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05 October 2016

Knowing When Your Story Is Ready | IWSG



The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there is a question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question prompt is:

"How do you know when your story is ready?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to know how I answered the question, have a read below.

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Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

I laughed out loud when I read this month’s question. Not the kind of mean spirited laugh a bully makes right before he pushes you to the ground and steals your lunch money. It was the kind of nervous laugh you make when you have no idea what the right answer is. You could hear me laughing this particular laugh often during physics exams in high school.

Remember how I enlisted a crack team of researchers from MIT to help me answer last month’s question? Well, this month, the crew at the Better Homes & Gardens test kitchen came to the rescue.

There I was, laughing nervously away to myself, when one of them walked over, patted me on the shoulder, handed me a triple chocolate brownie and said, “Now don’t you worry, honey bunch. We’ll help you answer that question. It sure is a tricky one, isn’t it.” She smoothed her apron, got down some flour from the cupboard and added, “But first, let’s bake some bread.”

Don’t you just love bread fresh out of the oven? I sighed as I thought about the smell of freshly baked bread.

“We don’t have time for daydreaming,” she said, interrupting my thoughts of warm bread slathered in butter. She handed me an apron to wear. “Here, put this on. Now, the first thing we need is to get out our cookbook and find the recipe. You do that when you write a story, don’t you? Make sure you’ve got a recipe to work from. I think you call them plots?”

“Yes, ma'am, that’s the first thing I do before I start writing. Think through my plot. Well, most of the time. Sometimes, I just dive in.”

She made a tsk tsk sound as she peered at me over her glasses. “We’re more organized than that here at the test kitchen. Why don't you make sure we have all the ingredients we need,” she said as she handed me the cookbook.

As I gathered up yeast,butter, honey and salt, I thought about the ingredients involved in writing a story such as characters, settings, conflict and dialogue.

“Okay, put those down here on the counter and let’s work some magic.” Her eyes sparkled as she mixed all of the ingredients together forming a sticky dough.

“Are we ready to put it in the oven?” I asked.

“Of course not, you silly goose. We've got to knead the dough. Kind of like when you do revisions to your manuscript, isn’t it? Making bread take effort. You can’t just slap some ingredients together and call it done. Same thing with writing. Just because you write a first draft doesn't mean your story is ready.”

I watched as she kneaded the dough, adding flour from time to time to keep it from sticking to the granite counter top. "Why don't you give it a try," she said.

"Wow, this is hard work," I said as my arms started to ache.

She made that tsk tsk sound again. "Of course it's hard work. You didn't expect to have a perfect loaf of bread without any hard work, did you? Okay, that's enough. Now, let's have a pot of tea while we let the dough rise. Just like when you're writing a story. Sometimes, you have to put it aside for while before you start working on it again."

After a lovely cup of Earl Gray tea and a few more of those triple chocolate brownies, I was ready for a nap.

I felt someone shake me by the shoulder. "No sleeping on the job here, sugar plum. Time to get back to work."

"Is it ready yet?" I asked, rubbing my eyes.

"No. Now we have to bake it and watch that dough turn into the perfect loaf of bread. Like when you edit and polish a story. It might take a while, but you'll be glad you took the time," she said as she put the loaf in the oven.

I made an excuse that I needed to use the ladies room and had a quick nap in the pantry while the bread was baking. When I got back to the kitchen I could smell the the heavenly scent of bread wafting out of the oven.

"There you are. I wondered what happened. Did you get lost finding your way back to the test kitchen?" she asked.

"Yes, that's exactly what happened," I said averting my eyes so I wouldn't be caught out for fibbing.  "I found myself in a room where there were a bunch of people making holiday wreaths from pipe cleaners and orange juice containers."

"Well, you're here now and just in time," she said as she pulled a loaf of bread out of the oven. She tapped on the golden crust. "Do you hear that hollow sound? That means it's ready."

I reached out to tear some off but she slapped my hand away. "You have to let it cool first. When you finish writing a story and you know that it's finally ready, you should take a few moments to admire your work. We're going to do the same thing with this here loaf of bread."

She got a couple of china plates out from the cupboard and set them next to a butter dish. "There, you should be proud of yourself. It takes time and patience to bake bread, but in the end it's worth it."

