Don’t you love analogies?
Here goes with one of mine: Writing is like making soup.
1 – Neither writing a novel or making a pot of soup should be rushed; the flavor has to build over time and there are no short-cuts.
2 – Some cooks should definitely follow a recipe, and some writers should stick to following guidelines, while others, once they have learned the basic skills, are talented enough to wing it.
3 – You should never ever throw every ingredient you have into soup or a novel. Choose carefully plot elements or styles in the case of writing, or ingredients in the case of soup, that will complement each other.
4 – Test – or taste – often and think about what the plot or soup needs.
5 – Be critical: have you gone awry? Have you used one element too much to the detriment of the soup or plot? Have you spiced it too abundantly or is it too bland?
6 – Plan ahead; it helps! There is nothing like starting to make a big pot of chicken noodle soup only to find you don’t have any chicken. Even worse is planning a sprawling epic novel only to find you don’t have the ingredients (the talent) and should really stick to short pithy commentary!
7 – Some things make everything better, and thus, the onions. I don’t think I’ve ever met a broth that wasn’t improved by onions, nor a story that wasn’t improved by good characterization. Both are vital.
Once it is done taste it (or read it) and see if there is anything you would change. Enjoy it, but not for too long. Start planning your next pot of soup or novel right away!