Testing Ingredients. Discarding Scenes

In addition to writing, I enjoy a variety of creative endeavors. Sewing, watercolor painting, counted cross stitch, crafting, making scrapbooks and collages are just a few.  I also like to get creative in the kitchen. I find a lot of similarities between writing and cooking and baking. Perhaps because I like to alter recipes as I cook. I call it “editing” recipes as I adapt them to my taste. Also, as I chop and pare, slice and mix, my mind is engaged on following a recipe while it is also plotting and planning my current project.

In fact, I usually spend a good portion of my weekend in the kitchen making meals for the coming week. This weekend, however, none of my recipes turned out. I tried to blend two muffin recipes to create a “harvest fruit” muffin. Dud! I think I needed more baking powder or perhaps some baking soda. And, I plain forgot to include an ingredient in one dish until it was in the oven. Too bad I couldn’t pull it out and add it (which is a wonderful revision technique for writing but doesn’t bode well with step-by-step instructions).

But, in the end, I wasn’t upset. First, not all the kitchen mishaps were inedible. Second, the time spent perfectly links with writing. Like these failed  recipes, sometimes we need to write scenes in stories, only to discard them later. It’s not that they are awful; it’s that they don’t work with the other “ingredients” in the story for the most tasty outcome.

I think this is one of the hardest things for newer writers to understand about revising. Sometimes we need to write a specific scene with a character but its purpose is to help us further develop that character. It doesn’t necessarily need to remain in the finished story. And sometimes, we need to add a scene (or ingredient) to boost suspense or keep the reader hooked. In the end, the reader doesn’t need to know all that you had to accomplish in the kitchen—or even how many attempts it took to get the “recipe” right. The reader only cares about how tasty the end result is.

So, test your ingredients and don’t be afraid to toss the “duds.” Happy writing!

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