The Kitchening: Presentation

In the midst of writing the story and the excitement of getting it out there, it can be easy to forget about the professionalism of it all. Read: how to present your work in the best light possible.

I take my example from the kitchen.  (Shall I compare thy work to a cupcake?)

Sealed for your protection...
Sealed for your protection…

People that love and care about you: No worries.  They will eat the crusty, broken bits of cake that didn’t turn out quite right. It’s fine. “You worked so hard on it, honey and it tastes good anyway.”  Right?

Maybe. (Okay, probably. I mean, it’s cake.)

However, for most publishers, new readers, and reviewers it’s a different game. They don’t know you and they may not know your work. So they have no reason to cut you any slack.  They don’t want the cupcake that was too close to the heat and got over baked. Or the one with the lopsided frosting.

They want the cake from the bakery.

Oh, you shouldn't have...
Oh, you shouldn’t have…

You stare at it.  You want to make one but you’re intimidated. You almost hate to eat it—almost. You try to find fault, but can’t.  Maybe it won’t taste as good as it looks.

Ohhhh… It’s even better.

Writing is like that. Presentation is important. Like it or not, judgments are made from the outside in. If the cupcake were a mess, you might not want to eat it.  Even if the baker tells you how much time and effort he spent on it and lists all the wonderful ingredients.

You may get a few people to bite.  To take a tentative nibble. But you don’t want that for your work in progress. You want to be sure it’s ready for the public’s viewing pleasure. So they will devour it and come back for more.

So take the time to polish and smooth the rough edges before presenting your work. Don’t think, “That’s what an editor is for.” (Believe me, you want to be remembered as the writer that didn’t need much editing. Not the one that did.)

Your reader will want light, fluffy, gorgeously decorated work.  Or in some cases, the dark, creepy, frighteningly tantalizing bits of reading pleasure.

So pick up that professional author’s cupcake—I mean, book— and marvel at how perfectly perfect it is. It’s okay to wonder if yours will ever look as good.

‘Cause if you work at it, it will.

The Kitchening: Making Patience

I’m back in my kitchen again. It’s my retreat when things go awry. Especially with my writing.

This year, it’s getting the novel done. But I’m a real believer in having multiple projects. It gives me a variety of things to work on when my main project gets me… frustrated. So I usually have at least two things to work on. Right now, it’s three. All in different stages.

The novel is well… the novel.

The short story is barely begun.

The novella is in editing. Enter freak out mode.  How do I fix the errors? Why can’t I just get it done? Finish it? Do it now! Do it yesterday. Gotta get a cover, a publisher, a drink…

I need to slow myself down, so I remember some good advice I received once: Write quickly, but edit slowly.

Patience isn’t my strongest quality, so here’s how I exercise that muscle:

I make caramel.  Salted caramel sauce, to be exact.

Making caramel is an exercise in patience because it has very few ingredients and a fairly precise crafting method. Once you get the sugar and water in the pot on the heat, you can’t do anything. You can’t stir it. You can’t fiddle with it. Nothing. Not until it turns that lovely amber color that means time to add the cream.

Then you stir like a madwoman.

But until then, you wait.

Bubbling, but not yet...
Bubbling, but not yet…  
Ahhh... there we go.
Ahhh… there we go.

Add cream too early and you lose the lovely deep rich color of the sauce. Add it too late and you get a charred, smoking, gag-inspiring mess.

With a little patience, you can craft a gorgeous silky sauce that would be a welcome accompaniment to ice cream, bread pudding, or frosting for cupcakes.

Sigh...
Sigh…

Also with a little patience, you can see the holes in your story that need filling. The places where you’ve assumed the reader knows what’s in your head. It will become clear to you what a character should be doing while he says his action-hero catch phrase. Or the words of that magical spell your heroine is casting.

If you still need help exercising patience, pour a little caramel sauce on something, anything. Even your finger. Enjoy it. Savor it.

Then get to writing.

Start Me Up

2013 entered in and found me deep in thought, glass of Prosecco in hand.

-What project to tackle next?

-Where should I focus my blog posts?

-Should I color my hair?

My Grandmother used to say, “Whatever the New Year finds you doing, is what you’ll keep on doing.” So I quickly (or not so quickly, this is the second week of January.) made some decisions.

When I looked back over my 2012 posts, my favorites were:

Voice recording: I love to read, even out loud.

Kitchening: My kitchen is where I can always find inspiration.

But I need to complete projects. Playtime’s over. So…

I’m going to chronicle my journey to finish my novel and a few other projects. Throughout the process, I’ll share my kitchen creations and maybe read a flash story now and then.

