Monday, April 27, 2015

How Does Your Speedbo Garden Grow? Part II

by Pam Hillman

So, you spent the entire month of March hard at work sowing words in your writing garden. But now you have to tend that garden if you want it to flourish. For some, this task might be hard work, but for others, it might be a breeze.

If you’re like me, I decide on a whim to plant something, so I don’t do the prep work I need to. Goodness, I’ve decided to plant flowers and within 24 hours, I’ve hoed the grass out of a small plot, bought flats of flowers and popped them in, hoping I’ve added just the right amount of fertilizer and water, all the while admonishing my poor confused dog (who just wants to play) to STAY OUT OF THE FLOWERS.

Unfortunately, my flowers (and my poor attempts at vegetable gardening) never end up as gorgeous or bountiful as I envisioned. To be honest, the poor suckers are lucky to even survive! If they could talk, they’d probably beg me to take them back to where they came from.

So it is with us writers. We come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some of us prepare a lot in advance, sow our words, then tend our garden carefully. Some don’t prepare a lot, sow abundantly and wildly, and then gleefully (or not so much) work really hard to clean up the mess.

We won’t even talk about some of MY past failures of not preparing the plot, sowing seeds willy-nilly, then staring at the bug-infested, weed-choked, holes-dug-by-the-dog mess until I finally give up, scurry back inside and ignore the whole thing. Nope. We really can’t have any of that here in our Speedbo gardens!!!

So, what does tending your Speedbo garden look like?

Fertilize and Water

Nothing grows without some food. Water and fertilize keep your plants thriving. Tending your Speedbo garden is much the same. A computer, dictionary, plenty of rest, a healthy spirit and body, time, pen and pencil, research. All of this is part of nurturing those seeds and bringing them to life. If you sowed 50,000 words in March and then just left them stored on your computer hard drive without ever nurturing them, I’m afraid nothing much is going to happen. The GOOD news is that—unlike seeds planted in the ground—there isn’t a time limit on coaxing those seeds to come up. So if you haven’t done anything with your Speedbo garden yet, all is not lost. You can STILL work that field! Whoot!

Ruthy's Son Working Hard in the Garden!
Thanks for the gardening photos, Ruthy. :)

Plowing and Hoeing

Once those seeds burst forth and start to resemble a well-organized garden with row after row of pretty green plants, you might discover that you accidentally planted corn with peas, tomatoes with potatoes, squash with cucumbers, and then there are the dreaded weeds that somehow always look exactly like the good stuff! Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop out unnecessary words, paragraphs, whole scenes of weeds, leaving them to shrivel up and die by the wayside. Yes, it sounds harsh, but all they’re doing is hogging the food and water that the good plants need to grow. Do it.

Replant Skips?

After all this chopping, you might discover long stretches of “skips” or plot holes in your Speedbo garden. Or in some cases, just a few bare hills. My husband’s grandfather was notorious for replanting the skips, which in a vegetable garden didn’t make much sense to me: if the peas didn’t all mature at the same time, it just made picking them that much more difficult. Again, good news for us writers. We can plant in the skips and plop a word or a whole sentence in the bare spots and with a bit of smoothing, I guar-UN-tee nobody will ever be able to tell the difference. All the words will mature together. Amazing, huh?

Scarecrows, Spraying, Dusting, and plain-out PICKING HORNWORMS

Don’t you hate planting something, then seeing your dog (or worse, the NEIGHBOR’S DOG!) happily digging a hole and plopping down in the nice cool dirt? Or the screeching sound of crows as they converge on your corn patch and peck away at your juicy corn? Worms on your tomatoes? Raccoons sneaking in at night? Deer trampling your vegetables? Ugh!

It’s the same with the interruptions and responsibilities in your writing life. Sometimes you have to put a scarecrow on your office door. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an analogy for spraying and dusting your kids—maybe it’s best just not to go there.

And other bugs and worms? Oh, yeah. We know all about those nasty worms in the cyber-world, don’t we? Don’t leave your Speedbo words in danger of being eaten by worms. Back them up. Spray or dust those buggers with virus control. Don’t be squeamish… pick those hornworms off your Speedbo tomatoes by HAND if you have to. Come to think of it, I imagine when God dictated the words "little foxes that spoil the vine" to the scribes thousands of years ago, he had computer viruses in mind!


A well-tended garden yields fruit or vegetables. Sure, there are times of drought and calamity that no amount of care and knowledge can overcome, but generally a savvy gardener has more fruitful years than not.

