At Kill Zone Blog, a post by PJ Parrish: What Kind Of Writer Are You? Wild Cook Or Precise Baker?
Ooh, an extended cooking metaphor for writing! Go for it!
I love to cook. I love the whole process of finding a new recipe or riffing on an old one. I love shopping for ingredients or adlibbing and using, say, dill for chives. I love making a hot mess in the kitchen, knowing that a detour can sometimes lead to delicious surprises, …
I hate to bake. I hate the precision of it. I hate the math required to make a souffle rise. I hate having to follow exact directions with no room for error or surprise. The last time I tried to bake a cake I almost burned down the kitchen because I didn’t have any parchment paper and thought — “Wax paper! Why not?”
I laughed at that bit. Yes, that is exactly why not to put waxed paper in the oven. Actually, I’m just realizing this minute that I don’t actually know why parchment paper doesn’t catch fire in the oven. Hmm, maybe I should look that up sometime.
This metaphor may wind up working fine for writing, but actually, unlike Parrish, I like both cooking AND baking. Also, I’ve been baking for a lot of years and actually I don’t hesitate to mess around with recipes for cakes or cookies. After you’ve been baking for a while, you get to more or less know what is likely to happen if you substitute butter/margarine/oil/shortening in a cookie or cake recipe, or whatever.
I imagine Parrish is going to say that cooks are like organic writers and bakers are like outliners, but let’s see …
You can probably guess that I am devoted pantser. I never outline. I plan oh, maybe four chapters ahead and often deviate from that as the plot moves me. I don’t keep any records of word counts and have no set goals for daily or weekly output. …
Being a cook-writer does have its problems. Recently, I had to toss out two chapters because I had fallen in love with a secondary character who had led my story off the rails. But a baker-writer friend of mine recently had to start his book over because, ten chapters in, he realized that he had dutifully followed his outline into a plot cul de sac.
Well, I get to be both. Given a choice, I prefer baking to cooking. But as you all know, I’m an organic writer — generally — rather than an outliner.
I sure do set daily goals and keep track of word counts, though! That is, I don’t bother with a daily wordcount goal unless I’m having trouble moving forward with a project or I’m under a deadline. But I find the growing wordcount of a novel very motivating. Look! Two weeks ago this manuscript was a tiny baby, 10,000 words! Today it’s at 30,000, growing pinfeathers and stretching its tiny wings! A thousand words a day doesn’t seem like much forward progress, but looking at the growing wordcount makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere.
Anyway, fun idea for a post, plus with a bonus recipe. Chicken with cream and white wine. Sounds good, too; and I think I have all the ingredients. Except a lemon for lemon juice, for which I could substitute sumac, which I do have. Who knows, I might actually make this tonight.