Simmering Stories

20 Sep

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve heard is, “Leave your writing in a drawer for at least a month and come back to it with fresh eyes.” I call this, simmering. Just like sauce, soup, or stew, simmering stories adds flavor, richness, and tenderness to the finished product. And like in cooking, you cannot simmer a story by watching over it constantly. Sure you need to check it now and then. Give it a stir. Taste it. Add more seasoning. Turn down the heat. But ultimately, you need to cover it and walk away.

8-cooked-lentils

 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to let a story simmer. I actually received a lovely rejection note from an agent I had submitted to THREE YEARS ago! Having that manuscript land back in my inbox was like finding a forgotten recipe. I read it over and laughed at my naiveté. I saved the story and rejection letter in a file and I walked away from it. But the story didn’t leave me. It began to simmer and bubble in the back burner of my brain. I opened the file and reread it several days later. I thought about what changes could be made to save it, make it more palatable. I took my fresh ideas to my critique group. I outlined and storyboarded. I wrote a new draft using the heart of the original story and deleting the unnecessary ingredients. I’ve got two weeks before my next critique meeting. Time enough to let this draft sit. Time enough to allow myself fresh eyes when I open it up again. It won’t be long before I take off the lid, sample another taste, and decide what spices need to be added.

Simmering uses all five senses. I encourage you to do the same in your writing. Evoke the sense of smell and taste as well as sight and sound in your readers. The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a reader’s heart is through your words. Touch your readers in their hearts.

Writing, like cooking, takes practice. You have to write a lot to get good at it. Try different styles, points of view, genres. Find what you like. Just like chefs, agents and editors have different tastes. Some like it hot; others mild. Some like complex spice pallets; others like simple flavors. So my best advice to you, is to make it the way YOU like it. Then find someone who likes it the same way you do and share it with them.

Bon appétit, or as my mother always says, “Buen provecho!”

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7 Responses to “Simmering Stories”

  1. Patricia Tilton September 21, 2016 at 11:20 AM #

    Enjoyed your post. So true, stories need to simmer on the back burner sometimes. Love the analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee September 21, 2016 at 8:14 PM #

      Thanks Pat! Some analogies are easy to make. This just happens to be one of them.

      Like

  2. Keila Dawson September 20, 2016 at 2:41 PM #

    A tasty post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee September 20, 2016 at 2:53 PM #

      Thanks Keila! Your stories are as spicy as your gumbo!

      Like

  3. Noel Taylor September 20, 2016 at 2:22 PM #

    Hi Liana, Thanks for sharing your recipe for writing. Liked your use of a cooking metaphor to highlight a secret to successful writing. Sometimes the best ideas for a stewing pot bubble up during the middle of the night, only to waft away by morning. A good preservative is a pen and pad on a bedside table to capture those fleeting ideas before they become a distant aroma in a writier’s soup bowl.

    NT

    Sent from Noel’s Ipad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee September 20, 2016 at 2:52 PM #

      Way to extend a metaphor, Noel! And you’re absolutely right. Many ideas hit in the middle of the night. I try to get up and write them down before they waft away. Then later I can come back to those little gems and see if they’re worth the day of cooking!

      Like

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