Of Cookies and Hamburgers

Personal Thoughts, Thoughts on Writing, Writing Spot

I’ve been thinking a lot about cookies and hamburgers lately. Rather, the making of cookies and the cooking of hamburgers. But it’s not about the food, it’s about writing.

I recently finished the first – and very rough – draft of my latest work in progress (WIP). The next step is the editing process. Editing is as much a beast as writing, at least I think so. For the first draft, I focus on getting all the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Suffice it to say, it’s easier said than done, not because the thoughts aren’t there but because the thoughts often come too quickly for my fingers, even as a pianist. But then again, we do hear faster than we speak (Check out Messers Beebe and Masterson).

What that means is the first draft of any WIP looks more like a blob of cookie dough than a story. All the ingredients are there, they just aren’t shaped. I’m not a fan of eating most cooking dough, nor am I a fan of eating raw hamburger (an ethnic dish Wisconsinites refer to as a Cannibal Sandwich, but otherwise known as Steak Tartare). A first draft honestly looks about as appetizing. So how does a first draft find the form of a finished manuscript? The answer is the cookies.

When making cut-out cookies, a baker has to first roll out the blob of dough. It’s like that with editing. The first time a writer goes through a WIP, it’s the ironing out of the structure and the adding of extra flour, I mean details, that may have been missed. If it were a hamburger, it’s the shaping of the ground beef into a patty.

Growing up, I was usually tasked with forming the ground beef into hamburger patties for my dad to grill. While I kneaded the meat, Mom would add the seasonings that made the hamburgers so good. I enjoyed the squishiness, but also the art of creating the perfect burger. Burgers, when they go on the grill, shrink. That means, if I didn’t get the burgers flat enough, they would almost ball up so it was like eating a chunk of meat in the middle of an over-sized bun. Still tasty, but not as professional-looking.

It’s like that with writing, too. It’s important to shape the draft so it handles the grill. This process of rolling out the dough or shaping the hamburger meat is also known as developmental editing. It’s my favorite type of editing when I work on others’ manuscripts. Mine – well, editing is still work, but the crafting of a scene to show and foretell exactly what I want to it to say is still awful fun stuff!


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