When you think about brewing beer it seems pretty daunting doesn’t it? Writing is the same, at least it is to me. As someone who doesn’t often enjoy beer it seems odd to compare something I love with something I don’t. But, recently I got to help my dad home-brew some beer. Looking back at the pictures I took I started really thinking about that experience and how it compared to writing.
In an over simplified explanation all you need for brewing beer is a way to keep the supplies clean, a hella big pot to boil the wort (not to be confused with a wart), a large container to ferment the brew, a recipe, and time.
The most important tool for a brewer, especially someone new to the craft, is a recipe. Without that there is no foundation but how do I build my recipe? I want a dark, robust flavor with hints of chocolate, and I want the percent of alcohol to be enough that it’s felt but not too much that it’s all you feel. Knowing that means I then need to figure out my components and how they play together. Then I can move to the tools that move them from point A to point B.
The tools for writing are the same. Ideas need to be kept fresh and motivated, there needs to be a hella big world to contain the story, characters to bring it to life (they can have warts), an outline, and time. Lots of time.
So if beer is a book, how do I craft what I want? I need a recipe. I want a dark, robust story with hints of action and enough romance that it’s felt but not that it’s all you feel. I need characters who will grow and compliment each other. I need motivation that will drive them from one place to the next.
The recipe will give the time line of the story. Add character tension here. Toss in a dash more romance here. The world building maybe needs to be more subtle. Remove the extra character who’s not adding any flavor.
Test a recipe by sampling similar works. Just like you figure out what beers you like by tasting different ones, books are the same. “I love Fantasy, so I want to write a Fantasy.” Be careful to keep in mind how similar or different or exact yours is; otherwise you might just be writing fan-fiction when you intended to write your own world. The dialogue has to change at this point to, “I love Fantasy but I wish it had more romance or adventure or goblins or coffee shops, so I will write a Fantasy world with that in it.”
The experience of brewing beer made me think about the experience of writing. I’m a person who works well with structure and the brewing process made me realize that what I was frustrated by in my writing was the lack of an outline. I had all these scenes and characters and fragments of a world but no way to put them together. At least no way that gave me the feeling of “Yes, this is how I make sure this train stays on its track.”
I hope that sharing this experience with you maybe gives you a new way to look at your writing. If you have any outline or general writing tips share them! I’d love to know what you think.