Today’s guest is debut author Dana Bate. Her new book The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs is a charming, sophisticatedly funny novel that will have fans of Jennifer Weiner and foodies of all kinds begging for more–it’s Julia Child meets Emily Giffin! Released this month by Hyperion, The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs is fresh women’s fiction with a twist on the culinary love story and is receiving much critical praise from the likes of Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. Even the British (it pre-launched in the U.K.) are eating it up! It was a favored book pick by Cosmo UK and the London Daily Mail. Bon Appetit mentioned Dana’s novel as being a part of a new trend being dubbed “foodie fiction”.
We’re so pleased she’s with us today to share a fresh analogy with us. Enjoy!
Writer, Writer, How Does Your Garden Grow?
When I first started writing, I figured revising a book was like sculpting: you’d start with a huge, misshapen lump of stone, and you’d whittle away at that stone until you had the equivalent of Michelangelo’s David. The process would take time, but in the end, the ragged piece of rock you started with would be smooth and refined, with the superfluous bits cut away.
It was a lovely metaphor, but – in my case, at least – it ended up being wrong for the task at hand.
Hannah Sugarman seems to have it all. She works for an influential think tank in Washington, D.C., lives in a swanky apartment with her high-achieving boyfriend, and is poised for an academic career just like her parents. The only problem is that Hannah doesn’t want any of it. What she wants is much simpler; to cook.
When her relationship collapses, Hannah seizes the chance to do what she’s always loved and launches an underground supper club out of her new landlord’s town house. Though her delicious dishes become the talk of the town, her secret venture is highly problematic, given that it is not, technically speaking, legal. She also conveniently forgets to tell her landlord she has been using his place while he is out of town.
On top of that, Hannah faces various romantic prospects that leave her guessing and confused, parents who don’t support cooking as a career, and her own fears of taking a risk and charting her own path.
Revising, I discovered, was more like planting a garden. When you sit down to write a book, you start out with an empty plot and fill it in with all sorts of flowers and trees and shrubs – a rose bush here, a holly bush there, a butterfly bush on one side and a plum tree on the other. And when you finish, you take a look and say, “That should grow in nicely…I think.”
But as time goes on, the foliage grows, and the landscaping doesn’t always look as you’d planned. The rose bush? Clearly in the wrong place. The holly? Wrong plant for this garden and climate. And that butterfly bush? It’s basically taken over the whole garden. Much to your relief, the plum tree is thriving, so that can stay exactly where it is. But the rest of it? Oh, boy. It needs some work.
So you replant the rose bush somewhere else, rip out the holly altogether, and cut back the butterfly bush until it’s the appropriate size and scale for the garden. Then you wait a while longer to see how the new configuration works. Most things will look better; others still won’t look quite right. But you keep working at it and working at it until you have the garden of your dreams.
Assess the Whole
A book isn’t a static piece of rock that needs smoothing. Sometimes a scene – no matter how much you love it – needs to be cut. Other times you need to add a scene or two for a story to take on more depth – or you need to swap the order of two separate scenes to increase the tension. Sometimes a character needs more time to develop, both in your head and on the page.
Whatever the case, revising a book is an ongoing process, and like planting a garden, that process takes time and patience and, above all, hard work. But in the end, if you put in the time, you can end up with a beautiful, vibrant garden that looks exactly the way you envisioned – and sometimes, even better.
What is your process for revising? How many different sets of people should see your work while you revise?