I spent yesterday afternoon editing a story for the umpteenth time, and Peter pointed out how my approach to writing was not unlike my cooking.
I thought it an odd analogy, but thinking about it he could have something there.
Most authors tend to follow their own pattern.
Some put in a huge amount of prep work with detailed outlines and set procedures to be followed, which produce exact the kind of prose that they had in mind. Theirs is a method born of meticulous pre-planning.
Others are happier crashing around in the muck and bullets, researching and revising as they go along.
Neither is right or wrong, just different, though I suspect the former is a more efficient use of time. But both require a basic outline in the first instance, and in the revising/editing process these two mindsets often run along parallel lines. A word added here, a phrase altered there. Returning to the cooking metaphor this is the basting, seasoning and presentation that turn mere cooking into a taste sensation as the tweaking (editing) begins and where my editing and cooking methods meld. Taking that tried and tested formula and rejigging the flavours and nuances. I have the notion that I share that twitchy need to make ‘just one final adjustment’ with most writers – be they pre-planners or freefallers.
Of course the main advantage writing has over cooking is that when an ingredient spoils the effect it can simply be removed without the tedious process of starting from scratch.
I am one of the seat-of-the-pants variety whether that be at the keyboard or in the kitchen – starting out with a recipe (basic story) and the adding this or substituting that – either because I haven’t checked the store cupboard (research) before I started out and find I don’t have X or Y (the story I want to tell doesn’t fit the facts)
or simply because I don’t like how it tasting and experiment with a close alternative. (Kill off a character or rip it up and and start again). Of course this can all backfire in a big way, with abject disasters resigned to the bin, but mostly it works.
When on occasion the end result is exceptional it is sods law that I cannot remember what it was that I ‘changed’ in order to duplicate the result but that’s the risk factor in seat of the pants editing.
To use that well worn culinary cliche the proof is in the eating.