Like much of the world, I am hooked on The Great British Bake Off. It’s a refreshingly civil competition, and one that champions creativity, consistency, and dedication to the craft.
With each episode I watch, I spot and more more parallels between the writing/publishing process and baking. Grab a crumpet and a spot of tea, and let’s compare:
1.) Waiting is the hardest part.
At some point in each episode, the contestants do, in fact, have to wait for their creations bake. Some wring their hands on their aprons. Others pace around the famed tent. In one episode, a contestant looked at the camera and said, “I hate the waiting. I absolutely hate it.”
If you take a look at my recent Tweets, you’ll see how much I sympathize with this statement. Querying is a waiting game. No amount of refreshing your inbox will make agents respond any faster, just as no amount of staring into the oven will make that plaited loaf rise any sooner than it’s ready.
2.) The judges are allowed to be particular.
It’s sometimes hard to watch Paul and Mary (GBBO’s pair of judges) point out flaws in a contestant’s creation. They nit pick each bite and are almost ruthless in that regard.
Still, it’s important to realize that they’re allowed to be picky. They know the craft and understand just how a croissant should flake, whether the dough was kneaded correctly, or whether the flavors “work” or not.
Agents are the same way. They know the trends and what can sell. They know what succeeds in a sample and what doesn’t. Often they have to reject work that is perfectly fine, because perfectly fine isn’t good enough.
Agents are looking for nothing short of a showstopper.
3.) Writing needs a good bake throughout.
By episode 3 or so, viewers of GBBO pick on the judges’ jargon. One phrase that crops up again and again is a “good bake”, meaning the contestants’ creations must be evenly and thoroughly cooked in order to impress.
Agents, too, need a good bake throughout. You can’t have a piece of writing look crispy and golden on the outside (strong query, good sample) and have it sink towards the middle or be raw at the bottom.
Plot, setting, and characters are the ingredients of writing. Not only must they blend together, but the execution must be flawless as well. Taking the extra time to “prove” your creation with line edits or re-writes will help ensure a good bake throughout. Agents will be hooked by your query and treated to a work that is consistently excellent.
They’ll be stuffing their pockets with your pages and asking for more.