Do you remember the first time you made a cake? I doubt I remember the first time, but I have always been fond of making them. First you find a recipe, gather your ingredients, throw them in a bowl, mix them, pour it into a pan, put it into the oven, let it cool, frost it, decorate it, maybe throw some candles on it and then you finally get to eat your first bite! So lets talk about cake… I mean writing.
Picking the perfect recipe: Pick your genre, your sub-genre, your audience (maybe you are a courteous cook and don’t put peanuts in because your grannie is allergic.) What ever it is, chose carefully and remember it is better to
bake write what you know, otherwise how are you going to know if it tastes good when you are all done?
Gather your ingredients: Characters, plot, world building, setting, etc… Too many ingredients and your book is confusing. Too few and your book won’t rise. The quality of your ingredients matters. The dollar store has a great deal on grammar but perhaps you should upgrade to at least the thrifty mart.
Throw together a bunch of random ingredients and mix them together: This is your first draft. You get a chance to put all your ingredients into action. Maybe you taste test it and find it needs another character you never thought of. Either way, it is blended together, passed your initial taste test but there is more to come.
Put it in the oven: Format it so it is ready for you to edit. Run a spell check. Fix those inconsistencies that come up as a plot progresses.
Let it cool: I mean it. Set it aside. Take you mind off it. It is doing what it needs to do. It is a completed first draft. There is nothing you can do for it until you are mentally prepared to start working with it again. You are too close to it. Ever had a friend whose life was full of drama and you knew how to fix their problem, but they couldn’t because they were too close to it… yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Your cake is ready for frosting: Edit relentlessly. You need to cover every square millimeter. Grammar? Check. Character development? Check. Plot structure and pacing? Check. This is everything from word choice, to sentence structure, to complete paragraphs, rounded scenes, transitions, chapter pacing, etc… You make it as good as you possibly can.
Decorate it: I bet you thought you already did that. You would be wrong. The decorations are done by others. Get too many hands going at it at once and something may go wrong. Chose one good beta or pre-reader. Let them do their thing. Take a break. Take the kids to the park. Have a cocktail. You have done everything you can for the moment. Let your book do its thing, when it gets back to you, you move into manager mode.
You got your book back, now you get to move around sprinkles, or you redo the icing. Either way, you edit it until it is as good as you can make it.
Go back and forth between decorating it and moving around sprinkles as much as you need to until your cake is ready for the cover of a magazine.
Throw some candles on it and let it go- At some point we have to let our books go. We have to put it out there for every one to challenge everything you wrote. Just know you made the best cake you could. Hopefully you met some amazing people along the way.
Eat your cake and share it with friends 🙂 Whatever route you go, good luck and enjoy!
Coming soon: how publishing is like cleaning up after a frat party!