Monday, March 16, 2015

Baking Up a Story

Bread from my kitchen
(C) Liberty Speidel
I love baking.

In fact, I even note that in my author bio for my books and blog appearances.

Ever since I got married, I have been experimenting with baking. Most of the time, I follow a recipe, and it comes out perfect or nearly so. Sometimes I'll rush it, realizing I just didn't have enough time before an appointment to be baking. Or I'll put bread up to rise, and forget it's there, take the kids or dog for a walk, then when I get back, it's risen so much, the dough is practically falling onto the counter.

But about 18 months ago, I was forced to go gluten free. Not my family, just me.

It kind of took away the love of baking for me. Especially since no matter what I did, every bread I tried to bake with this new, wheatless flour turned into a dense brick that didn't even really look like bread. Or taste like it. And if I made regular bread, I wasn't allowed to have it so I couldn't tell if I'd done something wrong so I could fix it next time.

Luckily for me, I had a friend who was already walking the gluten-free road, and knew a thing or two, and she was able to come alongside me and tell me what I was doing wrong. Well, that, and getting a really good gluten-free cookbook helped too.

Once I started learning the science behind gluten-free baking, I started loving it again. My bread actually was edible! And I preferred it over the sandpaper claiming to be gluten-free bread at my grocery store.

When we start out as writers, we tend to follow a formula--something we know or believe will work. We practice it over and over again, until we think we've got it right. We throw in some yeast, er, tension and everything comes out right...or so we think.

Someone tastes our story, and there's too much sugar. Or not enough salt. Back to the drawing board. We start to question whether we've been baking up our story as well as we originally thought. It can be really discouraging.

Until you have a friend who is further down the writing path come alongside you and show you where you went wrong. Tweak the salt here, take out some sugar. Add more yeast. Throw in an egg (or two!) for richness.

The more advice you take from your friend, the better you're able to see the error of your ways. You go back to them time and again, refining the recipe for your story until you finally have it as close to perfect as you both can get it.

And finally, it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Following a recipe for writing a novel is wonderful--we have to know a few things about story structure to obtain the best results--but having that extra pair of eyes to help improve the recipe is what every story needs.

Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence , Retaliation, and the forthcoming Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at
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  1. Sooooo... Can you share your bread recipe here? I live in a gluten-free household and need a good one.

  2. Such a great analogy, bread baking to writing! My family and I have gone gluten-free and what a difference in our energy and concentration. Yes, it is so important in our writing and in life to be open to changes. :)

  3. @ James, I personally recommend the recipe for multi-grain sandwich bread in the America's Test Kitchen "How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook" (link: It's soft, tender, and as close to real bread as I've found in the gluten-free arena.

    @ Sara, thanks!

  4. Liberty, looks like it's a small (gluten-free) world out there! I, too, was forced to go GF about nine years ago and boy, oh boy, has that market exploded. But it's always better to do it yourself and I, too, enjoy baking up a good loaf of GF bread. I love your comparison to writing, as well. So true. Thanks for a yummy post :-)