Hope you’ll join me.

And no, I still haven’t decided on the hair.

The Kitchening: Delicious Mistakes

One of the things I find difficult about writing is making progress.  I know that sounds strange because I’ve obviously finished projects.  Most of them are on my website at: edenroyce.com

However, I make progress in fits and starts.  I tend to go back to correct the mistakes I make as I’m writing instead of writing forward and worrying about mistakes later.

Several people in my writing group have expressed the same concern. Slow progress because of writing while editing. As assistant organizer of a local writer’s group, I discourage this practice, but I admit to engaging in it. Too often.

I attribute it to detesting seeing my mistakes. Being face-to-face with them. It’s like a white glove to the face and I have to answer the challenge immediately by destroying all evidence of the error. So I edit while I write. And make slow progress.

Recently, I’ve discovered being in my kitchen helps my writing. So on Thanksgiving, while my mother slept upstairs, (I don’t allow her into the kitchen while I’m baking, anyway.) I was once again baking.

The result of my efforts:

2 sweet potato pies (Which I took to my cousin’s place for Thanksgiving dinner)

2 dozen vanilla buttermilk cupcakes with Tuaca buttercream  (If you’re not familiar with Tuaca, find out about its deliciousness here.)

When baking, I’m fearless. I don’t worry about mistakes in the kitchen for three reasons:

–       I can fix the mistake

–       If I can’t, it’s probably delicious anyway

–       A mistake doesn’t mean I’m not a good cook (baker)

So when I’m spooning batter into the cupcake liners and see some of the ingredients didn’t fully combine, I scoop it into the pan anyway. (Some of the brown sugar and butter didn’t fully mix with the flour and baking powder and other ingredients.)

And so began my experiment. In two of the cupcake liners, I spooned dark swirls of brown sugar mixed with a lighter whipped honey-colored batter.  They were beautifully marbled in their individual cups.

They imploded.

Or exploded, I wasn’t looking in the oven at the time. But I did hear a noise.

Once I looked, I had to make a decision: take out the entire pan to remove the not-so-perfect cakes, at the risk of hindering the baking of the ones I knew were right.

I’ve been baking since I was a little girl. My grandmother would have said I was “knee-high to a duck”. (Yes, I’m a Southerner.) So I knew not to remove the pans. Let the ones that are imperfect finish their time in the oven and deal with the unsuccessful ones later.

So I did.

The cupcakes finished baking and I took them out of the oven to cool. As for the exploded cakes, I scraped off the caramelly sugar-butter crust on the edge of the pan and removed those two cakes.

They’re below:

Mmmmm… mistakes…

The rest of the cupcakes were gorgeous frosted. I took them to the dinner along with the requested pies. And the mistakes? Fluffy, sugar-crusted, buttery, melty goodness.  They were the first ones to disappear.

So don’t fear your mistakes. Don’t edit your writing as you go or you might sacrifice losing your vision for the whole work.  Or get stuck in an endless editing loop.

Fix it later.

Or don’t.

It might be delicious.

The Kitchening: Food as Inspiration

I’ll admit it. My creativity has been waning lately.  Possibly due to my job draining my energy.  My day job, that is.

It’s the one where my manager sends me an email on Friday approving a letter to send to a client, then follows that up with another email today complete with edits to the same letter. The letter I mailed out yesterday.

Grrrr…

Yeah, it’s that kind of party.

So my writing has slowed. I’ve tried to motivate myself by plunging into other artistic mediums. (Painting– no poetry– was the worst. I still shudder at the results from that attempt. )

None worked. Then I saw a picture of this:

Golden cupcakes: eat one and you will be forced to tell the truth…

And I knew I had to bake something.

To me, baking is scientifically creative. It is an art form that touches all of the senses. (Yes, even the sound of a mixer is pleasing to me.)

So I took to my kitchen (After two trips to the store because I forgot one thing…), churned out two white chocolate pound cakes, a pan of crunchy peanut bars, and some almond milk chocolate mousse.

Hours later, almost too exhausted to hold my glass of shiraz, I headed to the computer. While the pictures I took of the entire process downloaded, I realized that I knew the next step in my novel.

Being successful in one thing can carry over into another. My kitchening helped me move past a significant stumbling block in my writing process. Between spoonfuls of dark chocolate mousse, I wrote. And wrote.

My protagonist now has multiple hurdles to cross. There’s someone he wants to help, but there are numerous reasons he shouldn’t. His best friend has started to show his dark side. And the dead are talking to him.

Again.

It’s good to be back on the page.