I'm not a very patient sort of person. I like things to be finished right away. I find it hard to take the time to make sure a story is really ready before I call it quits. How about you - when do you know that your story or other project you might be working on is ready?

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48 comments:

  1. Love this, very funny. A cup of tea solves all problems!

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  2. What a great analogy! Letting the story rest is probably hardest for me.

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  3. Love it. That's a perfect analogy--and the thing is, the bread still may or may not turn out the way you'd hoped.

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  4. Love your bread baking/writing a story analogy. I used that one, too, a while back, when referring the time and patience required to make something that is very, very good. I also love baking bread. Loved the hand slap scene!
    Happy bread baking and writing!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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    1. I used to love baking bread too. Kneading it was very therapeutic.

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  5. I loved that! I bake bread all the time, so I really enjoyed that analogy. Perfect. But now I want fresh baked bread. ;)

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    1. I know - writing this post made me very hungry for some freshly baked bread.

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  6. Hahaha great analogy! And of course, at the end, when you take the bread out of the oven, you think "maybe I should have made banana bread instead..."

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  7. I love your sense of humor! That fit so well. Even the slapping of your hand away from the hot bread.

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  8. Hmm, I think I might be in trouble. I don't have the time or the patience for baking. I do like eating the results though.... :)

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    1. I used to bake quite a bit and loved it. Especially the results :-)

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  9. That was quite clever. The truth is most of our writing is never really ready and ready before we know it at the same time.

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    1. Things are ready and yet not ready. Not sure how that happens, but it's very true.

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  10. Great analogy! Time and patience, huh? Hmmm. I've been pondering this one, and using it as an excuse to not join that group until next month, when maybe the question will be more to my liking? Oh , that's awful. Terrible. I'm such a procrastinator when I know I should do something. Maybe it's the 'should' that gives me pause? I wonder.

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    1. Come on Melissa - join up :-) It's a lot of fun! I'm counting on you to take part next month.

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  11. Well what a great analogy indeed. It's true too.

    I love your sense of humor.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  12. Well I'll tell you what, you made me hungry, so you have raw talent!

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    1. That is the problem with this post - it makes you want to eat :-)

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  13. I agree. The bread analogy is brilliant, but I always cut the ends off straight after I pull it out of the oven, slap butter on them and give one to David -- I wonder what that means?

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

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    1. When I used to bake bread, I really struggled to not cut into it before it was cool so I understand your approach to eating those ends straight away.

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  14. A great post- Now I'm hungry for bread.

    I love the idea of letting it sit, the story, not the bread. Sometimes, letting a story cool for a while is a good way of determining if it is something worth sharing.

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    1. I think I've made everyone hungry for bread with this post :-)

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  15. I think I should start estimating a ready time and then add 2 months. That seems to be how it goes.

    Here's my October IWSG post: Top 10 Ways to know if you're ready to share your writing

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    1. Things always take longer than you think they will. At least I've been finding it that way with my writing. Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  16. Now I want fresh bread. You do have to let a story cool down some before diving in, just to take in the shape of it at least.

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    1. I put one aside recently for a while. I'll be curious to see what I think of it when I look at it again.

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  17. I need to start baking bread again, I could smell it baking while reading. I could also use some extra patience.

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    1. I'm thinking I need to start baking bread again too. It tastes so much better than the store bought kind.

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  18. What a great analogy, Ellen! Wonderfully explained. I have to say, though, that I'd rather make bread than write a story after reading this. It smells and tastes better! :-)

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    1. I think it's so much easier to bake bread than write a story.

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  19. Brilliant post!
    And now I feel hungry...

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    1. I probably should have put a warning at the top suggesting people get a snack before they read this :-)

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  20. I've got so many unfinished things that I think my bread is probably burnt. :)

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  21. When it's as good as I can possibly get it.

    Great analogy and very entertaining way of putting it, Ellen! I can hardly wait to see where you end up next month. May I suggest ninjas? I think you'd do an awesome job with ninjas. :)

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    1. Challenge accepted - I'll somehow work ninjas into next month's post.

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  22. Think my cookie dough and bread mix got muddled up, but great analogy.

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