From Seedling to Story: A Biological Metaphor for Novel Structure and Creative Growth

By Self-Love Literature Contributing Writer, Taylre R. Malloy

Books are a lot like plants. Wouldn’t you agree? Tiny seedlings sprout into developing plant embryos, in the same light that our stories grow from a powerful thought or idea.

I promise you I haven’t gone totally plant crazy! The connection between growing your novel and growing your garden is synonymous. Below are a few reasons why.

From Seedling to Library

During the summer of 2020, I transformed my library into a garden. As an avid writer, reader, and plant enthusiast, for me, novel growth symbolizes plant growth. The origin of this metaphor first began on a lovely Sunday afternoon while repotting my Golden Pothos plant. My bamboo bookshelf quickly became a cozy growing site for my favorite novels and one of my most beloved plants, the Golden Pothos plant. Since then, a beautiful love affair between my garden and my books began.

Landscaping Phase

For me, editing my novel is a lot like landscaping. We start with an initial empty plot of land. Or in this case an empty page, both brimming with the potential of possible new life.

After freshly tilling the soil, like most uncharted landscapes, your story may still be unformed and muddy, waiting to take shape and root itself from the ethereal realms of the plant world into the physical ground. This is where the magic begins.

In the novel-writing process, the brainstorming or soil tilling part of your book is where the magic begins. This phase can be challenging. But don’t give up. Get your fingers dirty! Break a nail, or two. Tilling the ground for new crops in the spring may feel challenging. The same goes for your novel during the brainstorming phase. So keep up the great work.

While breaking new creative grounds, keep in mind that your growth options are unlimited. In this stage of growth, think of your novel as a tiny seed waiting to sprout. With great love, planning, attention, and care, this seed will grow exponentially.

Sprouting Phase

In both gardening and writing, knowledge is power. A gardener studies where to get the best sunlight, and which areas of the garden are too dark to sprout or maintain life. I like to think of this phase of your novel as the market research phase.


If you’ve ever cultivated a garden, you know that before you can even think about planting new seeds, you must assess the landscape.


During this phase of the novel-writing process, it’s a good idea to research various aspects of the industry and genre. If you’re seeking to submit your novel to agents and editors, now is a good time to assess the literary landscape for potential bountiful niches and areas to shine.

Seedling/ Germination Phase

In both gardening and writing, knowledge is power. A gardener studies where to get the best sunlight, and which areas of the garden are too dark to sprout or maintain life. I like to think of this phase of your novel as the market research phase.
If you’ve ever cultivated a garden, you know that before you can even think about planting new seeds, you must assess the landscape.
During this phase of the novel-writing process, it’s a good idea to research various aspects of the industry and genre. If you’re seeking to submit your novel to agents and editors, now is a good time to assess the literary landscape for potential bountiful niches and areas to shine.

Flowering Phase/ Ripening Phase

In gardening, this initial idea stage is called germination where the embryonic roots, stems, and leaves become planted in darkness with the hopes that new life will eventually sprout. Like your garden, when you’re drafting a book, the possibilities for new growth are endless! To grasp how complex and intricate some aspect of a story will turn out to be is known as creative foresight.


Creative foresight comes in handy when landscaping any barren landscape into stunningly lush conditions. Like a purple hydrangea flower in spring, what starts small can grow to be much more elaborate than expected. The same rule applies to our plot. A single infinity stone lost to the cosmos could turn out to be the one small tool needed to save the universe from Thanos.

Some of your creative decisions will be right, and others will be tremendously awkward, demanding correction for the proper growing conditions within your story.

When the seeds of your garden are in place, you experience the zen and tranquility of effortless growth and cultivation. The same goes for the structure of your novel. Everything is in place, your plants and ideas are flourishing, and harvest is coming! Awe, the joys of gardening and novel writing.

Flowering Phase/ Ripening Phase


Like a garden, a book is never really finished. There always something else you plant. Do I hear book sequels? After a few years, the tasks that gardening and writing our novels remain the same. Our creativity evolves with every weeding, fertilizing, and shifting of our garden/novel.
When spring aka publication day finally comes, you will dance around barefoot in the grass, (or stand before an enthusiastic audience of future readers, all waiting to read your new novel). This moment will be nothing short of glorious.

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