Frosting as I’m going to use it here doesn’t refer to anything involving confectioner’s sugar, however it’s just as important to an author interested in presentation and consumption as it is to a baker. Frosting isn’t anything central to your story; it will never appear in an outline. Frosting refers to things like chapter titles, poignant lines, funny quips, clever innuendo, even the arrangement of scenes in some cases. With this analogy, the cake itself is your core story—the plot, the characters, the voice.
If you’re like most people, you like frosting—as an eater and a reader—but as a writer we must be careful of it. Writing a draft that’s too pretty, too perfected with its minutiae, can make it painfully difficult later to edit. You may be at risk for this problem if you often find yourself charmed with details of your own writing, because when it’s time to make necessary edits, you may unconsciously (or even consciously) warp your scenes in order to keep those sculpted sugar-flower words and colorful arrangements. “But they’re sooo sweet, sooo pretty,” you may whine to yourself, struggling to have your cake and frosting too.
Truth is, you should never make a decision about a scene based on frosting; story details cannot hold sway over the story itself when it’s time to edit. Sometimes it works out and you may find a way to keep your favorite bits in a way that doesn’t seem forced, but other times you will have to pick up your editorial knife and scrape your artistic work away completely.
Your best bet? Know when to frost a scene to prevent the painful “unfrosting” process. Here’s how: [Read more…]