I think we’ve established that I’m not a very productive gardener, but that’s because I don’t work at it. When I was a teenager, I hated working in the garden. When my mother said we had to work in the garden, I asked to go to the hayfield and bale hay. When told there wasn’t any to bale, in desperation, I blurted out, “Well, let’s go cut some then!”

It’s the same with my writing. When I tend the words I’ve sown, when I water them, fertilize them, search and destroy the grass and the bugs and replant the areas that need tending, my Speedbo garden flourishes.

And yours will, too! So grab your tools and get to work.

Currently, Pam is reaping the rewards of her most recent harvests with stories in The Oregon Trail Romance Collection, and in the Seeker’s With This Kiss Historical Collection. Pam also has a couple of summer harvests and a fall harvest, AND, not to beat a metaphor to death, she’s still enjoying the fruits of labors from year’s past out of her “freezer”. Ha!

Check out Part I of How Does Your Speedbo Garden Grow?


  1. Coffee is here, my friends!

    Pam, great analogy, love it, and I'm laughing at how you planted the books in the garden...

    And on my produce wagon, LOL! That's so fun!

    Ruthy has no skills of that nature, but I am good in the garden and at the keyboard, so I'm counting those blessings. Fun post, all around!

  2. I love those photos, Pam. How great!!!!!

  3. The book is written, so many opportunities now lay ahead!

  4. Fun post, Pam.

    We started composting a couple of years ago to help our garden and the environment...Here's one thing I learned. You can't compost seeds or else they will come up in your garden. I think this can fit your post, because we want to tackle our Speedbo stories the best way so they'll turn out to be the best possible stories. (I think this made more sense when I thought it than when I typed it.)

    Have a great day!

  5. Pam, interesting post and so true. The garden is a metaphor for so many things...writing, marriage, ministry, child-rearing and of course gardening.
    I've been busy with contests, my main WIP and working with my critique partner on HER WIP, but my Speedbo project is never far from my mind. I've been working on research to see what I can layer in to make the plot more complex and give the heroine more to bounce off of. Fortunately it's set in the early Prohibition era and there are tons of characters, stories and factoids I can play with. I was doing some Internet research yesterday afternoon and came upon a real historical character I think I can incorporate, and that sparked an idea for improving, deepening, adding texture to the last quadrant. So There Is Hope for my Speedbo story.
    This is a great site, thank you for all you do.
    Kathy Bailey

  6. Pam, I love the analogy. Hopefully it will help me to remember what I need to do.

  7. Hi Pam. Perfect analogy. Not only am I a terrible gardener but I've got that Speedbo thing almost finished but full of holes and no ending. How could I write almost 70,000 words and not know what the end is going to be? Well, I know, sort of, but can't get it to come together like it should. So yeah, this post was for me. And Jackie put seeds in compost? I love that idea! Mystery garden. Kind of like my plot. . .

  8. Ohhh, COFFEE!!! Thanks Ruthy. Coffee, tea, OJ. Water? Everybody dig in.

    If everyone is like me, you had a busy weekend, and now it's time to dig in to the garden work, yes?

    Actually, I'm in the planting stage right now and plan to be planting 1300-2000 words today!

    I've already planted, watered, worked and harvested my March Speedbo garden. The results are in the Seeker's With this Kiss Historical Collection. :)

    Where are YOU with your garden? Still working on something from March of this year? A new project? You know, fruit trees take a LOT longer from planting to harvesting than say, PEAS, and of course you get to harvest apples, oranges, lemons for years to come. So, maybe you're working on a long-term project.

    So, how's your garden growing today?

  9. RUTHY!!! Thank you so much for the pictures!! I know most of us have been in the garden from time to time, but taking pictures of the plants has just never been a priority.

    I do remember seeing some photos of my grandparents' cotton fields, but they're old, b&w, and I would have had to scan them. Wait.... first I would have to FIND them! :)

    Your photos were absolutely PERFECT for what I had in mind. You rock!!!!

  10. Fun post, Pam! And great analogy!

    I am certainly no gardener. Any green thing in my possession usually has to fend for itself. Potting soil, maybe a little fertilizer IF I happen to think about it, and enough water to keep from shriveling up . . . It doesn't get much better than that!

    But "planting" ideas and "weeding" words? That I can do!

  11. Jackie, it makes perfect sense! My Cowboy/Farmer and I were talking about this very thing on Friday. We were riding through the countryside, and those little yellow flowers, along with what we call "seaweed", and thistles (I don't know the proper name) are just ALL over the pastures and hayfields here.

    Some farmers don't want to take the time or spend the money to spray these weeds, but they'll fertilize the ground. They're essentially fertilizing these weeds and helping them grow bigger than the grass that the animals need.

