Saturday, September 18, 2010

Put It Away...for now

(Photo from

Put It Away
By Angela Townsend

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of great tips for writing.  But the best writing advice I’ve ever received came from an old Italian cook.  

One cold December day, I stopped in to see my old friend, Mike.  I never had to knock as he always expected me at the same time everyday for lunch.  The aroma of a rich pasta sauce wafting from the back room led me directly to him.  

Entering his large antique kitchen filled with beautiful Italian marble, I found him, back hunched over a turn-of-the-century cook stove.   He was vigilantly stirring a delicious pot of freshly peeled tomatoes, standing in the new leather house slippers I had bought him for Christmas.  His crooked arthritic feet always stood in the same worn spot in the tile, just in front of the range.  The exact same location his mother stood forty years before, stirring the same tried and true recipe for spaghetti sauce.  

Mike turned to me and smiled.  “I’ve been thinking about this book business of yours.”  He shook a stubby finger at me.  “You know what’s wrong with you, Angie?”  

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’m Irish instead of Italian?”   

He shook his head and frowned.  “You never take the time to let your sauce simmer; good sauce is never made quickly.  You’ve got to take the time to caress the tomatoes, to handle your onions with care.”  

Without having to ask, I knew what Mike meant.  I always rushed everything, including my writing.  

“When you’re done with your stories,” Mike said, sniffing a spoonful of luscious sauce, “give them time to simmer, put them away, savor them later.”  

This was the best writing advice I’ve ever received, and I hope you will use Mike’s suggestion too.  Put your manuscript away for a while.  Get it out of your sight and try your best not to revisit it while the story is fresh in your mind.  When you’re ready, re-read it and make any necessary changes.  Like a good Italian cook, enjoy the sauce once it’s had time to simmer, maybe even add a few fresh herbs. It will do wonders for the ‘flavor’ of your writing.

Mike is selling his family's Italian recipes in an awesome cookbook that's available for $11. 
Buy your slice of Italy.


  1. This is so true! Great story, Angie! And congratulations on your first OA post!!

    I know letting my last book rest while I worked on something new for a while gave me fresh eyes to look at it again this past week. Without that time, I wouldn't have been willing to add the spices that needed adding. Simmering was definitely the answer! Thank you!

  2. I loved this! And it is sooo true. Though, waiting is hard for me. I'm pretty impatient.

  3. Love it. Now I just have to work on my patience. :)

  4. Maybe this is what I need to do with my manuscript. Right now I'm hating everything about it. My taste buds have gone numb and I'm not sure what spices are needed.

  5. Mmmm . . . need spaghetti now!

    But great advice. Mike is a smart man. :)

  6. Great post. I've not looked at my current WIP for a few weeks now. Just opened it up today. It makes a difference.

  7. This is so true ... for both writing and making spaghetti sauce. I'm always trying to rush -- especially with the sauce!

  8. Thanks for the post, Angie. I'm in a rush to get to the end of my current draft, but then it has an awful lot of simmering to do before it's ready for consumption...

  9. So true. It's hard to wait sometimes. I just want to be DONE! ;)

    Thanks for sharing, Angela!


  10. Great advice! :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  11. Mike is selling his family's Italian recipes in an awesome cookbook that's available for $11.
    Buy your slice of Italy here:


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