Archive for February, 2007

I’m Not Nora and I Can’t Bake Either

February 14, 2007 | Writing

I live in the Midwest, Chicago area, and we’ve been hit with snow. For a lot of you, you say ‘So What? Join the shovel committee’. Well, I’m originally from Virginia and even after twenty-six years of living here I’m still adapting. As a writer, I know well the story about how Nora Roberts got started. It was winter, cold, and she was snowbound with her kids. It’s a great story and we unpublished writers use it for inspiration. I was thinking about Nora as the snow keeps falling, and falling, and falling around here. We’re not exactly housebound, but it is an opportunity to work on my novel. Edit some more, polish it and get it the frack out of this house. I figure that’s what Nora would do. However, I don’t know, and I’ll have to ask her at the next Romance Writers of America Conference, if she had access to cable while she was snowed in. I mean, if the power died and the cable went out I’d have to first find other living arrangements and then without anything else to do, I could write. However, that’s not the case, the cable is working, and Law and Order, NCIS, Law and Order Criminal Intent, and Law and Order SVU still come on. So, what I have to rely on my staying put at my desk and working is pure sheer will and a Nora saying. “I can fix a crappy page but I can’t fix a blank one.” Which brings me to the second part of my blog.

I can’t bake. I’m not talking about a box of prepared cake mix. Oh that I can do with the best of them. I’m talking about baking from scratch, like my mother use to do. At Christmas she would bake German Chocolate cakes, using real coconuts she’d crack open, use the milk and grind the meat. She’d melt chocolate. It took me until I was almost thirty to eat her cake, mainly because I didn’t like coconut. Trust me, I still don’t particularly care for coconut, but I had no problem eating it in her cakes. She also make pineapple cakes from scratch. Those I’d eat heartily, which could explain my fat cells now exploding at my advanced age. No instant, canned fruit. Yeast rolls were also made with real yeast, hot water and the smell of bread rising was yummy.

Now what does baking have to do with writing, Yasmine? Well I’ll tell you. You have to have the basic ingredients for baking. Same with writing. If you’re going to bake a cake, from scratch, you know you’re going to have to work at it. You can’t rush, you have to study what you need and purchase the items because you can’t stop in the middle of mixing and run out to get it. Some ingredients require research, it may not be available at your local grocery store. So you have to figure out where to get it. Same with a story setting. It may be local, or exotic, or another world you’ve created but you’ve got to set the scene. When you decide what type of cake you’re going to bake, you should set all your ingredients out on the counter. Your story has to have a heroine and a hero and they are your main ingredients. They’re the base of your story. Plot is the other ingredients, sugar, salt, flavorings. If you’re using a receipe, it’s been tested before you bake your version, so you can follow the written directions. We read books on how to write a romance, and when we first start out, we do it by the book. The more we write, the more we discover our voice and vary the receipe to suit our strenghts.

Say you’re baking a butter pound cake, of course you may prefer to use a bundt pan, and you may want the cake to have a tart lemon taste. Are you going to use real lemons? Take the time to slice and squeeze them or are you going to take the fast route and use lemon juice and extract? What if your family wants a chocolate pound cake? Are you going to use real chocolate, melt it and add it to your cake? What’s your objective with writing your story or baking your pound cake? To please your family, tempt an agent or publisher, or for your own enjoyment? The more you experiment with your writing and your baking you may find you have a talent for making cakes that are decadent, rich, and ‘can’t enough of it’, i.e. erotica. Or you may have a talent for baking cakes that are delicious, memorable, and made from a receipe that will be handed down from generation to generation, so your name will always be associated with it. Jane Austen, Terry McMillian, Octavia Butler, Josh Whedon.

So my conclusion is, I may be snowbound, like Nora was, and I will continue to use her as an example to keep writing. I may not be able to bake a cake from scratch, although after reading that last paragraph, I make have to try it, but I will keep creating, editing, polishing my work, and meanwhile bake cupcakes and watch Law and Order.

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