When I first starting rolling the idea for this post around in my mind, I thought I’d be talking about writing from the point of view of plot, story arc, character development and so on. Which kind of made me want to hit the snooze alarm. Maybe another day I’ll feel inspired to write on those things. Today? Not so much.
Instead, I thought I’d serve up a slice of what writing is like using figurative language. Let me list the ingredients, and I think you’ll see where I’m going with this. And be sure to let me know how your pie turns out if you try the recipe!
1 part constructive criticism (initially, seems to make tart, but will improve flavor over time)
1 part rejection
1 part rewriting (to taste)
1 part compare-self-to-others (note: this makes the pie bitter; when in doubt, leave it out)
1 part elation
1 part butt-in-chair (add more as needed)
As noted above, initially, this seems to make your pie tart. However, so long as the criticism is of high quality and/or from a reputable supplier, you will find that you cannot get decent pie without it. I suggest going to suppliers that you know have experience and will deliver the criticism in its undiluted form. Diluted criticism may look pretty in a bottle, but will not improve your pie.
My pies would not be tasty if it weren’t for this key ingredient. It is costly, no doubt. Sometimes you might feel that you literally cannot bear what it costs you. However, when the rejection comes from suppliers such as agents and editors, it is usually seasoned with advice. This is what will make your pies robust in flavor. As with the first ingredient, you may at first find yourself staring at the rejection and thinking that you do not need the advice contained therein. That your pie was doing just fine without it, thank you very much. If this happens, I suggest you set the rejection (and advice) upon a pantry shelf for anywhere from an hour to a month. You will probably find it of value and palatable after some time has passed. I can’t imagine making a pie without it, myself.
Do I really need to say why your pie needs this? All pies need this. There have been times I thought maybe I’d created a pie that didn’t need this ingredient. However, a week or two later, it became apparent that this wasn’t the case. If you doubt the need for this ingredient, set your pie in the freezer for two weeks. When you thaw it, you will probably be able to see the need for this ingredient very clearly.
It’s so hard to resist. I hear you saying, “But I’m just tossing in a little bit of this. A teensy-weensy nothing of a toss.” To which I reply, “Well, then, your pie can probably get by without it.” You see, this ingredient, whilst attractive in packaging, will turn your pie bitter. And all the sugar in the world won’t fix it. My suggestion: if you absolutely cannot resist, you need to find Others who write about their Struggles and Failures. This form of comparison can actually be helpful in some pies.
For goodness’ sake, take time to savor your milestones. Elation is an essential ingredient. Perhaps yours is found in a sentence of delectable proportion. Perhaps you will come across it as you write “The End.” Maybe you’ll find some nestled inside a fan e-mail. Wherever you find it, gather it and treasure it. With occasional sprinkles, it will take your pie-making from the realms of drudgery into the realms divine.
There will be days when you are sure you can’t make a pie at all. That you were never meant to make pies. That everyone else on the planet makes better pies than you do. You might think you need to go to the grocery store before you can even think about pie. (Or the nail salon, gym, movies, you name it.) But here’s the thing: if you use this ingredient, even when you don’t feel like it, over time your pie will get made. And your pie-making will improve. Nearly every problem pie-makers encounter can be fixed with the addition of Butt-in-Chair. So don’t use it sparingly–use it frequently, regularly, and generously.
There you have it. My recipe for Fiction Pie.
I’d love to hear what ingredients you have found beneficial. (For alternate recipes, try here)