Chop Suey – How To Write a Book

I’m no cook, but I eat, and I write.

By definition, Chop Suey is a Chinese-style dish of meat stewed and fried with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and onions, and served with rice.

Chop Suey is an easy enough dish to cook, but it has to be executed in a certain way for it to turn out right.

I’ve never thought about teaching anyone how to write, especially a book, but when I’m writing a book I use Chop Suey a lot to describe the process.

First, you want to cook something (write a book) so you decide on Chop Suey.  The finished dish is your completed book, but your book can’t be complete without the ingredients.

Meat, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, onions and rice.  All individual elements which need to somehow be combined (think of chapters and stories).

When I published my first book, I didn’t know how to cook.  I still don’t, but I can write.  

All the ingredients….your ideas….are in your head.  Buy the ingredients and worry later about how they are all going to come together to make a dish (a book).

Write.  Write.  Write down everything.  All the thoughts which come in them commit them to paper, or a Word document.

At first your ingredients will be all over the place.  Think of the meat, bamboo shoots etc. all strewn about on your kitchen counter.  Somehow, all must go into a wok and be cooked.

The more you write, the more you will be able to separate out the ingredients….what goes where.  Does it make sense to put the onions in first (chapter one) and maybe the bean sprouts should go next (chapter two)?

The order you put the ingredients in is your chapter outlines.

You may need to shuffle the ingredients around at first (move around chapters) and learn along the way.  Meat has to brown, but don’t forget to add oil (a good plot) otherwise chapter one (the meat) will not brown (lead into chapter two).

Writing a book and chapters is trial by error.  You may not get your Chop Suey to taste right the first time.  You may need to revise your recipe (make revisions and edits to your book).

Before you know it, you’ll perfect the recipe and have a dish worth eating.  It may not be perfect the first time around, but that only leaves room for improvement the next time.

My first Chop Suey (first published book) was decent tasting but could have been better.  As I practiced, I became really good at making Chop Suey (writing).

In conclusion, if you have a story in your head, just start writing.  You’ll figure out where everything goes later.  Writing has no timeline, and doesn’t have to be perfect.  In the end, the taste just has to be to your liking, because you write for yourself first and foremost.

Try to make Chop Suey.  I promise you, it will turn out delicious in the end.

© Apara Mahal Sylvester 2021

1 Comment

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