    Also, I suspect you're right. Some seeds have such a hard outer shell and are dormant that no amount of composing will break them down. Bad writing habits? Pet peeves? Overused words? I can see all this falling in that category you just mentioned. :)

  12. Kathy, reading about the research you're doing sounds like so much FUN! I love layering in rich details to the story like that.

    You are tending your garden well, lady!

    And, not only that, you're helping your friend with hers. :)

  13. Wilani, we need all the help we can get, don't we? Sometimes I KNOW what I need to do, but making sure I my time to writing first is hard when other obligations demand my time.

    You know how working in a garden is so much nicer if you're a morning person and can get out there and hoe before it gets so hot? Or pick a whole passel of five gallon buckets of peas while the dew is still on the ground, then spend the rest of the day shelling peas on the porch while talking with family?

    Btw, I'm not a morning person, but those times that my husband's grandfather called me at 5:30 in the morning, telling me the peas were ready... well, as much as I HATED getting up that early to go pick, afterwards, I was SO happy that I didn't have to do it when it was 99 degrees in the shade.

    There's a lesson for me there with my writing. No necessarily that I have to write at 5:30 in the morning, (even though that's okay...for RUTHY! :) but that I need to stay ahead of deadlines and not let the heat of a deadline burn me and sap my energy.

    This could have been a WHOLE 'nuther blog post, don't you think?

  14. Cindy, I can SO relate. Mystery garden, indeed.

    Sounds like you're seeds have come up, you're looking at the leaves, but you haven't quite identified what you planted. Peas? Beans? Corn? Tomatoes? :)

    And, not only that, but there are WEEDS in those plants that look exactly like the crop you planted.

    (Honestly, I hated hoeing a real garden with a passion. Tiny corn plants look no different to grass sprigs to me. Sigh. Of course, my mama spoiled me and didn't make me hoe much, so no wonder I couldn't tell the difference in corn and grass... )

    As your skills as a writer grow, you'll be able to tell the difference. You'll be able to look at those early drafts and tell where they're going...what FRUIT you've planted.

    And, if all else fails, invite a friend (or an expert) to look at your garden. A fresh, experienced eye can tell you what you have and what you need to do to bring it to harvest.


  15. Myra, so glad you chimed in. Now Ruthy can laugh at BOTH of us "black thumbs". :)

  16. Great post Pam. I never was good at gardening. My hubby tells me to stay away from the plants. ha ha

    But as it applies to writing. I'm good. Thanks for all the helpful hints.

  17. I love the thought of fresh garden soil...

    Starting a new garden bed.

    But if I neglect the old one, it's going to become wretched and weed-riddled so I have to balance and push myself to cleaning the current gardens... and then begin anew.

    That's like finishing a book, pushing through the tough parts, re-writing a mistake, revising what you thought was fine... and then my reward is starting a new story! A NEW GARDEN!

    God always offers new beginnings, but he loves a completed task. Just ask Jonah!

  18. Clever blog, Pam! Wonderful Ruthy/Pam pictures.

    I'm not much of a gardener, but I do prepare for writing. I know my characters and where my story is going even though I'm not sure how to get there. If I start writing before I know what direction to take, I get lost in the weeds. So to speak.

  19. I am not a gardener, but I appreciate the analogy, Pam. The pictures are fantastic. Great editing! I did a double-take on the first one. They, alone, tell how much effort goes into the harvest.

  20. PAMMY!!!

    Love, Love, LOVE your pix with your books as seed packets -- SO darn clever and cute, my friend!

    And Ruthy's son is pretty darn cute too! ;)

    WOW, what a perfect analogy -- or maybe I should say "harvest," because you've sown a bounty of great advice in this here garden, girl!

    And although it's not large, I've got a tiny compost of deleted scenes and subplots that I hope to till into a novella garden, so I'm all about "waste not, want not" when it comes to planting one's garden! ;)

    I just ate breakfast (yes, got up late since I was "plotting" and "tilling" until the wee hours of the morning), so I'm not sure why this blog is making me hungry, but I brought lots of fresh fruit from my garden (Sam's) to munch on. :)


  21. Plants come to my house to die.

    Thanks for the post, Pam. Love the metaphor and feeling like I'm up to my knees in dirt right now!

  22. Pam, fun analogy! We don't do a veggie garden but I love perennials as they are hardier and just appear every year. Still, I need to pull weeds and deadhead old blooms. So I go out and work like a mad woman for an hour or so and accomplish a lot. Wish I was as fast writing words and revising them. But I do love the time I spend making up and smoothing out. Far more than gardening.


