Using an Outline to Revise: How Writing is Like Baking

In thinking about topics for revision, my thoughts went to baking.  Stay with me, I promise we’ll get there.

My husband and I used to own a Bed and Breakfast in a Historic House in the Texas Hill Country, and it was so much fun!  One of my favorite things about it was that I got to try all kinds of baking without having to eat it all myself.  I baked so many new things and old favorites with the assurance of knowing that none of it would go to waste.  I was brave!  I tried new things, even a laminated dough…

That’s great, you’re thinking, but what does this have to do with writing?  A lot.  The first time I try a recipe, I stick pretty close to it.  I want to understand what the bread, pie, cake, cookie is supposed to be like.  What the texture is, what the color is, what the taste is.  After that, though, I am free to experiment.  I understand the basics of the thing, and I want to make it mine. I want to make it special.  I want to make it unique. If you are not sure what I mean about creativity in Baking, just watch a season or 2 of the Great British Bake-off. Those people are artists.  But the thing they are baking, still has to fit into the expectations of whatever it is.  A snap, a scone, a cake still has to be a snap, a scone, or a cake.

You can do the same thing with your writing.  If you are using an outline form like Save the Cat, The Heroine’s Journey, The Hero’s Journey or something else, you may decide to stick pretty close to it on the first draft, especially if you are a novice writer. But when you get ready to revise, that is when you can experiment.  Play with the textures, the tastes, the conventions, just like I do when I bake.  If you are writing a historical mystery, it can’t suddenly become a sci-fi thriller.  You still need to meet the expectations of readers and the conventions of the genre (until you become a NYT Bestseller and then all bets are off), but within those conventions, you can make the novel yours.  Make it special.  Make it unique.   Try different points of view.  Try different structures.  Try moving things around.  Experiment with voice.  Use your Outline the way I use a recipe.  It is a great starting point, but it is not a checklist, and it certainly isn’t written in stone.

Write like a Baker.

(Yes, I baked that bread and made the jam in the photo. )

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.

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