The three drafts of An Argentine in my Kitchen
Updated: Apr 14, 2020
When I decided to write An Argentine in my Kitchen, a humorous love story about an Australian and an Argentine, with recipes, it was a rash undertaking. I'd never written a novel before. Neither had I written a travel memoir, which was the format I wanted for the book. An extra challenge was that I wanted the narrative to contain interesting facts about Buenos Aires and Argentina.
Why did I want to write this story? You can find the answer here.
I don't know why I assumed that writing a fictional travel memoir would be straightforward. But I did. I thought it was simply a matter of sitting down and writing a whole lot of humorous anecdotes.
But . . . as many fiction writers know, and I didn't, it can be a long, long journey from ‘book idea’ to ‘book.' And fiction is quite different to non-fiction - my area of expertise.
I did know that I had to learn about fiction writing. So I scoured the Internet, joined writing groups, attended writing courses, and wrote short stories. Three prerequisites became obvious. First, just as with any sort of writing, I needed a story. Second, I needed a protagonist with a character arc. Third . . . hmm, I can’t remember exactly, but it was probably something like ‘imagination.’
I wrote. And wrote and wrote. But even after all the courses and research, it was not as easy as I'd expected. The first draft became a series of Argentine facts, narrated by an ingenuous Australian. It was like a textbook without headings. Rewriting was mandatory.
No es soplar y hacer botellas.
Literally: It isn’t simply that you blow, and a bottle forms.
Meaning: You have to work at it.
In the second draft there was a character arc, which pleased my editor. But the internal conflict of the main protagonist was resolved with slapstick comedy. I’d wanted ‘humorous,’ but slapstick was one step too far, even for me. I got to work again.
The third rewrite took a long time. I filled out the characters more. I added more detail and context. And I used many sheets of graph paper to make sure the characters were in the right place at the right time, and that the character arc unfolded satisfactorily. The final piece of graph paper was huge - lots of arrows, pen and pencil marks, and lots of highlighting.
AT LAST I had a manuscript that was more like a novel than a newsletter. Even so, an editorial review proved it still ‘needed work.’ I cut and changed scenes, phrases, words, tenses, logic, well . . . almost everything.
Cortar por lo sano.
Literally: Cut where it’s healthy.
Meaning: Cut out part of the healthy tissue to make sure you have removed all the unhealthy tissue.
And then, all of a sudden, it was finished. And then it was published.
*Amazon imposes limits on those who can write reviews, and one of these is a minimum annual spend on Amazon. They've done this to minimise fake reviews.