  23. Ruthy, love the garden pictures you gave Pam for this post! Is there anything you can't do?


  24. Pam, your books look BEAUTIFUL growing in the garden! And your analogy is perfect.

    After Speedbo, I "replanted" a small square-foot garden...a short story which needed weeding and fertilizing. It produced a crop of satisfaction....and a realization of how much tending even a tiny garden requires!!! I even found some surprises in my discovering spring flowers I'd forgotten I'd planted.

    Now I'm ready to dig into my Speedbo project with ALL your suggest. Thanks for your post!

    Jackie and Cindy, love the thought of a "mystery" garden!

  25. Hi Pam:

    I was surprised to see you use the phrase 'cowboy/farmer'. I was always told that a cowboy would ride his horse anywhere that was over 100 feet away rather than walk. I can't imagine a cowboy as a farmer. Of course, I can imagine a farmer who owns a cow and can ride a horse.

    I like this topic and I think it would be interesting to hear what Jesus said on the subject:

    “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
    Mathew 13

    I think that must have been a pantser farmer. A plotter farmer would make sure the seeds fell on good soil. I also think this farmer was a hired hand who didn't have to pay for all those seeds.

    I believe the key here is to do the right things by habit so that almost all your seeds always fall on prepared rich soil.

    For those with ears to hear:

    It's a plot of land.
    Not a pantser of land. : )


  26. Great post, Pam. I like gardening, but I garden like you. "Oh, you have some plant starters? Yes, I'd love some!" And then figuring out how in the world to plant them and make them grow. :) Did that last year, with mixed success. And, I'll probably do it again this. I do planter gardening because I want to put a fence up around the area I'd like to garden in to keep out the rabbits, birds and whatnot. Not sure how to keep out the dandelions, though. :)

    As for my Speedbo project . . . I finished my goal later than March 31st, but now I'm actively revising it, as time allows. I'm figuring out how to set aside time. My worms are the online distractions. I've begun shutting off my email when I'm revising. Otherwise I"m like Dug in the movie, "Up."


    Loved your post.

  27. Great analogy (and one I've used in quite a few devotions on my blog). Those seedlings of ideas have to take root in good soil with room to grow if they'll ever produce.

    But I hate the pruning stages where I need to cut back (the grape vines) to make room for new growth. And don't even mention thinning perfectly good ideas (carrot seedlings) to allow the strongest ones room to grow to their potential.

    Honestly, nowadays I'd rather tend the word-garden than the dirt one, but I still appreciate the fresh veggies in a salad and homemade salsa. So glad my parents have a huge garden and love to share. :-)

  28. Oh, Ruth, isn't that the truth???

    It's so much easier to visualize a fresh new plot than to have to do the back-breaking work of cleaning up a weed-infested one.

    Been there, done that.... in a real garden and in my writing.

    It's a tough row to hoe (oops!), but discipline is key to making both flourish and bear fruit.

  29. Pam, the perfect timing for your post. I'm reworking my Speedbo manuscript for submission...weeding, hoeing, watering, etc. Lots of work, but lots of fun!!!

  30. My garden is languishing for lack of attention at present. *sigh* Real life has been kicking hindquarters on the home front. At least my mind is fertile with seedlings of ideas and revisions...

    Love the analogy and the pictures, Pam. Usually, I'm a grey-thumb... not quite black, because some things grow, just not that well.

  31. Sorry, guys, got sidetracked with lunch preparation, and a phone call. And I may or might not have gotten lost in the weeds with Cara!

    Cara, I've been lost in the weeds many times... Sounds like we need more than a hoe... we need a scythe!

  32. lol - Thanks Meghan. I knew what I wanted to prepare for the photo "props", but didn't have the right pictures to use.

    But Ruthy came through for me!

    Teamwork at it's best! :)

  33. Oh, Julie, I love the idea of tossing those deleted scenes and ideas on the compost pile and letting them percolate until something fresh and new comes from it.

    Nothing wasted, huh? :)

  34. Lyndee, I'm not far behind you in that regard. I'd like to think that I could be a loving gardener to some lucky plant some day, but so far none have survived long enough for me to prove my worth as a plant mother. Sigh.

  35. Janet, I'm with you. Much rather sow and grow words than seeds and weeds!

    Congrats Sherida. Your small project sounds a lot like container gardening. And... you know, the great thing about container gardening is that it's a lot easier to control what goes into the soil than if you're planting out in the wide open spaces. Short projects are similar in that regard.

