Writing and Baking, Books and Pies
“Instead of studying Locke,–I go make an apple pie, or study Joy of Cooking, reading it like a rare novel.” -Sylvia Plath
I remember the first time I baked a pie from scratch. I was in high school and grabbed my mom’s cookbook and flipped to the pie section.
From crust to filling, I filled that tasty treat with love and hoped others would enjoy the flavors.
Writing a book is a lot like baking a pie.
One year ago last week, I quit my day job to pursue my dream of being a writer. I’ve learned a lot about the writing process and still have much to learn, but today, in honor of my one year anniversary, I thought I would share a few lessons I have experienced in pursuing my dream.
Other writers suggest this is by far the hardest step in the writing process. Books don’t just happen. There is a recipe in creating anything, whether it be a book, sculpture, a meal or even our daily lives.
We can’t just sit down without doing the work. Dreams don’t get fulfilled by only dreaming. We need to wake up, take action and commit to the task at hand.
If you come into my kitchen whenever I bake, you will see all the ingredients laid out on my counter, typically in the order in which I will add them to my project.
The ingredients of any book are the foundation of a story, and I use a similar system in my office using a storyboard.
It is here I outline my characters, setting, plot and various scenes. The sequence of events is folded together to support and develop the reader’s interest encouraging them to take another bite.
Creating the Crust
There is a balance to making a great pie. If there is too much flour, the crust becomes too dry and unusable. Too much butter or lard can cause a soggy, inedible crust. And by overhandling the dough, we can cause the dough to break down and crumble.
The same can apply to writing. Finding the balance in writing is key to connecting with readers.
Main characters can’t be dull or dry nor can they be sappy or too soft. By creating compelling characters, we drive the story forward, encouraging the reader to read ‘one more chapter’.
Overhandling our work in progress can cause a writer to become stuck and create great starts to several stories all at one time. To finish a book, I find the best way is by writing the first draft with no edits.
Roll out the Dough
By placing the pie dish on top of the rolled out crust, we trim the dough to the size of the plate. But don’t throw out the excess. By adding butter, sugar, and cinnamon, we can roll the trimmings into pinwheels for a tasty treat.
In writing, we take on our first round edits. It is here we cut out scenes not needed in the story. Filler words or complete dialogues that don’t affect the story one way or the other. But like the pie crust remember to set those pieces aside. You may find a sweet way to use them in future story lines.
Add the Filling
Just like the crust, the filling needs balance, but it also should combine contrasts to enhance the flavor and experience.
A writer needs to show compassion, indifference, conflict, and resolution to move the story along. By combining sweet and sour elements, each page can become more intense and bring a sense of comfort and intrigue to the reader.
Bake the Pie
Oven thermometers are one of the best items you can purchase if you are a regular baker. By knowing exactly the temperature of your oven, you will ensure your pie cooks to near perfection.
Writers can enhance a book by sending it to beta readers and a good editor.
Beta readers are like an oven thermometer. The feedback given helps the writer make adjustments before being released into the world.
Editors help fine tune and add flavor to areas that need to be enhanced.
Let It Cool
Letting a pie cool before serving is a matter of choice, but most pies have a filling that sets as it cools. When a pie goes from a heated oven to room temperature, the flavors are enhanced helping the ingredients set.
After a writer has completed their draft and received feedback from their beta readers/editor, letting the manuscript rest for a few days before tackling the edits can be beneficial.
A fresh perspective will give new insight and help tidy up the storyline.
Serve to the Public
One of the hardest things I’ve done this past year is posting my work for the public or sending beta versions of my book(s) to others.
I want people to see my heart, and to feel the love and tears that have fallen from my eyes and fingertips. But I also want their honest opinion.
Just as I served my first pie all those years ago, I anxiously wait for feedback.
- Is it good?
- Do you enjoy the flavors?
- Do you hate it?
- Does it leave a bitter flavor in your mouth?
- Does it make you want another slice?
Feedback, whether positive or negative is valuable to a writer. It is here we take notes to enhance future projects and become seasoned artists.
“The most important ingredient that goes into a pie [book] is the love that goes into making it.”
― Sarah Weeks, Pie
Pies like books come in a variety of flavors. Everyone has different tastes, and not everyone will like the flavor all writers bake, but that is okay.
In the diverse world in which we live there will be a few people who crave the flavors writers create.