If you know me, you know I love meringue cookies. (And if you know that, you know I’ve got my recipe for them here, so feel free to steal it.)
Making these cookies is a lot like an act of love. They take forever to mix. Forever to make. And if you deviate from the recipe, chances are they’re going to flop. (They might still taste okay, but the presentation will not be so good.)
Writing is a lot like baking, I think…not just about the words on the page, but also when it comes time to ask for critiques or beta reads. I’ve seen a few posts over the last few days from writers asking how they know things are done. (Jeffe Kennedy had a good one – go check it out.).
And maybe you don’t always know, but there are stages to it, I think.
1) The raw, runny stage. It’s rough. (A hot mess, as I call it.) You’ve got plot lines that don’t make sense, or characters who shouldn’t be there, or whatever the issue is. But it’s not ready to be seen by anyone. You know it needs to be fixed before it’s ready for public consumption and chances are, not even your bestest beta buddy is gonna get a look at this.
Also? If you’ve been working and working and working on the same thing for too long, this is a good time to maybe give it a rest. This is the “it’s my baby stage.” You’re too close to it and therefore it’s a lot harder to take critiques into account. Put it down, write something else, play WoW for a few days, whatever. Come back to it with a fresh set of eyes and a slightly thicker skin and get ready to carve it up.
2) Mixing and setting. It’s better. You get some people to check it out, but here’s the thing – be careful of what you ask for. I’ve learned the hard way that I really can’t ask people to read my stuff until the draft is complete. Sometimes I feel a little lost and I just want someone to reassure me that I’m at least on the right track…but I need to phrase it that way. A quick once over from the reader (who knows it still needs work) is different than a 10 chapter critique on something that isn’t done. I sort of liken it to cooking and you ask someone to taste the sauce. You just want a quick yes or no to tell you if it needs more salt, not a write up in the Epicurean.
If I ask someone to tear something apart before it’s ready? It has the potential to completely stop me in my tracks. All of a sudden I’m running around questioning everything I’ve got, telling myself my story is stupid and I’m a complete waste of a writer. It’s not a good place to be. Better to have at least an entire story to get a better perspective. If you need to take something apart and put it somewhere else, you know where it might go.
3) Baking – Mmm. It’s all in the oven. Its out with your betas and you’re waiting and it smells good. (Or not, if you screwed up the ingredients, but that’s a different thing.) You’re hoping it comes out great. (Always a tough thing – you want people to like it, but you also want them to tell you if it’s not working. And sometimes things are unexpected. Taking my meringues example – I made them once while visiting in Calgary and didn’t take the elevation into consideration. They flattened out in the pan. Still tasted awesome, but not what I was expecting. As opposed to the time I brain farted and added double the sugar. And they barely baked at all. I was left with a thick gooey mess that I could have used as Spackle.)
4) Ready to serve. The story is warm and fresh and you can read it with ice cream. It’s ready to be eaten. You’ve done the best you can and people get a chance to sample. Some people will love it. And some people will be like “Meh, I can do better.” And some people will turn up their noses and walk away.
Because some people don’t like meringues. And that’s okay.
More for me.