Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party

I’m hanging out with Esme at The Recipe Hunter today. Stop by for a little excursion into the joys of “research.”

*** ❤ ***

It’s a delight to be over here on Esme’s blog, and I’m going with the cooking theme. But since I can’t cook, this will be a half-baked analogy.

If you’re having a group of important people (like potential readers) over for dinner, it’s a good idea to have a handle on what you’re cooking up. Reading recipes and browsing images on the internet is a great first step, but it probably makes sense to check out the recipe yourself before you serve it to others.

Well, writing is the same way. Authors can collect amazing information online, and to be honest, there’s often no way around it, but trying things out ourselves provides invaluable inside knowledge that we can’t always get in other ways. I’d argue that the dish of details from first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing, and it’s the tasty meal that we want to serve up to our readers.

Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, calls these experience-collecting excursions “Artist’s Dates.” Basically, you make a weekly date with yourself to expand your horizons, culinary or otherwise. I’ve taken the advice to heart on several occasions:

Three books of the Dragon Soul Saga take place on old sailing ships, and sailing around the lake on a sunfish as a kid didn’t cut it. So, I packed up my husband and dragged him off for a tall ship sailing adventure. While the rest of the passengers were drinking rum and listening to pirate stories,…

(Continue Reading… The Recipe Hunter)

90 thoughts on “Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party

  1. homepage says:

    Antes, vamos entender melhor como tudo acontece!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. reocochran says:

    I’m so glad you talked your husband into a tall ships voyage! I have been close to the tall ships back in 1976, which was incredible how they came in to the Bay near Sandusky, Ohio.
    I’m sure your real experience helps to write a more realistic book (or many!!) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great and funny comparison, I’d never thought of writing this way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The spear scene made me smile after I gasped. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    So much fun is your writing process. Also, living in the woods has it’s advantages.😀 Brilliant analogy, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great analogy! I think both are definitely similar and require a lot of discipline. Practice practice practice and trying stuff out. I love both so I can only agree! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. paulandruss says:

    Very enjoyable Diana

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mistermuse says:

    “But since I can’t cook, this will be a half-baked analogy.” Diana, I fear you’ve been reading so many of my puns that you may have caught the bug (not that I have anything against ladybugs), Unfortunately, I know of no cure except to quit cold turkey, or keep reading them until you become immune. Being completely unbiased, my recommendation is the latter (it comes with a funny-back guarantee).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m not sure what I could pre-prepare for my own fiction right now, but let’s just say that if the analogy was flipped, and th dinner party was like my fiction, guests would currently be missing dessert entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Greedyeats -Neha says:

    Hi!! Your writing is so flavor packed and drool worthy to read. A far cry from half baked preparations. Loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Perfect analogy, Diana! What a delicious read! 😊❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Diana, this if fabulous. You are in rare form here. Since I’m not much of a cook any more either, you have me hooked. And I’ve always liked the “dinner party” fantasy of planning what famous people from history it would be fun to get together. Although I realize that doesn’t appear to be where you’re going. I have to go read the rest. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ha ha! I had to laugh when I read you had to pack up your husband for a research mission *snicker*. Between being scared of common woodland creatures, stepping on fairies, and being dragged off on a nautical excursion, he must be a treasure! (and tired. I would think he’d be tired–or retired–by now!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • He’s a little hard to get moving, but he always has fun on my adventures. The ship was super cold, and I was glad he was there as a wind block! He’s very useful, Julie. He’s a little scared of retirement as I have all kinds of adventures planned! Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. WOW, I am so glad to see so many comments here from your followers on your own blog. This is beyond fantastic.
    Diana, I hope you do not mind, but I would like to invite one and all of your followers and ask if they would be interested to also do a Guest Post on TRH. If not permitted, please delete this comment. Thanks again for doing this most amazing post on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t plan dinner parties. That’s too stressful. I plan game nights. I wonder what that says about my writing style. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Oh my goodness, you know that I enjoyed your recipe analogy here! And don’t go selling yourself short, I am sure you cook just fine my friend. (Although the half-baked line did crack me up.) I think it’s great that you immerse yourself in the experience to write. I wouldn’t complain about hopping on a ship for “research!” 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Ocean Bream says:

