Making a good story is a lot like making a good soup. You have to have the right ingredients to get things started. However, when it comes to mixing it together, everyone has a different approach. You may be the type to measure every pinch of salt or throw it all in the mix until it tastes right. Some can even do it on instinct, the magical grandma’s recipe. Whatever the approach, the food must get in the bowl.
This is first drafting—the process of mixing the words together in your story pot. Get your spoons and bowls ready, it’s going to be tasty. After all, it is your masterpiece*… Once it cools down a bit.
*I have heard many times that writing a first draft should be terrible. This is partially true. The sentence structure, grammar, and rules of writing are thrown out the window when writing a first draft. However, there is a certain beauty and magic to filling the canvas of your manuscript with words. It has to be a mess before you can organize it.
1. Aromatics: World Building
Aromatics are the bold flavors that set the basis of the entire soup. The need time to release their nuances to the mix. For writing, this is where we define our genre or setting. What is the atmosphere of the piece? Where are they? What are some of the natural or supernatural laws of the world?
I must admit, this section I harbor in my mind and not write out on paper. A lot of writers prefer to have these listed before they begin. It helps create the scenes in our plot and flavors the entire piece.
2. Meat & Veggies: Characters
This is my favorite part of the soup and first draft. I spend at least a few hours in character development to get a grasp of those involved in the story. I start with my meaty protagonist and antagonist, then work through the added vegetable characters that could potentially become a great benefit to the story. I have a tool called a One Hour Character Sheet that works wonders.
I recommend spending time to warm up the raw characters. From what I’ve heard of those who write from the seat of their pants, aka pantsers, the characters often drive the story.
3. Liquid: Plot
If you’re a pantser, you may not take too much time here and just add water. However, I would suggest getting a basic 3-point story broth—beginning, middle, and end. This will give your characters a good goal in their world. Yet taking that path may depend on the flow of the story.
For plotters, this is where you spend time perfecting a unique broth. After all, it is what holds everything together. Some may go into great detail of each scene in their story. K.M. Weiland has a great guide to creating scenes on her site: Helping Writers Become Authors.
I tend to fall somewhere between a pantser and a plotter. I like to use my canned “Save the Cat” Beat Sheet and let my main character sit in that journey.
4. Let It Simmer: Writing It Out
This is all the action, all the words, all the blisters and strains from writing—the fun part. Everything is mixed and ready to start forming into that story you’ve prepared. If you’ve added the right amount of ingredients. I want you to let them do the hard work.
Your job is to get the story out on paper, to become the fire. Fill the page with words and dip your characters through the world you created. This should take you the most amount of time to type out the first draft. I have previously discussed 15 tips to write a novel in a month for NaNoWriMo. If you’re struggling with this step, you may want to check it out.
5. Finishing with Herbs: Final Thoughts
So in a normal recipe for soup, you would sprinkle on the herbs to top it off. My initial remark in linking this to writing was something about celebrating with herbs... but I digress.
You can use this time to add in any extra character arcs you want to explore further in your story. Plot holes can also be listed. I typically write these as I’m cooking through the words so it doesn’t look as fancy in the end.
Be sure to let your first draft cool down before you dig in. That’s some mighty fine story soup you got there.
I’ve included the recipe to one of my favorite soups—an easy and comforting chicken noodle soup by my aunt. What are some of your favorite soups?
2 qts. water
8 chicken bouillon cubes
6-1/2 C. wide egg noodles
2 cans (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chicken soup
3 C. cubed cooked chicken
1 C. sour cream
1 grated carrot
In a large pan, bring water and bouillon to a boil. Add noodles and carrot. Cook till noodles are tender. Heat through. Remove from heat and add sour cream. Enjoy.