Even Grandma’s perfect sauce needs to simmer!


You have the recipe.

You have all the ingredients.

You have the skills to put together a brilliant, palatable concoction that is sure to delight the masses.

You blend, sift, stir, and shape until each ingredient mixes together perfectly and your senses are alive with what you’ve created.

Surely it can’t get any better…


Ever watched your Grandmother work over a stew or spaghetti sauce ALL DAY LONG. Jeez, it’d be sooooo much easier just to pop open a jar of Ragu. Instant dinner!

But compare the two.

Grandma’s sauce melts your taste buds. The perfect balance of tang and spice. The perfect consistency, with just enough texture to make it fulfilling. There’s a mixture of herbs and that delight and tease the senses both in aroma and the beautiful contrast of the sauce over noodles.


Ragu looks thin, limp, and bland over the noodles and the taste, well, let’s just say in a pinch it’ll do, but nothing we’d choose at a restaurant were we laying out our hard-earned cash for a promise of delight.

*Guess what?*

We could all learn a lesson from Grandma’s sauce, or rather from Grandma’s knowledge, that a masterpiece does not happen by recipe alone.

It has to simmer.

In the writing world, where we’re constantly driving one another to meet goals, write everyday, try new genres, try prompts, and workshops and critique groups… well, you get the point. In that world of write, write, write, edit, edit, edit, there’s a place to take a break as well.


As soon as you thump out THE END. Okay, so that might not be the exact time. But you’ll know it. Usually around the end of the first edit, as much as you love your baby, you need to take a break from it. You’ve written it, edited (in your own formula) and now it’s time to set it aside.

Don’t stop writing, certainly not. But set THAT manuscript aside and get back to writing. Time to do one of the numerous things we as writers do to keep the pen/keys moving.

While you play with new ideas, and go to conferences and meetings, while you crit someones work, or start a new WIP, whatever it is you find to fill the empty time, leave that manuscript alone. Two weeks – great. Three weeks – even better. Don’t let it simmer until it burns, just long enough to take a taste and see what spice needs to be added.

You’ll be amazed at what you created when you go back to it. Probably as much forehead slapping moments as sighs of satisfaction, but that’s the idea. Ever let a book sit in a folder/box for three months? It catches your eye, and you can’t resist taking a peek. You open it and start to read. Five, ten, thirty pages in, you’re either saying “wow, I forgot this was so good”, or “goodness what was I thinking”.

Same thing will apply to that manuscript you set aside. When you go back, you’ll be able to see it and all its issues/miracles with new eyes. Of course, you should leave the miracles you penned and clean up the stuff you knew better than to write in the first place.

Like Grandma’s sauce, your senses are on overload from the creation of the sauce.

Once it simmers, you can easily see what’s missing.

Okay, now I’m hungry!

Do you let your work simmer between edits?

3 Responses to Even Grandma’s perfect sauce needs to simmer!

  1. Wendy Marcus says:

    Over and over I’ve heard people say to let your manuscript sit before the final edit. But boy did I learn how important this is when I rushed to submit my entry to the Golden Heart. I’d gotten a couple of last minute critiques complete with several questions/suggestions. With the deadline fast approaching, I rushed to “perfect” my entry to appeal to the masses. A month later I took out my manuscript to send the first 25 pages to another contest, and holy cow! I couldn’t believe how everything I added slowed the all important first chapter. How could I have let this happen? I’m a better writer than that! Only I was rushing. Never again! I’m happy to say that even though I didn’t final in the Golden Heart, my entry has since gone through two more final edits, and an editor and agent have expressed interest.


  2. Yes, I let it simmer 🙂
    (and still do make my grandma pasta sauce recipe which takes 3-4 hours to simmer!)

    I do like to let my story simmer and then print it, bound it and read it like a book adding comments as if I was a reader. More feel than grammar.

    It is amazing how clear it gets. If I find places that are dragging or boring… cut!!!


  3. Yes, sometimes too long! And you’re right, sowewhere after the first round of edits I need a break because it all sucks and my brain is bogged down.

    That’s usually when I send it to my most trusted beta readers. And by the time they send it back to me, I’m ready for another go!

    Love the comparison!


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