    Diana, I keep telling my husband that I can’t just ‘bang out a book’ by sitting at home for months on end and not getting any experiences. He seems to think all the stories are ‘in my head’, and in a sense they are, but you HAVE to experience things too, to loosen those stories and add meat to them! I really enjoyed reading this, you’re very astute about this, and your adventurous personality shines right through. I have ordered your book ‘Myths of the Mirror’ on Amazon, and am about to start reading it during my lunch hour at work. I really didn’t know you could go sailing on a tall ship, and am definitely going to have a prowl around for sword fighting lessons. Happy collecting!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Lenora! You’ve made my day. Myths is my first book, a gentle tale that’s still so dear to my heart. Books 2-4 move onto the tall ships. And yes! Getting experience is fun and adds reality to our writing. My sword fighting lessons were one on one because I was way to silly to do anything serious, and I only had a couple lessons. But it was so interesting and insightful just to learn about some of the moves, what worked and what didn’t, as well as some of the strategies. It’s hard, but I definitely recommend it. 😀 Have a wonderful weekend and tell your husband you need to go on an adventure!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Annika Perry says:

    Popping over to read the rest…I’m smiling at how you dragged your husband off to tall ship sailing…wow! I’d have tagged along, 😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s always hesitant to go on my adventures, Annika, but enjoys them once he’s there. That sailing trip was actually freezing cold and we weren’t prepared. I dragged him up ladders to the cliff dwellings in Colorado as research for The Bone Wall. That was really fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. dgkaye says:

    Flavorful and lethal, lol. I left comment at Esme’s ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Steven Baird says:

    Great analogy, Diana. It makes sense… searching for the best, most flavorful ingredients to serve your guests.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is so interesting and helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Well that made a lot of sense, even to one who isn’t much of an entertainer. I am at heart and I can see lots of what Esme is talking about.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Delightfully delicious! 🙂 xo

    Liked by 1 person

  24. balroop2013 says:

    Of all the things, comparing book writing to cooking is absolutely bizarre but we can expect that from Diana – the writer who delves into the psyche of her characters to study their moves 🙂 Loved this piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Mae Clair says:

    Great post. I left you some comment luv on The Recipe Hunter blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Diana this is fascinating! As you know I’m reading the Rose Shield series and recently was thinking about the clear description of Whitt fighting with his ‘stick’. I wondered if you had practised or observed closely the reality of that activity as the attention to detail struck me 🙂 as first hand experience. Your world building skills are pretty darn good too!!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Well, the only book I’ve written is a poetry book but even poetry requires research if you are going to include a specific incident or action…ie, war, or if you need a specific timeline , etc. I do love the analogy and what would we do without google? Thank you for sharing this great post Diane! Have a fabulous day up there in Oregon. sounds so delightful. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Good analogy.

    I live in New York City, so although I don’t say it to my wife, I watch the world around me as we walk the streets and malls. Watching people is a great way to find new ideas for description and characters.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. liked the analogy.
    and i do agree on the trying things out first. it does give that insight on things, plus, your point of view on it might differ from whoever else you read it from.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. A great application of baking to the topic, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. It may well be me … but is there a missing link?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ack. Yes! All fixed. Thanks so much for letting me know! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it works and what a treat …. swords and staffs and spears! I’ve not handled swords and spears that much but staffs quite a bit in my teens. I’m not sure why but when I was in the Scouts in the early 70’s we used to end up doing the ‘Robin Hood – Friar Tuck’ thing and whack the hell out of each others staffs – I don’t remember anyone getting seriously hurt but knuckles certainly took a few hits! We use to ‘fight’ on and on as too scared to stop … an instinctive, adrenaline fueled thing … until exhausted! Happy days!

        Liked by 3 people

        • I’m so glad you went on to read. I have a recollection of Robin Hood/Friar Tuck “stick” fights on a log over a shallow brook. Too fun. But you’re right about the knuckles taking a beating. My problem is laughing too much during my lessons. 😀

          Liked by 2 people

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