Monday, November 29, 2010

The Art of Writing Well

Something I've decided to learn was authentic French cooking from French recipes and what I've noticed is unlike the American versions of the very same recipes, the original French recipes are often long, involved, and take a lot of patience. For example take chocolate mousse. The American version of this recipe is made with very few ingredients and takes no more than forty-five minutes of active cooking time. The result is a nice dessert, but nothing spectacular. However, the French version is much more involved taking a little over an hour of active cooking time. You start with warm cream, then add that to eggs and sugar before heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit making something that looks like a custard. Then you slowly melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler, adding sugar and whisking. Once the chocolate is ready, you mix them all together. Now in the American version, you shortcut and add gelatin to give the mousse its texture and stick it in the freezer for an hour or two and its done. In the french, you have to whip cream until stiff peaks form (do not use cool whip, you do not need anymore sugar) than slowly whisk the cream into the mousse and chill for six hours.

The results of this intensive and slow going process is an immensely decadent dessert full of body and rich with flavor. Something that eating only a couple of teaspoons full will satisfy your sweet tooth (which is one of the many reasons french food is served in much smaller portions--its rich and filling) but it's a food that you'll crave more of.

What does this talk of food have to do with writing?

Well, I was illustrating a point. How many times have you stumbled upon a piece of writing, be it a novel or short story, that just seemed hurried and sloppily but together? You'll read it, but it doesn't leave you wanting more.

But a story that's been well crafted, every detail properly measured, descriptions that are rich and used only as needed, characters that are full of body--that leaves you wanting more. That's a story that's worthy of devouring.

The point is this, the art of writing is very much like the art of french cooking, while there may be shortcuts, they're not necessarily good for you. Sometimes you have to take the slow going long road. When you take your time and lovingly put in the effort needed for the entire process from conception to editing, the result is a tale full of body, rich and decadent, that once you get a spoonful, you'll want a whole helping.

1 comment:

Nerine Dorman said...

I totally agree! I want to cry sometimes when I see something with a promising premise that fails in execution. I know I write fast but the "cooking" time, so to speak, can take a while and then I get back to the MS with fresh eyes.