Process and Purpose in Landscapes and Writing by Janine Donoho

Ripening grapesDon’t get me wrong. The late Elmore Leonard has much to recommend him as a writer: witty dialogue, stark landscapes, and streamlined narrative. His pulp westerns, then his crime and suspense novels exemplify the gritty, the bizarre, and characters with sociopathic tendencies. I’ve learned from him simply by reading his work.

You’re probably aware of Mr. Leonard’s famous—or notorious—“10 Rules”. These gems periodically fall from the electron cloud and into writerly spaces. While his method offers sage advice from a deft craftsperson, they also deal with writing process. Successful exceptions to each of Mr. Leonard’s thorny briars exist, yet I’d rather lift this discourse out of the specific weeds and into landscape design.Landscape dictates plantings.

You see, every landscape designer favors a specific function when they plot growing areas. Variations depend upon available space, seasonal light, natural features, problem areas, microclimates, and hardiness zones. To be a successful terraformer, you can’t allow process to trounce purpose. The same holds true for writers.

When process & purpose come togetherFor me, process develops through application. Yours may, too. Paramount to mine is that it advances my purpose. Usually, that means writing a compelling story that my readers will find irresistible.

When I say “usually”, I’m referring to those times when I let myself get stuck on process. I adore research—and venerate word choice—and equivocate over punctuation, especially during edits. However, there comes a time when I’m stuck in the quagmire and need to review my intentions. You may find that to be the case, too.

So by all means, use Mr. Elmore’s list to cultivate your process. Just don’t allow his or your methodology to overcome your unique vision. We’re caretakers of story—until it’s released into the world. Our purpose—my raison d’être—is to tell a %@_# good story. That entails keeping process in its place.

Now I’m off to my daily writing. How do you align process with purpose?

Best garden helper ever - Mandy

Yes, keeping purpose in mind leads to a sublime harvest—and terrific companions.

The Strange Origami of Story Construction by Janine Donoho

What my Mistborn Chonicles look like when printedWhen it comes to storytelling, I view myself as a fusion pantser/plotter. There’s an inherent thrill with going where story takes me and once the first fold connects points 1 and 2, I’m hooked. Then inexplicable clusters, timelines, and abstracts recombine into more intricate patterns.

Still once I’ve developed basic folds and angles of characters, setting, scenes, and

Basic origami of what's to come

Basic origami of what’s to come

plot, I know it’s time to begin shaping the work toward a final vision. Central shapes pleat in macro and then micro gradients with affinity for movement toward or away from certain objectives. The permeability of each segment changes the structure. Visualize folds bisecting lines and angles at various degrees in progressively complex ways through cube doubling and angle trisection.

Complex origami foldsOne fold at a time, the next two Elementals have been forming into specific and recognizable shapes for years now. A few weeks ago, I pulled all accumulated files and references for the Earth Elemental before plunking them into a bag—my first clumsy origami of what’s to come.

Each story progresses through this cycle of fold, open, deconstruct, and reconstruct until it’s gone as far as I know how to take it. In that final stage it looks either like reams of stacked paper or a much less intriguing, yet substantial, electron file.

If I’m very lucky, it begins to look like this.Cover Collection 2

Where Sea Meets Land by Janine Donoho

In the process of writing, one crucial response to exhausting my creative source is to change things up a bit. This goes beyond conditioning body and mind into worthy tools. Instead it focuses on ways to rest the charley horse cramping my writer’s brain.

Going to my favorite hardware store can be fun. I like to visualize exotic applications for washers, pipes, flexible plumbing connections, faucet handles, copper tubing and flashing. Steampunk couture, anyone? Or maybe it’s the fabric store, where pet-able materials and unique frills relax the writing part of the brain…or a cook’s shop where gadgets rule. Then a more impactful  fix offers itself.

Today I’m relishing changes in latitude and attitude. Joy is having writerly friends who travel – and who share their pack with you. My role as gypsy pup- and house-sitter presents opportunity to steep myself in local island culture even as I consider my new Fire and Earth Elemental projects. Along the way I check in with my BookTrope team, who are sailing SOUNDINGS, Water Elemental toward publication this coming February.

Enjoy these pictorial highlights.

Where sea meets land

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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