Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Writing is like a box of chocolates....

Today I’m blogging not about Forrest Gump, but about that box of chocolates he kept going on about. We’re smack dab in the holiday season, and I’m continuing my writing and goodies vent from last week (recipe to follow ;)).

You know how it goes, you look in a nice big box of chocolates, trying to scope out which one is the kind you like. You look for hints, clues to ferret out your favs. Maybe the last time you had some candy, you had a wonderful caramel one that was milk chocolate and square. So, you look for one that’s like that.

Problem is- other ones may be the same color and shape…including ones you *gasp* may not like. (I’m a See’s Candy gal myself- and except for coffee ones, have yet to find one I really disliked- but I’ve heard of this in theory.

Using your chocolate loving memory, you grab the most likely suspect, bite into it- and it’s a vanilla cream. Now you may not hate vanilla cream, maybe you even like it, but you really had set your mouth up for a nice caramel.

How do you feel about that candy? Bummed? Disappointed? Maybe even think that there’s something wrong with it?

Now the connection to writing (yes, there really is one ;)) has more to do with reading. What the agent, editor, and finally the reader perceive the story will be verses what they actually receive.

Have you ever picked up a book, checked out the back cover blurb, maybe even read the first few pages? You’re excited, you think you have an idea of what this story is going to be about, so you buy it.

Then you get it home and after page 10 it turns into a vanilla cream (nothing against them mind you ;)).

Now the book may be a well-crafted work. It’s just not matching what you expected- what you had your mouth set for.

Maybe you’ll keep reading, maybe you’ll stop and go back another day, maybe you’ll throw it across the room (depending how betrayed you feel).

Now think about agents and editors. They too use cues (all humans do- schema building is one of our big tricks ;)) to pick out what they think they’ll like. They start reading with a certain expectation of where things will go.

But when the vanilla cream jumps out at them, they most likely are going to step away from the project.

So how can we as writers make sure that we don’t confuse our readers (whether they be agents, editors, or fans)? We need to make sure that our beginnings match our middles (and of course- ends ;)).

I recently had that problem. An agent got a certain feel from the beginning of my book- it looked like something she’d like based on her perception.

The book wasn’t like that at all.

Her comments were mostly about nudging my book to meet her expectations. By this I don’t mean revise and send back. I mean, “here’s what would make it better- but I’m not interested.”

Most of the “make it betters” were changing the direction of my book. Now to be fair, I didn’t submit to this agent, and once I read some things on her, she wouldn’t have been on my list. Absolutely nothing bad about her, but she mentioned she prefers darker projects- and mine are not dark.

However, the one she asked to see starts out dark-ish. It looked like a caramel, when in fact- it was a vanilla cream.

Now this wasn’t the only reason she passed- she had some other very legitimate concerns, and like I said- she likes darker stuff- my stuff is fairly light.

But what if the situation were different? What if she had been my dream agent, someone who would have loved my stuff---only she thought it was something else. What if that difference was enough for her to pass?

Can we as writers take the chance that our perfect agent will walk because our beginning doesn’t match the rest? What can we do to make sure the "feel" of our story is consistant?


Ok, I don’t make chocolates, so can’t toss in a recipe for that- BUT I do have a very oogy gooey treat called “Sin”. (Even better- there’s no mistaking what’s in it when you look at it ;)).

One box German Chocolate Cake Mix
One stick butter (melted)
One can Evaporated Milk
50 caramels
One bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cake mix, melted butter, 1/3 cup of evaporated milk together.
Press half of this into a 9 X 13 inch pan and cook for 7 minutes.
While it’s cooking, melt the caramels and another 1/3 cup evaporated milk.

When cake comes out (will be very, very flat) sprinkle the chocolate chips over it, then pour the melted caramel on top. Take the remaining cake mix mixture and working with tiny pieces of it, lay it out over the caramel. (Flatten the pieces out, and place them out to cover all of the caramel.)

Cook for another 6-7 minutes.
Let cool- A REALLY long time. This is messy as heck to cut, so the longer you cool it the better ;)
Enjoy the recipe and don’t forget to comment about the “chocolate” issue!


  1. I love See's Candy (and am bummed it's not sold in Ohio, well, maybe it's a good thing it isn't!). But I don't like a box of mixed chocolates because I'm very particular of what I like and don't like and most of those mixed boxes contains stuff I don't like. Give me a box of molasses chips or bordeaux and I'm a happy camper!

    As for novels, I may come across one that didn't meet my expectations, but I can honestly say with one exception (and I was a teenager, so I don't think that counts) I've never not finished one (the exception being STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND - but on the second try decades later I DID finish it, so basically I've finished everything I started, it only took me awhile). Even if it turns out to be vanilla cream instead of caramel, I'll finish the book. I may not have anything good to say about it, but I'll finish it.

  2. LOL!!! Thanks for the comment Stacy- yeah, I'll never be able to leave the west because I wouldn't have See's (dare I mention you can order online? And that you can make your box what ever you want? yes- I AM evil ;)).

    I have actually had a few novels that I haven't finished sad to say- and for this very issue. I thought the plot would be going one way and the switch was so drastic that I stopped reading.