How to Cook Dinner and Start a Book–T. K. Thorne

 

Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        new places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

 

 

My husband recently had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff.  He is the chef in the house; I, the consumer. In fact, I’m not normally even allowed in the kitchen (a survival thing, so I don’t burn down the house or poison him). But he would be out of action for a while, so I . . . panicked.

My anxiety centered not around the actual cooking, but  coming up with something to fix for dinner for several weeks. I think that can correlate to worrying about writing a book. The task seems enormous, requiring a large amount of creative energy.  Where do you start?  How do you make all those decisions?  I needed a plan for at least a week with a list of ingredients and grocery shopping (which husband has been doing since 2020).

I freaked out and employed my best strategy, finely honed over the years—Procrastination.

People who would like to write a book, but are overwhelmed with the idea sometimes ask me  —“Where/how do you start?”

My honest reply is “with the first word.”  

I have started a book based on an image, a phrase that popped into my mind, a vague sense of who my character is, a statement from a character, or a random idea. Sometimes, I know where I want to end up, especially if it is already a story, like the biblical tales that loosely formed the basis for Noah’s Wife or Angels at the Gate (Lot’s wife). With the nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice (about the 1963 16th Street Church bombing case), I knew I would end up with the trials and convictions of the Ku Klux Klan members who planted the bomb.  

It is very handy to know where you will end up (like having meals in mind when grocery shopping.) But even if I do, I have no idea how to get there. I need to create and feel out the characters, make sure they are interesting enough to intrigue me and make me want to live with them for the many months or years we will be working together. I say working together, because it is a partnership. Once a character is conceived, it’s my job to figure out what to throw at her and her job to react as appropriate to who she is.

I’m sure many other authors feel this way, as if their characters are alive in some intangible but real way. At some point, I daydream as far ahead as I can and work toward that, but sometimes everything comes to a halt and I don’t have a clue what’s next.  

At that point, I pull out my well-honed strategy and go clean the kitchen, read a book, or talk to a friend.  Eventually, my character subtilely tickles my fancy, politely knocks on the door of my mind, or hits me over the head with an idea and I a back to it.

The End

Postscript: My fears were ill-founded. Husband knew what was in the freezer and what he wanted, so he just ordered dinner menu and then stood over me, “guiding” every step.  Piece of cake. 

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

4 replies
  1. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    I love this, T.K. Not your poor husband's torn rotator cuff or that you can't cook (join the club) but that you correlate everything into writing. You described it beautifully. I am in the process of writing a 90K third book and I have a first scene and a messy outline that who knows if I'll be able to read. Good luck in the upcoming months. Who knows, maybe you're husband will fall in love with your cooking! xo

    Reply

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