Hearing other writers talk about the craft is supremely interesting to me, mostly because I feel like I’m so bad at it.
Okay, maybe not bad, but when talking about my writing process, I usually clam up. And when pressed, I end up using post-game interview type of description, except rather than a basketball player saying “It just bounced in,” about a game-winning shot, my genius assessment of my writing is typically, “I just wrote it.”
So, when I hear things like the fantastic analogy Hank Phillippi Ryan shared during a speech at the Kansas City Public Library, I white-knuckle it until it becomes mine to share, too.
Hank, while giving a really excellent speech on her writing career, process and the industry in general, mentioned a bit of explanation for mystery and thriller writing that she gleaned from Lee Child, he of the Jack Reacher empire.
And it happened to be about beginnings, as how they relate to endings.
Basically, the analogy was this: Whether you are a pantser or a plotter, the first half of the novel is akin to filling the fridge with all sorts of ingredients. Then, for the second half of the novel, you make dinner.
You take all those ingredients—the red herrings, the coincidences, the unexplained bits, the evidence—and bring them together until they have combined into such a delicious concoction, it is a full and satisfying experience.
As a longtime food writer, I absolutely love this analogy.
I love going to the farmers’ market and our co-op, buying the prettiest and freshest ingredients, and working to make the best meal I can out of the sum of what I’ve purchased.
But what I love even more is looking at everything I’ve set up for myself during the first half of any of my manuscripts—the relationships, seeming non sequiturs, clues (big and small)—and piecing them together until every little ingredient has been used.
What’s your favorite ingredient to add to your fridge at the beginning of a project?