    PS... I don't know if the above is true about container gardening, but it sounds PERFECTLY logical to me! lol

  36. Then it's official, Vince, I can strike farmer off my cowboy's official moniker because he's pretty much not going to walk if he can ride. :)

    It's a plot of land.
    Not a pantser of land. : )

    Ha! Oh, you should take this on the road as a workshop. However, should you choose to do so, watch out for the rotten tomatoes the panster's will throw! lol

  37. Jeanne, distractions are the ban of my existence. Sigh.

    Sometimes it's legitimate distractions that must be handled, and sometimes I'm just whiling away the time and realize later that I've been watching the clouds roll by while daylight's wasting.

  38. Candee, wouldn't it be wonderful if our parents and grandparents could share words with us like they shared veggies?

    Goodness, I'd have LOTS of words stored up to use! :)

  39. Wonderful, Debby. I know you're working hard in that garden.

    And...DebH, those seeds are slowly inching toward the surface and when the time comes, they'll be ready for you to start work. :)

  40. Loved this post! I am not a gardener person either. I carried the water lol.

  41. Great analogy, Pam. I have to admit my Speedbo garden has been neglected. Mostly, it's because I am stuck on trying to figure out certain missing plot points. I'm also not sure how to organize my chapters. It is definitely a work in progress.

  42. Sally, water bearers are an important part of gardening. Just sayin'

    Stick with it Sandy. I think you'll eventually figure it out. I think we can officially call this part you're struggling with the brambles and briars patch.


  43. haha. I got your message Jackie. No short cuts. Do it right.

    NO SEEDS IN THE COMPOST PILE! But I have to admit that it's a real kick when a full grown cantaloupe grows in the compost pile. Shocker one morning.

  44. Hi Pam:

    Not to worry. I only pantsertificate on Seekerville where they have the nicest, most well behaved, Christian pantsers.

    Actually, It's those free range killing, cattle drive ending, barbwire stringing, sodbusters who worry me. : )

  45. Tina, that is one cantaloupe that I would probably not be too keen to eat. Ewww!

  46. Dear Pam, Even though I'm not a gardener, I could relate to what you wrote about writing. Today and tomorrow, I'm focusing on synopses (used the plural since I'm working on two of them), and I'm using my pen to lop words off the printed page on my final run through. This summer more than ever I'm hoping I can figure out a way to put a scarecrow on my door so I can write while my kids are out for summer break.

    Thank you for the post.

  47. lol on the scarecrow, Tanya! I've needed a few of those in times past. Working around kids is probably the hardest task of all!

  48. How do you do that, Pam...put books in pictures like that, write interesting blogs AND BOOKS. YOU WRITE GREAT STORIES!!! Thanks for the post.

  49. But I can't GARDEN, Marianne! lol

    Thanks for the kudos about my writing, Marianne. You are my new BFF! I love writing. I love playing with pictures. I love all kinds of stuff, except gardening. HA!

    Pictures: I just use PicMonkey (as usual). I stuck the covers in as overlays (in a physical world, we'd call this cut-and-paste. :) I made the "wooden stakes" out of parts of the wooden posts on Ruthy's farm wagon. More digital copy/paste mumbo-jumbo. lol

  50. Love this encouragement! Thank you, thank you! I have kind of let my Speedbo garden settle a bit. Time to get my gloves on and get a little dirty. Okay...lots.

  51. Great post, Pam! Loved the anthology.

  52. That's the spirit, Kelly! Dig in... literarily speaking, of course. lol

    Waving at Edwina... so good to see you in the Speedbo garden, lady! :)

    Now, I'm hopping over to see what's going on on Tuesday's blog post. Should be fun. Looks like Tina's the hostess with the mostest today.

  53. This is a great analogy for all the work that needs to be done once you put words on the page. I never used to do anything with my stories once I wrote them--no tending whatsoever. Now I'm realizing more and more that writing is like gardening (which I've only ever done in school when we planted seeds in dixie cups of soil...and then with little success). I'm hoping to become a master gardener in the writing sense, though!

  54. I love gardening, such fun. I am pretty good at it as well. I think I want to grow a garden of books this year though. How can I do that ? I just loved the gardening pictures. This is a fun, feel good post that I have really enjoyed !

  55. Pam, I loved the analogy of gardening, so perfect for writing! :-)

    I started early yesterday morning and didn't get home until late—but I wanted to comment and tell you how much I enjoyed your post, and I loved the photos.

    Wish I had some of your Photoshop skills. :-)

  56. LOVE this analogy, Pam. It makes so much sense!

    I wish novels were like cucumbers. A couple little plant-lings, a little dirt, a little water and they grow so fast, they take over half the garden. They produce every other day, and you can eat them raw after just a rinse, no hard preparation or cooking, lol. :)

    What a fun and encouraging way to look at writing! Thanks for sharing!