Writing a fictional book is a lot like baking

How, you ask?

Let me explain: There is a big difference between cooking a regular meal and baking, (of course, you might say), but what I’m getting at, is that baking is a lot more technical, then other types of cooking.

Top chefs (or even amateur chefs) very rarely bother with exact measurements for ingredients when cooking, because they don’t need to. They use their gut feeling to know exactly how much of spice A and spice B is needed, which is a big joyful part of cooking. Baking on the other hand; needs to be done exactly as the recipe states, otherwise things will most likely go wrong. So very wrong.

I’m currently working on my first draft of “Al Alem – Resurrection”, and in many ways I compare it with a piece of dough. When the first draft is done, I will have exactly that; some dough, and not much more.

At that point I can only hope that the plot, characters and setting are working well enough (that I followed and respected the recipe), so I can take this piece of dough and create something even Martha Stewart would be impressed by.

The basic structure found in Aristotle’s Poetics, have set the rules for creating stories (what we today refer to as the three-act structure). It is so deeply wired in our brains at this stage, that if breaking those rules, something in our gut will feel wrong. It is often when these rules are broken, that you feel unsatisfied after watching a movie, or reading a book. It just didn’t feel right.

Writing a book is very technical deed, if the goal is to get published and appeal to the masses. Of course there is more experimental works of fiction out there, but like most established writers say: Learn the rules before you start breaking them.

When my little dough is finished, it will require a lot of baking before it becomes something edible. And just like the dough needs some time to rest, my novel will do just that. The most common recommendation is leaving it alone for about a month, before picking it up again. This makes a lot of sense, so you can read it with a set of fresh eyes, and discover the most apparent problems in the text, that you have missed during the madness of the first draft.

But this is where we leave the baking analogy behind, because a chef is most often a one-man-army, as being a writer needs the assistance of several people to create the best desert possible. Alpha & Beta readers, editors, proofreaders, line-editors and so on.

Next time I will talk a bit about my thoughts on the craft of writing and compare it with learning to play an instrument.

But now if you excuse me, I need to return to my dough. It ain’t going to bake itself is it? dough

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