As a writing chef, are you a slow cooker or a fast fryer?

Maybe I’ve been watching too much Top Chef on TV this week, but my two obsessions in life—writing and food—have started to converge.

Because I’m on a killer deadline for A KILLER WORKOUT, I’ve been doing some stressed-out musing about my personal writing practices. And I’ve decided that as a writing “chef,” I am a slow cooker. You could even call me a crock-pot.

My forward progress through the first draft of a novel is chunky and irregular, like an ice cutter breaking its way across a packed-solid river. There’s the occasional hang-up on the ice as I stall for a few days, working and reworking difficult sections. My average forward progress rarely exceeds a page a day. Barely tugboat speed, in other words.

On the plus side, I write every day. Every day, at the same time of day: before dawn. Over the past year, I’ve missed only two days of writing—once when I was stuck in an airplane (when I fly, I can’t concentrate on anything more challenging than a Danielle Steel novel). And once when I was retching my guts into the toilet from a bout of stomach flu.

As a practitioner of this relatively stately pace, I reel in shock and awe when I read in blogs that some writers can tap out thousands of words a day. I figure those writers must be the flash fryers.

My best friend from college is a flash fryer. As a student, she redefined the time-honored, collegiate art of procrastination. She’d wait until well past midnight to start a paper that was due at eight a.m. the next morning. Finally, in a Selectric burst of typing and crumpled pages, she’d bang out her essay. And receive an A. One time she procrastinated so long on a paper about Chaka, King of the Zulus, that it endangered her graduation status. We still call it “Chaka time” when one of us is desperately behind on a deadline. (These days, my friend is an uber-successful sitcom writer. And still procrastinating, but man her shows are funny!)

I admire the flash fryers, but I am resigned to chugging along at my crock-pot writing pace. I have to go back (and back, and back) over sections, layering in changes, rethinking descriptors, building connections, to make the prose sing. Or at least, warble.

I figure that no matter what our cooking style, all writers are heading toward the same goal: to serve up sizzling prose to the reader’s table.

What about you? Are you a slow cooker, fast fryer, or something in-between?

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Comment by Kathryn Lilley on August 27, 2007 at 11:58am
Me too, Maryann! There are rare bursts of multi-page progress, but those are negated by going back, constantly, for revisions.
Comment by Maryann Mercer on August 27, 2007 at 8:23am
I'm a slow cooker, although I have been known to tear off a chapter in an hour. It depends on the word muse. I usually take time to re-read a bit before I add more, just to make sure I don't have someone in two places at once. Sometimes I think I self-edit too much to make much progress.
Comment by Kathryn Lilley on August 27, 2007 at 5:10am
That's the way I am too, Joyce! The only time I ever wrote in consistent "fry mode" was when I wrote YA mysteries under a pseudonym. Once the chapter outline was approved, I had six weeks to write a 165-page book. Now, that was "flying while frying"!

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