Why Writing a Novel Is Like Baking A Cake

August 13, 2010 at 5:37 am (Planning, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Okay – before you jump on the attack I am going to counter this soonish by explaining why writing a novel is not like baking a cake.

There are many reasons why writing a novel is in fact like baking a cake:

1.  There are certain ingredients that must be present or it will not work. You can argue that there are eggless/flourless and everything-else-less cakes out there and some of these are very, very good. However, for the most part, leaving out critical ingredients in a cake or a novel will just get you into trouble and have your taster (reader) wondering what went wrong.

2.  The better you plan it out before beginning, the better the process goes. This is true for me, I know.When baking a cake I do a lot of pre-organisation and pull all the ingredients out and line them up on the bench. I even measure most of it out into various cups and bowls and have it all just sitting and waiting to be added. Far too many times I’ve entered the cooking process and go to the cupboard to get out the… Forgot to buy it. Now I have to go to the shop and get some more, meanwhile the oven is heating, and I forgot the shop is already shut. Plus, I know what sort of cake I’m making if I plan it out. I don’t get mid-way through and think I’d like to add some apple but then I’ll have to add more flour because the apple will make it too moist and I’ll probably add too much flour and then I’ll have to add a dash more milk. This all relates to novel writing in that I can plan out my characters, their motivations and goals out before the story so I won’t get too many surprises during the writing. I can make sure I’ve researched any vital plot points and have that research at the ready. I also know what sort of story I want it to be. So I’m not getting midway through and thinking, wouldn’t this be better if I just went back and rewrote the whole thing (though sometimes the plan fails and despite all the careful thought we do have to go back, and back again).

3.  It takes time. Okay, cake time to novel time are really not comparable but they both take time and rushing the process makes for a bad cake/novel. It takes as much time as it takes.

4.  The right tools help get the job done faster and better. In cakes this means whisks, pans, bowls and ovens that actually heat evenly and consistently. With writing this means at least a basic understanding of language and probably a word processing program of some sort that includes some basic editing assistance (such as spell check). The writer’s tool kit also includes their knowledge of the genre and plot conventions and all the other things you need to write the story.

5.  The proof is in the pudding. The taster of the cake can tell you if the cake is good. The reader of the story will tell you if the novel is good. Yes, you can pre-taste (read and evaluate yourself) but you are probably not the best judge. Like with cooking you will either be too harsh (I’m a terrible cook) or far too generous in your evaluation (its awesome and only burnt on two sides…).

There you have it. Five reasons why writing a novel is like baking a cake.

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11 Comments

  1. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    Pretty cool, Cassandra. Novels are not as fattening as cake. Ha!

  2. Agatha82 said,

    Ah bugger…I’m a crap cook, no wonder I messed up my “recipe” at the start, I just threw in stuff I thought should go in, now, I’m having to dig it out of my “cake” Okay, sorry, I just loved your cake analogy. 🙂

  3. Lynn Rush said,

    Agatha82—LOL. I’m a crap cook too! LOL. It’s dangerous to have me in the kitchen.

    This is a great post. I love the analogy.

    Happy Friday!! Write on, my friend.

  4. Lua said,

    Hehe great post Cassandra! I can definitely see all the similarities, especially with #2; I’m like you, the better I plan and outline the story, the better the process goes.

    Additional to #3, just like rushing it, keeping it in the oven for too long won’t help it either. It’s all about knowing when to say enough and take the cake our of the oven on just the right time; not too soon, not too late 🙂

  5. Carol Kilgore said,

    Very cool. I never thought about that before.

  6. AlexJ said,

    Makes sense to me! And I like cake.

  7. Hart said,

    Interesting analogy. I can tell you put a lot more prep into both cake and novel than I do. I put the stuff all on the counter, but I might decide once the batter is mixed to throw in chocolate chips on a whim… and I definitely don’t MEASURE before. I’m more an ‘eyeballer’ as to whether there is enough stuff.

    It applies to the writing though, too… I generally have character lists, some main plot points… a timeline. Not an outline though… and the DETAILS get hammered out in the rewrite.

    So I suppose it applies for me, too.

  8. Carol J. Garvin said,

    Most of my cakes are made from boxed mixes. What does that say about my novels? I guess it never pays to try and push an analogy too far. 😉

  9. Alex Willging said,

    How wonderful to read a post where two of my great loves–novels and cake–stand side by side. Now I must go in search of both. An excellent read as always, Cassandra.

  10. Maribeth said,

    Hey a few months back I wrote how writing a novel is like making chili. It’s neat to see how you comparedit to something edible as well.
    Good post.

    Maribeth:)

  11. Miss Rosemary said,

    Great (and yummy!) analogy. It makes perfect sense to me 🙂

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