Cautionary Tales: Too Many Cooks in Your Book Kitchen Or Somesuch (by The Harpy)

TODAY’S BREW: So much candy cane coffee, my heart will scream with minty freshness

By The Harpy

*pulls creaky chair up to the fire* *puts on best weird granny face*

Looking for a cautionary tale, are you, my sweets?

Allow the Harpy to provide.

You’re writing this book, or you wrote this book, and you did it all alonesy. People may know bits and pieces of it, you talk about it when you’re drunk, but most of the time you’re equal parts overjoyed to let people know you did it, and simultaneously horrified and even a little embarassed. You wrote it in the dark at night, and when nobody was looking while you were at work. You put it down for days or weeks at a time, and other times you’d write non stop for months. You let this book that you made up split your soul in so many ways, you now need Horcruxes to stay alive. You never thought it would be over, and then it was.

Wait, it’s over. The End.

Then the pride sets in. I finished writing a book. Someone like Julie Hutchings tells you that only 30% of people who start a book actually finish it. Well, that’s only like a third! Maybe less! I’m not a fucking mathmetician, I’m a writer! I’M A WRITER!

Yup. Yes, you are.

Now begins the journey to being an author.  Let’s make this baby go live. Step One: ASK PEOPLE TO READ YOUR BOOK AND GIVE YOU THEIR HONEST OPINION.

Wait. What? That’s a terrible idea. I made this whole thing up, you say. It’s bound to be awful. What was I thinking? I’ll just die of loneliness and illusion now.

But you get over that, and give your book to beta readers. If you’re someone named Julie Hutchings, you give your book to a lot of them over a period of time.


You’re so excited that people like it, that when they say things like “It would be cool if you did THIS!” you say yeah, I could do that! AND I COULD MAKE IT SO MUCH BETTER.

Sure, I can make my YA romance have a subtheme of aliens with great cake- baking skills. That would be UNIQUE.

Then someone else says, “And I love the pirate hooker!”

Do you?! you say. Why then, I should make an entire fleet or cackle or flock of pirates, whatever pirates come in when there’s a crap ton of them! AND MY NEW HORDE OF PIRATES WILL BE ALIEN CAKE BAKERS!

Now your mind is spinning.  Because people like what you wrote, and the stuff they REALLY like, you just know you can make more intense, even better, even stronger. So you start editing, and you like it, you truly do. These are the best alien pirate flock of cake bakers you have ever heard of.

Then, someone offers to copy edit for you. Well, sure! You want this book to be the best book ever written, and you’re so proud of how well you’re taking all this criticism and suggestion, so yeah! TAKE MY BOOK, MAKE IT PRETTY!

You get the book back, and there is more red ink on it and re-wording of sentences and comments than you can read without 3 pairs of glasses.

Okay. Okay! This is all in the interest of making a better book! So, now I’m going to take all my quirky sentences that were about a pirate hooker costume that has since become a merry band of real pirate hookers that bake cakes for this costume party, but they’re actually aliens, and I’m going to make these sentences read like…….well, like THAT guy’s books!

Oh, shit.

Well, turns out, the sentences don’t look like you thought them in your head. And they don’t quite feel that way, either. Come to think of it, you don’t even like aliens enough to watch a Will Smith movie. And the pirate was just a damn costume, now pirates are fighting vikings, and they’re making cakes and you don’t even know how to turn the oven on! THIS BOOK WAS ABOUT A CHICK IN HIGH SCHOOL THAT FALLS FOR HER GYM TEACHER BUT SHE’S TOO AWKWARD TO TAKE GYM CLASS. What have you done?!

Now you go back and take all that shit out. Maybe it’s not shit in someone else’s book, but this isn’t YOUR book. You take some advice–you make the pirate costume girl meet an alien costume guy and she falls for him as well as the gym teacher. Cool. That thickened it up a bit. You make your run-on sentences read more clearly, unless it sounds like the character to speak that way. Those ones stay. And you make a new rule: IF 3 PEOPLE MAKE THE SAME COMMENT ABOUT SOMETHING IN YOUR BOOK, THEN AND ONLY THEN WILL YOU CHANGE IT.

Phew! That feels better. Now your book is better, but it’s still your book.


Maybe some people won’t like what you did. Maybe some people want to see more of this, less of that. But YOU like it this way. You wrote this book because it was trapped inside you and wanted out. MAKE SURE THE BOOK THAT YOU WRITE THE END ON IS THE SAME BOOK THAT SCREECHED INSIDE YOU (like a Harpy) BUT IS POLISHED LIKE A FINE DIAMOND…..AND NOT QUITE THE SAME DIAMOND AS ANYONE ELSE’S.

This may or may not be a story that has something to do with a girl named Julie Hutchings. But the Harpy feels comfortable saying that though she is happy to have lots of people read her work, she only asks for one or two in particular to give her notes back. Because she’s lucky enough to have found these folks that know what she intended from the inside out, and they want it to be as spectacular as she can make it.

Also known as: Too many cooks in the kitchen fuck up a book.


2 responses to “Cautionary Tales: Too Many Cooks in Your Book Kitchen Or Somesuch (by The Harpy)

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