Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Of Herbs and Stewing SNIs

(with apologies to JRR Tolkien)

The trick to planting herbs is to contain them in pots. That is, unless you want your garden overrun with mint and sage and oregano and thyme. I stick to this rule, because I want my garden to produce tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers too. Except there’s this one peppermint plant that went rogue years ago. It’s small, I thought, I’ll be able to keep it tamed. Besides, a Buffalo winter will surely kill it.

I’ll pause so all you gardeners can laugh.

This is that peppermint plant today:

The only way I keep it out of my garden is ruthless hacking. I make tea from the leaves, so it’s a useful beast, but an unruly one.

Which brings me to SNIs (Shiny New Ideas). I’m deep in the sequel to Force Of Habit. Yet there’s this YA that’s nagging me. On top of that, this morning as I drove to the grocery store I saw a deserted parking lot with seagulls fighting over some stale bread, and I started to write an entire scene in my head. For yet another book.

Just like the rampaging peppermint, if I don’t contain these books, they’ll devour my sequel time. This is why I keep pen and paper in my glove compartment. I sketched out the scene. It was like giving a treat to my hungry cats so I could finish a task before feeding them. The SNI settled in its corner, gnawing its tidbit of attention. Like this oregano:

When the sequel is with betas, I know I’ll have time for the SNI files. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I’ll squee as I open their boxes and dither over which to play with first. I’ll allow the many scenes and characters and story arcs I’ve tucked away to audition for the starring role of my new WIP.

I can hear them now, rehearsing their parts, putting on their best makeup, shining their tap shoes. They’ve seen what a well-tended plant in the right pot can look like and they want the same result.

Since rogue herbs don’t yield a useable crop, I’d love to hear how everyone else handles this. All the writers reading this post (writers of fiction, nonfiction, songs, anything): how do you contain your peppermint?


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Ah me, this is very similar to my Inkspot post set for tomorrow, but I'm going to still let it play as it lays. Goes to show, we all suffer similar afflictions. Personally, I beat mine into submission with a baseball bat.

Lois Winston said...

Baseball bats work, but I prefer a whip. Back you rogue ideas! Back, I say!

Darrell James said...

I have a corral I keep mine in.

Keith Raffel said...

Alice, I always go to a cafe (without Internet access) to do my writing so I'm not diverted by this or that or anything. This AM I'm reading a manuscript one last time before sending it off. No sense going to the cafe for that, is there? But here I am commenting on InkSpot, answering email, etc., etc. It sure is hard to keep focused on the work at hand, but it's consoling that I am not the only writer with this affliction.

Beth Groundwater said...

I do pretty much the same thing as you, Alice. Write down enough of the idea to make a record of it so I can go back to it later. Then, I return to my main project, which in my case means I should be writing a few hundred more words in my WiP today instead of commenting here! Bad Beth! Bad!

Carol Grace said...

Discipline! We can't let ourselves drift away from the WIP just because the new idea is so seductive, so much more fun and so much easier to write than the one in front of us.
But it's so tempting, just a moment to jot down an idea, a scene, a plot and there goes the day. What deadline?

Jess Lourey said...

You've got great natural pacing in your writing, Alice. Makes it fun to read.

I handle rogue ideas same as you, though I spend more time lamenting that I don't have enough time to write all the books I want. Makes me giggle when someone approaches me at a booksigning to tell me they've got a great story idea for me, I've just got to write it.

Alice Loweecey said...

Thanks, everyone! Sue Ann, this is one of those "great minds tink alike" instances! :)