Bread Dough Novelist


There is something soothing to the soul when it comes to making bread. No, I’m not talking about throwing ingredients together into the bread maker and three and half hours later coming out with a brick of bread that has a weird paddle shaped hole in the bottom end that always seems to taste like yeast. I’m talking about putting the flour, yeast, salt and water together in a bowl, mixing, kneading, giving time to rise, punching down and rising again. I’m talking about taking the dough, cutting it into long strands, forming a pleasing and practical braided shape and letting it rise once more and then putting it into the oven on a pizza stone and letting the whole house smell delicious as it bakes in the steamy heat.  I’m talking about really making bread.

I used to be very scared of trying to bake with yeast. I had a disaster when I was eight or so (us foodies start early!) with hot cross buns and decided then and there that yeast baking was not for me; until this year. When I got thoroughly sick to death of reading all the preservatives and additives to what should essentially be a very basic food item.  It has taken time to learn to bake a good loaf of bread. My first attempts were a little, shall we say – flat? But now? Now when I make bread people think I have bought it at a very exclusive bakery. People ask, ‘where did you get this….? It’s so gooooood,’ and then I tell them that I baked it myself.  It’s a satisfying thing to watch people gobble down my bread, sighing with contentment as they munch away.

Just like it’s a satisfying thing to put a novel together. It starts with separate ingredients, character sketches and possible plot lines and then adding the all important yeasty question of “what if….?”  Melding it all together, giving the yeast time to work through the ingredients so that it becomes soft pliable dough.  I’ve been working on my novel since February 2009. It’s at the point in which I take the dough and shape it together for the final editorial rise before baking.  And it was as I was cutting the characters story lines apart into rolls to braid into a bread shape that I discovered that there wasn’t enough dough in one of the rolls; that two characters had plenty of drama and personal development, but one of them fell flat.

A year of baking bread every second day or so has taught me very well how to eyeball the orb of dough and cut it out into the right measurements. But seeing this is the first novel I’ve ever written, I’m guessing that such a mistake in creating equal story lengths is inevitable. So basically I have had to roll all the dough of my novel together and start all over again. 

But here is the exciting part. The new storyline that I’ve created for the weakest character is full of angst, personal growth and unexpected twists. I love the story as I write it down. It’s flowing free and fast from my mind, making the whole remixing and cutting as painless as such extra work can be.

The truth of the matter is that the  timetable I had for having a book ready to be sent out to publishers by the end of the year has to be thrown out of the window.  I may have a draft ready for some trusted friends to read by the end of February next year.  Good things take time. Good things are made from simple ingredients and feed not just the body, but the soul. And so it’s OK with me. Because in the end, I want my novel to be as beautiful as one of my loaves of bread – and just as satisfying.


  1. I love your comparison, and yes writing and baking are so similar… eventually both will work out in a manner that evens everything out for ya!

    Amazing how our lives have us returning to things that were dear to us form long ago…

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