Bake Me a Novel: Homemade Bread and the Writing Process

Breads from istockphoto.comIt’s not unusual to find me in the kitchen baking something or other. There I was again yesterday, preparing to make bread while I considered what to write about for my next blog.

Bread baking is a weekly ritual in my house, and I often use the time to think about my next writing project. As I was taking ingredients off the shelf and deciding which to use this week and which to save, I realized, as I did a few years ago, how many similarities there are in creating a delicious loaf of bread and a fabulous story.

Let’s face it, we bloggers have to take ideas wherever we can get them, right? Luckily the similarities are real, so here they are. As a side note, if you’re interested in my bread recipe, you’ll find it right here, in the blog where this idea first came into being. I’ll warn you by the time I’m done with my bread, it only vaguely resembles this basic version. Read on to see why.

  • Yeast: A loaf of bread begins with yeast, and a novel or story begin with an  idea.  All must be fresh.  All must be powerful enough that the bread (story) will expand into a pleasing finished story. Without good quality yeast, you inevitably have a flop on your hands.
  • Ingredients:  Every loaf of bread or novel require a vast variety of ingredients so that each project is sufficiently different from the last one to be fascinating as well as filling.  Ingredients must be be good quality and fresh, and the more organic and sustaining they are, the better the bread or novel.
  • Recipe:  While deviation from a set recipe is always encouraged to make bread (or novels) interesting, knowing a basic recipe and practicing basics first, are sure-fire techniques to becoming an excellent breadmaker or writer.  You can’t wing the creative process until you know what elements ought to be included and what instructions really need to be followed.
  • Patience: Mixing, kneading, rising, etc. take time, and rushing them results in a loaf of bread which isn’t pleasing to look at or to eat.  Creating a story page by page takes energy, commitment and endless amounts of patience.  If you’ve measured ingredients incorrectly, overheated the dough, or committed any number of errors, you have to toss out what you’ve done and start again.  In the writing world we call this revising, cutting and editing.
  • Baking: Finding the right temperature, the right place in the oven, the right pans, all make a difference for a great loaf of bread, just as finding the right setting, the right amount of suspense or romance (heat), the right genre or category for your novel, will make a huge difference in your success.
  • Eating:  Homemade bread straight out of the oven is as hard to resist as a wonderfully told story.  Hopefully the reader will come to the second with the same amount of enthusiasm and anticipation as the lucky recipient of a loaf of warm whole wheat chock full of sunflower seeds and dried apricots.

Neither baking bread nor writing a novel are for sissies, but both end products are worth the effort.

Bon appetit and happy reading.

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