Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Twice-Baked Fiction

Let’s backtrack a little. I had a challenging Thanksgiving—baking. Most of the morning was spent trying to pull together/scrape together some chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. As I was pulling and scraping, it dawned on me that my cooking skills resemble my writing skills. I tend to jump right in with the grain of an idea when, really, I need to outline. In bake-talk (or in the kitchen) that means I need to organize my ingredients before I start. And I need to read the recipe several times. In writing talk, that could mean I should read the publisher’s guidelines before I start, read a copy of the magazine—or I should have a theme solidly in my head. I should know where I’m headed.

Thanksgiving morning I did read the recipe. I did line up all my ingredients. Everything I needed was within reach. Ever notice how you can read something over and over again but one phrase just doesn’t quite sink in? That’s akin to proofing our manuscripts. No matter how often we read a chapter, there are always a few typos, or something screwy we didn’t catch.

Nine times out of ten, in baking, I tend to dump everything together—then and only then does that phrase mix dry and wet ingredients separately jump out at me. Oh well. What can it hurt?
Everything was moving right along. Ingredients were mixed, dropped in muffin papers and placed in the oven. And then husband entered, and opened the microwave to reheat his coffee.

“What’s this melted butter in here?”

“Oh, crap!” Yeah, you heard/read me. That’s exactly what I said. Then I yanked open the oven door and pulled out the 24 muffins. Odd, how fast they cooked.

Now I’m the mom who taught her daughter there’s always, always a way to fix things. There are solutions. There is NOTHING that can’t be undone, rearranged, fixed, mended.

I scraped those muffin papers clean.
Added the butter. Remixed.

The muffins were no longer orange. Because the chocolate chips had melted, mixing them made them chocolate muffins—no more recognizable chocolate chips. I spooned them into clean cupcake papers and shoved them back into the oven.

“Yum,” said hubby, ever the optimist. “Twice-baked muffins.” Yeah, they were actually good.

So, do you have any twice-baked fiction? How often have we been a little light on setting, or added entirely too many adverbs? Left out the butter? How often have we had to scrape our stories out of their present state, added another layer of emotion?

I feel more comfortable at a computer than I do in the kitchen, but creating a dessert or an entire Thanksgiving Dinner isn’t at all unlike creating a novel or a short story or a poem. Each need certain ingredients for success.

Remember, there’s always a fix. Twice baked. The trash is not an option.


Carole said...

Very good analogy. I notice I throw things away way too often. You gave your daughter good advice. I should follow it more often.

David Cranmer said...

Good advice.

And the end results have me hungry. It's before breakfast as I type this.

Charles Gramlich said...

Pure genius. Or perhaps, "necessity is the mother of invention?" I've been known to bake my fiction quite a few times. SOmetimes it works. Sometimes not. Generally it works more often than not.