaghetti!

Danita Cahill said...

When I am in the thick of writing a story, everything makes me think of my writing. Showering, driving, emotional responses to songs or movies, little things people say, memories...

But when I'm not in the thick of a story -- like at the moment -- I try to just let my mind take a break. Vacation for the brain. (although some, especially one of my pesky little brothers would tell you my brain's always been on vacation). ha!

I am doing more photography, gardening, and reading right now while on "brain vacation". Trying to catch up on my hobbies, enjoy the summer, relax.

Not to say the next story is percolating, because it surely is, I'm just not to the serios-sit-down-pound-it-out mode. Yet. Soon.

Good luck getting the last of the hay done in the record-setting heat, Paty. Are the piglets taking it alright?

Danita Cahill said...

Oooh, Alice, nice analogies with the morning glory....I used to tell my customers at the greenhouse that a weed is just a wildflower growing somewhere unwanted. Sometimes I move "weeds" from here to there, and then I want them, cherish them, enjoy them. I can see the beauty in comparing that to writing.

Not that I can't see the analogy of what you're saying too, Paty. I can. It's just that we haven't hauled our hay yet, so I'm not quite in that mindset at the moment.

Back to the morning glory, Alice. Nope, can't transplant them. They have a tap root that can reach down as far as 17 feet. Seriously. I know that's not the subject at hand, just a bit of master gardener, nerd-trivia. Ha!