Here in Northland, it’s been an excellent season for growing things. A wetter-than-usual winter has been followed by a wetter-than-usual spring, and by the time Movember came and went, the plants in the garden had well and truly sprung.

My lawn, or perhaps more accurately, the weeds in my lawn, have grown exceptionally well, aided by the fact that my ride-on lawn mower had broken down (I took it into the shop for a service and it hasn’t worked properly since). In particular, it’s been a great season for carrotweed. Carrotweed, as the name suggests, is a weed that resembles wild carrot. It grows abundantly during the hot and humid Northland summers. I went for an early-morning walk a few days ago and noted my neighbours have grown entire fields of it, as you can see from the pictures below. I’m not quite sure why, as it’s a noxious, invasive species and once it reaches the flowering stage almost nothing eats it, except for maybe goats, and I’m pretty sure my neighbours don’t have any goats (we live in dairy country, surrounded by cows, with goats being few and far between).

Field of Carrotweed

Field of Carrotweed

Fields of carrotweed

The other thing that has grown well of late is my moustache. Yes, I know you thought that my spelling of Movember in the first paragraph was a typo, but it wasn’t. I grew a moustache in support of men’s health, along with many of my work colleagues. I always enjoy Movember – it’s a chance to get creative with the facial hair. In the past, I’ve grown goatees and ‘muttonchops’ but this year I went for a simple ‘slug’. As usual, my wife hated it, but I was pleased with the result, despite the constant upper-lip itching.

J.B Reynolds and his unmowed lawn

Lost in the jungle

Now, it’s mid-December and Christmas is approaching fast. I’ve managed to fix the ride-on lawnmower (with the help of my brother, who is good with that sort of thing). The garden is still growing well but I’ve cut the carrotweed and mowed the mo. Yesterday was my last day of work for the year and I’m looking forward to a well-deserved break and a chance to spend time with my kids, go swimming, camping, and catch up on all the chores around the house that have been neglected over the year (such as weeding the garden).

Aside from carrotweed, the other thing I noticed on my early-morning walk of last week was an abundance of snails.  I’m not sure if the dawn parade of snails is a typical occurrence on our road at this time of year or whether it was just the particular moist and misty conditions that had them gathering in abundance, but they were all over the sides of the road where I was walking.

An escargatoire of snails

An escargatoire of snails

There were so many, in fact, that I accidentally stepped on a few of them. I was particularly taken with this little guy (or gal – I’m no expert on determining the sex of snails) below, and when I lay down at the side of the road to take the photo, I felt like his journey could be a  metaphor for my writing progress.

a snail crossing the finish-line.

Crossing the finish-line

I’ve just hit forty-three-thousand words on my novel. I’ve been tracking my progress and it’s taken me fifty-three hours of writing at an average of eight-hundred-and-twenty-four words-per-hour to reach that goal. I’ve been reading a book on increasing my writing speed and will work on that over time, but it’s not so much my writing speed that slows me down so much as my thinking speed. When you know exactly what you want to write, writing fast is easy. When you have to think about what you want to write before you write it, the process is slowed considerably. This is where the use of a comprehensive outline is helpful.

I have an outline for my novel. It contains a basic description of what happens in each scene, and which characters feature in these scenes. All of these descriptions have, at the very least, a beginning and an end, and many are more detailed than that—broken down into five stages, as follows: inciting incident, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution. This is extremely useful, but there is still an awful lot of empty space in between these points. I know my start points and I know my destinations, and for some scenes, I know the big landmarks I want to hit on the way, but the journey I will take to reach them is unknown prior to my departure.

This is an exciting, fascinating, and as far as I can see, necessary element of the writing process, but it does slow things down. However, I take heart from the little guy above. I figure if a snail can make it all the way across a road to pass the finish-line, then so can I. It’s all a matter of persistence.