Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How Do You Cook Your Stories?

I recently had a conversation on Twitter with another writer. NaNoWriMo prompted the conversation. We both had attempted NaNo in the past. (Mine was in May and not part of the official November NaNo.)

The conversation left me pondering the many ways writers prepare--or cook--their stories.

Every writer is different, just as every cook is different.  We each have our preferred methods, our secret ingredients, our own assessment of when it's cooked to perfection.

My stories must simmer, percolate and sit for a spell.  In other words, my stories are cooked in a crock pot, not a microwave.

Oh, how I'd love to crack open a couple characters, drop them into a bowl, scramble up some plot and setting and cook in less than a minute by pressing "1" on the Microwave oven's keypad. I could crank out books like McDonald's cranks out fries.

But no. I cook like Grandma.  Turn the heat on 4.  Let simmer.  Stir.  Add plot potatoes.  Stir again.  Simmer some more. Lift lid and take a whiff.  Needs pepper.  Maybe some oregano.  Back the heat down to low and turn in for the night. The next morning, stir again and serve slow-roasted-story for lunch.

Perhaps some stories need to be cooked differently? But where one measures every 1/8 teaspoon, another uses a pinch.  Where one sets the timer, another watches the oven.  Some folks disappear for hours in a steamy kitchen while others bask in nature's warmth.

Cover with frosting? Baste in a sugary glaze? Bathe it in butter? Oh my goodness, everything's better with butter!

We all want sizzling settings and satisfying stories.   Broil them, broil them, serve them in a stew!  Chill the plot like pudding until it thickens.  Dazzle your readers with distinctive description like seasoning.

But I can't serve them raw! Stories aren't fruit. They need to be prepared.

Regardless of how you cook your stories, cook them well.  Serve them hot and spicy.  Make us come back for seconds.  Fill the kitchen with the aromas only your masterpieces have.  Let us taste your mouthwatering brilliance.

You're the artist, the chef, the baker of the best books in town.


How do you cook your stories?

44 comments:

  1. I start off with chocolate. Then I add wine. Some chocolate for seasoning and then I stir in beer. I simmer with chocolate, a dash of brandy and voila...

    No words but a blank page looks pretty awesome when you're pissed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear alcohol can have that effect. :-)

      Delete
  2. I start with a microwave and end with a long bake in the oven, with plenty of chocolate and a little chili for exciting spice. Chocolate and chili go so well together....

    ReplyDelete
  3. I start from scratch, add a bit of this and a bit of that, toss it out and begin again. I mix dry ingredients here, wet ingredients there, some spices in another bowl, then mix them all together and hope they blend. Then I taste the whole mix in more of this or that, taste again, get a second opinion, add more of what it lacks, try to get rid of what it has too much of. After fiddling with it a good long wile I put it in the oven to bake and share it with the world.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have to catch the food before I can even think about cooking it. Then I kill it, cook a serving, and wrap the rest to be put in the freezer for later. They may or may not end up freezer-burned. That's why I prefer rabbits and squirrels, they ARE only one serving.

    Nice metaphor.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good question. I am a predator. Something has to catch my eye and stir my hunger. Then I stalk. Observe. I think what's the best way to eat it while I wait for the perfect moment. Claws. Fire. Struggle. They always fight back. They always try to escape but they can't. I have wings. I might fry them and eat them on the spot. I might save them for later. Sometimes I have scorched them to ashes and eat nothing. Yeah, shit happens.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I start by obtaining some random ingredients and then letting them sit for while, ageing gracefully, while I think of ways I can use them in a dish and wondering what other ingredients would go well with them. Then, once I have my ingredients and I know what dish is about to be prepared, I go ahead and make a start...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah yes, cooking to taste, I think they call that.

      Delete
  7. I'm going to have what Donna's cooking....

    I'm more of a simmer gal myself. I may have an idea tickle me and then I'll let it simmer until I can pull it from the bone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That does give time for the spices to mesh with the meal.

      Delete
  8. Great analogy, Jeff! I like it! I've done both but my stories are definitely better when they simmer for awhile. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Liesel. Simmer seems to be the method preferred by most.

      Delete
  9. Wonderful analogy! For me, it depends on the story. Some I'm ready to jump right in and start writing, and sort out all the details as I go. Some I have to think about for a long time, letting all the ideas come together in my head before putting them on paper.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Half planner and half spontaneous. Cool!

      Delete
  10. Love the post Jeff. How I cook up stories. It depends sometimes they just sneak up on me. But no matter what like you said:

    Regardless of how you cook your stories, cook them well. Serve them hot and spicy. Make us come back for seconds. Fill the kitchen with the aromas only your masterpieces have. Let us taste your mouthwatering brilliance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just love it when people agree with me. LOL

      Delete
  11. I'm really loving this analogy! I feel very much like a grandma-like cook myself. Sometimes I get impatient and put 'em in the microwave, but no, my stories are always better when they simmer. It's insane how many I have simmering in my head right now, waiting to be served!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny how grandmothers always know best in the kitchen.

      Delete
  12. I'm definitely more like Grandma's method, too. Even if I think I have a pretty good idea of the recipe going into it, I still have to take the proper time to get all the ingredients mixed just right. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember Grandma's chicken and dumplings. A well-prepared story is just that good!

      Delete
  13. It's like making lasagne for me. There is a lot involved before I ever put it together.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great analogy. I went to a class given by Ursula K. Le Guin once and she called it composting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to have had a class taught by Ursula Le Guin. Not quite sure how I'd feel about a composted meal though!

      Delete
  15. As a person who enjoys cooking, I loved this analogy! This first time out I started off in the microwave, but then everything got tough and rubbery, so I had to pull it out and start over cooking like Grandma did. Next time, I'm going to skip the microwave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Microwaves have their time and place, I think, but meals prepared by someone who loves cooking just can't be beat!

      Delete
  16. I do plot notes in the microwave, write the first draft (and bake the plot) in the oven, and season with tidbits of description and frost with enhancements as I edit and revise.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Jeff - I write down the first lines of my fabulous story idea then immediately see that it's off. So I put it in a crock pot and forget all about it. Months later I go back to it and either a) still think it's off, or b) think it's a great story idea. In the case of a) I leave it some more. Or b) I add a little spice before I decide, no I was right the first time - it's definitely off. Forget it. And so it goes on. It can take months of tasting and adding before I've a fully cooked story on my hands. I'm sooo slow - I'll never make a chef...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some things are best after they've been properly aged.

      Delete
  18. I LOVE this! So clever! I'm definitely more of a microwave writer! (A habit I'm trying to change though...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think being a microwave writer is fine, Morgan, as long as it's not followed by microwave editing. ;-)

      Delete
  19. Jeff, my stories too take the time to cook. They simmer, stay in the marinated mode, gather plenty of herbs and spices and then are decorated in a plate :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marinated, meticulously prepared and served with flair. Sounds like a fine meal to me!

      Delete
  20. My stories marinate and simmer for a long time. Great analogies here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Medeia. All this talk of cooking has me hungry for a good book!

      Delete
  21. My approach seems to be - brown furiously to start, then let it simmer for a long time as I add new ingredients and stir occasionally - then throw myself into hot water at the end - like meat sauce and spaghetti. Find out more here - http://kelworthfiles.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/how-do-you-cook-the-books/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How cool! Love the post at your blog and glad my post served as inspiration for it! Just watch out for that hot water!

      Delete
  22. Great post, Jeff. I guess my stories, like my food, are organic. I just let them grow. Later after simmering, I often have to add spice to get just the right taste.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Garden fresh, right? I remember your "gardener" post. ;-)

      Delete