Monday, November 26, 2012

A recipe for writing

For the last few weeks I've been transcribing a bunch of recipes from an old recipe book that's been falling apart in the cupboard for years. A lot of the recipes are duplicates, like ice cream.

Pistachio ice cream, raspberry ice cream, orange ice cream, a dozen different kinds. If you look at the recipes many of them have a similar base, a ratio of sugar to milk to cream and so on that create the texture we understand as ice cream.

At the same time, each one has other ingredients that are not found in any other, creating a unique taste for each. Some of them even require other kinds of ice cream, or demand a number of different recipes in order to come up with the desired result.

In a way, writing is the same. Follow an ingredients list (characterization, plot, etc) through to the end and you will write a story. Not necessarily a good story, or a story people want to read, but a story. Follow the ingredients list in the proper proportions for your book, and you have something worth reading.

Just like building a new recipe, building a story is often a matter of trial and error, of working things through and figuring things out. Someone who wants to create a new kind of ice cream may start with a base ingredients list, but without experience the result is not likely to be too apetizing on the first try.

The major difference between creating a new recipe and creating a story is that with a story you will NEVER come up with the same result twice. Although every author has patterns (which is a topic for another blog post) the result will never be exactly the same.

But just like building a new recipe, the more experience the writer has the more likely s/he is to come up with something that others will want to read. And possibly re-read, or pass on.

Isn't that the result we want? That more people will want our particular recipe and pass it on to their friends?

Remember the 50 Followers Contest! Any of my followers can be entered. Simply comment stating that you have a book you'd like me to evaluate. I will choose one entry at the end of December for a free HalfWorld Evaluation.


  1. LOVED this analogy! Totally spot on, Lauren. And the best part, is the more we experiment and try, the better we get... I totally loved this! ;-)

    1. It's all experience. No one ever wrote the perfect novel on the first try.