Saturday, October 31, 2009

It Takes the Time it Takes—Guest Post by Elspeth Antonelli

s546612892_237509_8425 A few years ago, I decided that the time had come. I would make bread. My house would be filled with that wonderful aroma and I could finally look a picture of Martha Stewart in the eye. I read the recipe. It looked to be fairly simple; wake up the yeast with some warm water and sugar and then mix it all together. Let it rise. Punch down the dough, form it into loaves and let it rise again. Bake. I assembled my ingredients. Why hadn’t I attempted this years ago? Many, many hours later I had my answer. My dough was a flat soggy mess and my kitchen looked as if a tornado had decided to come home to roost. Bread isn’t easy. The yeast can’t be rushed; it takes the time it takes. Read the instructions carefully. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Writing is the same.

Read the recipe. Write an outline. It’s up to the individual author on how detailed it is, but write one. Mine are fairly detailed; I write notes giving the main events in each chapter. I find great comfort in knowing every time I lose my way I can check my outline.

Assemble Your Ingredients. These are your characters. Your outline is going to give you a fairly good idea how many you need, but write each of them down. Start asking questions. Have you given each of them the correct name? Who knows who? I write mini-biographies for each of my main players which I find a huge help when I start putting words in their mouths.

Mix it All Together. This is when you write your first draft. It’s messy and it often doesn’t go the way you want it to. Keep plugging away and slowly that magic word count will start to look respectable. Shortcuts get you nowhere; there is no quick way to write a first draft.

Let It Rise. I like to take some time away from a project once I’ve completed the first draft. It gives me time to gain some distance so that when I return, I can look at my writing with fresh eyes. Time lets me see any huge holes in my plots or any inconsistencies in my characters’ behaviour.

Punch it Down and Let it Rise Again. The editing process (mine, not my editor’s). This may turn into a completely new draft, depending on what I see. Then there’s the notes from my editor. Edit again.

Bake. It’s gone. Nothing left but wait to enjoy (or pace and wonder what you forgot).

The biggest lesson? You can’t rush bread. You can’t rush writing. It takes the time it takes. Best of luck with your bread!

Elspeth Antonelli Twitter: @elspethwrites