Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let It Stew

If you’re anything like me, a fresh idea for a story has the power to sweep you away. I’m all for spontaneous bursts of creativity and I lean toward being more of a pantser than a plotter, but it’s worth it to give a new novel idea time. In the same way a stew grows more flavorful as hours pass, a novel that’s been given time to marinate leaves a lasting taste with readers.

Five Reasons Why it’s Important to Let Your New Idea Stew:

Test your charactersJust as some foods don’t improve the quality of their taste over time, you may find after a month or two of plotting, certain characters aren’t strong enough or exceptional enough to survive in one of your novels. Or you might even decide if they’re grating on you after only one month, if it’s worth it to keep with them through the long publication process.

Measure the plotWhen you cook you pay attention to what you add to a recipe. A plot needs time to develop. This is not to say you need to wait to begin writing until the entire plot is organized. Wonderful new twists have come to me as I’m working on a novel. But, it’s essential to evaluate before you type the first word if you have enough conflict and a compelling idea.

Sift out clichésI took copious notes on two novels I grew increasingly ecstatic about. That is until I reexamined the story lines and saw them for what they were—cliché. I scratched both ideas. The publishing industry is slow moving. Concepts must be unique to make it.

Spice and flavor develops over timeThere are particular nuances when allotted the time to simmer create a beautiful and unexpected blend. In stews and in novels.

One ingredient can’t compare to the deliciousness of an assembled stewTake rice for example, rice by itself is well, it’s okay. But rice in a meaty stew adds to the texture and the flavor. All the ingredients matter in a stew. Time creates that mouth-watering goodness. You might think of a power character, but have you provided him or her with a knock-out story to engage readers?

The next time a novel bubbles and you’re chomping at your gums (I play) to get to it, I say let it stew.

Can you think of other benefits of letting novel ideas stew?

*photos from Flickr


Beth K. Vogt said...

Letting a story stew gives me time to let someone else come along and "taste" what I've concocted. Then that person can suggest that I add a "pinch of this" or a "dash of that" to improve my story!

Casey said...

Good thoughts today as I am working on my next story. Understanding the characters would be a big one for me...but I think you already mentioned that one. :)

Gia Cooper said...

Right now I am in the process of going back and adding 'spice' to a novel that my agent has had for a while. A few publishers have asked for it, and because of that, I've had to take a closer look at it. It is amazing how looking at it after all this time has renewed a passion for the story and characters. I am finding it so easy to find little niches where I can add detail, dialogue, and...romance. The story is becoming something so much more beautiful than it was before. It makes me smile.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Good post, Wendy! I've been stewing on my next story idea for a while now, and I love how new ingredients bubble to the surface. I think it may be time for me to take it off the stove, though, and serve it up.

Keli Gwyn said...

When I first began writing, I threw anything and everything into the pot, working with only the barest hint of a recipe. The results were unappealing, and that's an understatement.

I'm stewing on my next story right now, working through the steps you listed, Wendy, because I desire to produce a pleasing product.

Angie Dicken said...

Great post. I have found that when I let it sit and "stew", God takes the time to give me His words, not my own. Whether it be a message from a great sermon, or a conflict in my life that fits in with my characters, I can always trust that God will fill the "stewing" phase with sweet-smelling aromas!

Pepper said...

Oh Wendy!
A kindred Spirit FOR SURE!!
When my stewing story is not too big a distraction from my wip, I love to allow it time to develop and grow. Savoring a well stewed story - as your fingers spill the words onto the page, is a delicacy to be sure.
Just like you said, Wendy, one ingredient does not a novel make. The blending of character, plot, imagination, and storytelling simmer up a tasty and satisfying suprise.
Oh - I love stew! Both kinds. :-)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Beth, You're not kidding. Another eye on my work gives it that edge to improve. Great point.

Casey, Oh, the favorite. Absolute favorite!

Gia, So true, trusted hands in the pot can bring the full flavor out of a good stew.

Sarah, I'm hungry. My bowl is ready for it.

Keli, I cannot wait to savor your pleasing product. If your books are anything like your personality than I am in!

Angie, God always makes everything smell better. And taste better.

Pepper, A little Yoda slipped out of you. That's okay, we can throw him in the stew too. ;) That's not nice.

Hey new followers, welcome!

It's been a blast to dine with you all. Thanks for all those who shot this one out in twitterville.

Goes to show people love a delicious meal (and book)!

~ Wendy

Pepper said...

He IS my favorite Star Wars character - apart from Han Solo (of course)

Angie Dicken said...

Just wanted to let you know that your post totally showed me a hole in my current wip! Thankfully it wasn't a deal breaker...since I have already written almost 40,000 words!! But I haven't written on it in a couple of days and then read your post!

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Thanks, Wendy
The aroma of refined WIPs :)

Patti Lacy said...

I asked Carol of "THE" Carol awards during ACFW time together if she saw an issue with modern writing and she mentioned this exact stewing. Percolating. Letting things simmer.

Everything's so fast-paced, and sometimes stories suffer.
Great post!