Years ago I had a career change from commerce to cooking.
My first job was in a restaurant called The Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow. Quite quickly I determined their menu was too big, too many choices, and too many ingredients piled onto the plate, smothering and confusing the flavour of the primary fare, be it salmon, duck, or venison. I thought, too often they killed the golden goose, so to speak.
So I opened my own restaurant, and with the help of a fine chef, constructed menus that were short and fresh, and we pared down the ingredients so they enhanced, and never overwhelmed the primary flavour.
Now I’ve discovered that writing is a bit like cooking. Too many ingredients can spoil the plot.
With the help of my mentor, Alia Bloom, I’m now identifying the essential ingredients of Zhu Mao for the process of enhancing those that taste good, and discarding what detracts from the essential flavour of the book.
One of the most difficult aspects of running a restaurant is consistency. If you set a high standard at the outset your customers expect it to be maintained. If not, they may go elsewhere, and never return. So too with writing.
Alia has shown me that Zhu Mao starts out well, but doesn’t deliver on the promise. The reader may put the book down by page 50 and never return. I’ve done it myself with many a book. The challenge before us is to carry the momentum from start to finish. Over-cooked descriptions, under-done characters, or cold dialogue, and readers may never return.
Matching wine with food is a requisite of fine dining. It’s the waiter’s job to advise the customer which variety suits what dish. Merlot and fish don’t match, and Riesling doesn’t compliment the taste of venison. A writer being matched with a mentor is as important, and I’m confident Alia and I are complimentary, like Bluff oysters and Fino Sherry, I think.
Seasoned publishing professional Alia Bloom is currently mentoring Mark Sweet in Te Papa Tupu.