How to Cook a Novel

| Friday, March 23, 2012
Helloooooo my darlings! I have a simply delightful blog post for you this morning. Today, my dears, we are going to cook a novel. Come! Let us cook together!

Be sure to read the ingredients and instructions carefully. Though some are optional or open to interpretation, it is still beneficial to know how to build the base before going too wild in the kitchen writing space, yes? Yes!


1 good idea, carefully cultivated
1 well-seasoned understanding of grammar
Reference books of choice (dictionary, thesaurus, Strunk and White, etc.)
8 packed spoonfuls of discipline and drive
1 pen, keyboard/keypad, or typewriter
Several reams of paper, plus extra for drafts and mistakes
Some writing education, be it formal or self-taught
Several recently published books from your genre
A quality character voice from the inside of your head
1-5 critique partners or beta readers, to taste
A smattering of blood, sweat, and tears
Extra tears for good measure


1) Put that writing education and understanding of grammar to good use. Learn all you can. Remember, rules aren't there to limit you. They're there to set a basis for communication. Once we understand how to communicate, we can understand how to "break the rules" and create the effects we aim for. In addition, read those books you selected from your genre. They will give you a sense of how novels like yours should be structured, what works, and what's currently being picked up by publishers. Reading is not only entertaining, it also teaches us new things! Oho!

2) Take your carefully-cultivated idea and decide your own best method of transferring it to the page, whether that's "pantsing" your way through a first draft, or "planning" your way through an outline.

3) Add those spoonfuls of discipline and stir. Craft a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Twenty minutes a day, two hours three times a week, eight hours on weekends, whatever works. The important thing is to get the words down. A lax writing schedule means an uncooked novel!

4) Use reference books liberally, but not carelessly. Too many fancy thesaurus words spoil the broth!

5) When you've completed a draft, have yourself a delicious drink! Now, back to work. Roll up those sleeves and dive back in. Locate the problem areas of your novel with the help of reference books, writing groups, critique partners, and beta readers. If you have the means to attend a conference or online course and receive professional critique, do so. Avoid melting into a puddle of despair when the criticism comes in. It makes a wretched mess.

6) Cry and rage if you need to. Emotion is not your enemy. Just don't do it in public or, worse, the Internet. Press on!

7) Continue to cook your novel anywhere from three months to several years' time, depending on your pace and content. As long as it takes. It's entirely possible that you will never truly feel finished, but there is a point where you must let go and allow others to taste your creation. If you've been mindful of all of the elements -- structure, plot, voice, character, dialogue, theme, etc. -- your novel's sure to be delectable.

8) Do not fret if your novel doesn't come out perfectly the first time you try this recipe. Repeated attempts will result in a better, more practiced dish. Above all, my turtledoves, remember to enjoy yourselves. Bon Appetite!


{ Miss Cole } at: March 23, 2012 at 5:33 AM said...

Hah, this is awesome!

Number 4 speaks truth. I get so irritated when a book sounds like a thesaurus threw up over it. I find multiple uses of "big" words pretentious. Use the sparingly for maximum effect.

{ Amanda Olivieri } at: March 23, 2012 at 6:42 AM said...

Love this! I have a feeling I'll be doing lots of number 6 with this draft :) Also, I cant' stop laughing at "my turtledoves" bahah.

{ Old Kitty } at: March 23, 2012 at 7:01 AM said...

May I top this all up with some chocolate icing?!?!

Take care

{ Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina } at: March 23, 2012 at 8:45 AM said...

Loved the ingredients, especially "extra tears for good measure", and all in all, good advice wrapped in a fun read.

{ Matthew MacNish } at: March 23, 2012 at 8:57 AM said...

That is quite the analogy.

{ Seabrooke } at: March 23, 2012 at 9:17 AM said...

Heehee. This is very clever, I love it. Not having seen the original shows, I kept picturing Meryl Streep reading this out to me.

I do suggest an addition to 5) though: When you've completed a draft, cover and place in a warm spot to sit for two to four weeks or until mixture appears to have changed color.

{ prerna pickett } at: March 23, 2012 at 10:35 AM said...

haha, it seems so much easier when you put it together like that.

{ Jemi Fraser } at: March 23, 2012 at 3:51 PM said...

Love it! I smiled all the way through - you've hit it exactly right! :)

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