I finished writing my first novel in the middle of a four-year stint as a cook for a local restaurant chain. I often miss those times, when everything complicated and stressful would be considered simple by my current standards.
I still love to cook, almost as much as I love to write, so it’s no surprise to my loved ones that I often talk about the writing process from my cooking experience. After all, just about everyone can conceptualize the creation process as starting with a plan for the meal, gathering ingredients, and preparing them to serve.
For me, outlining my novel is a lot like planning a meal when I’m at the grocery store. Whether I’m in my local supermarket or a big box store, as I go through the isles, I get ideas for what I want to prep for the week, just as I get ideas for my novels when I’m outlining. (I think of going to the grocery store on an empty stomach is a lot like pantsing my way through a novel, so I try to avoid both.)
Whether gathering my ingredients to prepare dinner for my family or sitting down to research something for an upcoming scene featuring a new piece of technology or sourcing a weapon or anything else related to my usual genres, the process is the same. I figure out what I want to do, and I make sure I prepare ahead of time.
The actual writing of a novel is basically cooking to me. Just as I might pre-heat an oven, I’ll prepare my work space before sitting down. I set my timer for each writing session (to ensure I take enough breaks throughout the day) just as I would set the time on shepherd’s pie or a home-cooked pizza.
Once a draft is finished, I take it out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool. Granted, I’m talking about cooking and writing as the same kind of process here, I don’t recommend setting your laptop or notebook on a hot stove.
Once a meal is finished cooking, I plate it, similarly to how I break my freshly drafted manuscripts into editing blocks. I plan out macro edits before micro edits, and I invite beta readers to review my pages, just as I would invite friends over to scarf down my tasty grub.
If at this point you need to run off to the kitchen for a snack, I’ll wait.
So, if editing is me serving a meal on plates, then querying would be me boxing up my manuscript for a to go order. Back in my restaurant days, mine were often the last pair of eyes to review an order before sending it out the kitchen for pick up. Accuracy then was as important to me as it is now, but nothing was ever always perfect. Mistakes happen. Sometimes we find an errant comma days after sending a query, or we’ve revised our pitches so much between rounds of feedback that we forgot an entire word after one of the copies and pastes. It happens. Sometimes we can fix it (like with Google’s unsend feature, which I keep maxed out), but sometimes the quality of the pages are sufficient for an agent to overlook a minor mistake.
And, now I’ve come around to he point of this cooking words post. I’m giving away my simple infographic recipes to help authors with their submission materials for querying. It’s confusing out there in a world of videos, blogs, and twitter advice. I hope equating submission materials to preparing food helps simplify it for authors.
Query Chili here is a simple recipe for writing an effective query pitch. Reminder, the query pitches your book but is not a mini-synopsis of your book.
Synopsis Stew here is a simple recipe for synthesizing your entire novel into 500 words for detailing the plot from start to finish. Reminder, you must give away your ending in the synopsis to demonstrate to agents that you know how to close your story.
That’s all from me this week. Be excellent!