I didn't post last Wednesday due to culinary commitments: I had my practical exam for CPC (Certified Pastry Culinarian) certification. I passed! ... and then passed out. A lot of stress and hard work leading up to that moment. This week, I'm working (Weds is my usual day off), but I figured I could squeeze a post in.
Of course, my brain still very much is on food (isn't it always?), so I'm mulling over how cooking resembles writing fiction. You start with a concept, however specific or vague: mac and cheese or a high fantasy story of an underground race. Before you begin, cooking or putting fingers to keys, you'll want to gather your ingredients. Now, some of us - both cooks and writers - fly by the seat of our pants, throwing things in as whim and inspiration strikes, but you can't work with something you don't have. For writers, let's call that research. You might be able to fake gun play (or curry powder) if you don't know what you're doing, but something will probably be not quite right.
No matter how much of a plan you have (or don't), things change as soon as you start cooking / writing. Maybe as your characters argue, you uncover something that changes your plot; maybe the peaches you're using are sweeter than intended and you need more vinegar to balance flavor. If you follow the plan blindly, you run into trouble. You have to follow what the ingredients (characters) are telling you.
And you have to add things at the right time. Don't foreshadow a plot twist, and the reader feels cheated; don't add the potatoes early enough, and they won't cook through. I suppose here's where the metaphor falls down: you can edit the story after you're done, but good luck retroactively changing how you cooked something!
If cooking is writing fiction, then baking is form poetry. It requires a delicate, precise balance of elements. And it doesn't matter how objectively "good" a potential component is: if it doesn't fit into the form, then it either all falls apart, or you end up with something that doesn't meet the definition. You still have to be able to improvise, but within narrow specifications. Think of it like tightrope walking.
Oops ... that's another metaphor entirely.