Guest: Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party

WOW, what an honor I have to introduce you today to our next wondeful and talented Guest, Diana.  I trust you will enjoy her post as much as I do ♥

It’s a delight to be over here on Esme’s blog, and I’m going with the cooking theme. But since I can’t cook, this will be a half-baked analogy.

If you’re having a group of important people (like potential readers) over for dinner, it’s a good idea to have a handle on what you’re cooking up. Reading recipes and browsing images on the internet is a great first step, but it probably makes sense to check out the recipe yourself before you serve it to others.

Well, writing is the same way. Authors can collect amazing information online, and to be honest, there’s often no way around it, but trying things out ourselves provides invaluable inside knowledge that we can’t always get in other ways. I’d argue that the dish of details from first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing, and it’s the tasty meal that we want to serve up to our readers.

Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, calls these experience-collecting excursions “Artist’s Dates.” Basically, you make a weekly date with yourself to expand your horizons, culinary or otherwise. I’ve taken the advice to heart on several occasions:

Three books of the Dragon Soul Saga take place on old sailing ships, and sailing around the lake on a sunfish as a kid didn’t cut it. So, I packed up my husband and dragged him off for a tall ship sailing adventure. While the rest of the passengers were drinking rum and listening to pirate stories, I was stalking the crew with my notepad like a nerd, asking strange questions that no one had ever asked, such as “What’s that knot called?” “How did they cook hot meals?” “Where did they go poop?” On a more exciting note, we did get to shoot the cannons!

If you’ve read my books, you’ll find lots of swords and staffs. My characters are frequently whacking someone or defending against getting whacked. A friend of mine suggested a sword-fighting lesson and, of course, I was all for it. If you’ve never worn a sword tucked in your belt for a day, you might not realize how much it bangs into furniture, people, pets, and ankles, or how impossible it is to sit in a normal chair. Yeesh.

The sword-fighting lessons taught me how quickly I would be dead. Partly because I couldn’t stop laughing and wincing, but also because this stuff takes skill and lots and lots of practice. No character picks up a sword and is suddenly able to defend themselves. Fortunately, I did walk away with my life and some understanding of sword-fighting strategies, even if I learned them in slow motion.

Another time, I borrowed a real spear with a wicked blade on one end and marched out to the front yard to swing the thing around, jab at the air, and look totally cool in my imagination. Fortunately, I live in the woods and only my dogs were home. Needless to say, they were unimpressed. Anyway, as I’m practicing my moves, I whip the staff around and the metal spear-head flies off the end, bullets through the air, and impales a fence post. The thing quivered, just like in the movies. The lesson of this particular adventure is to make sure that as you collect experience of this nature, no one is around, including pets.

I have others, but we’ll leave it at that. Never a dull moment. And whether it comes to cooking, writing, or living… Happy Collecting.


Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s Coastal Mountains with her husband, two dogs, and Pinky the Cat.

Diana’s Links:
Myths of the Mirror Blog
Amazon Author’s Page
Twitter: @dwallacepeach

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204 thoughts on “Guest: Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party

  1. Oh Esme thank you so much for sharing Diana. I got a real giggle from your post Diana but also an insight and some inspiration. I do like the Artist’s day reference. An ex colleague of mine ( loosely colleague) writes crime fiction with social justice themes set in South East Asia. I have been to a few of her writer’s talks. She talks about “inviting” her characters over for coffee. They sit and “chat.”

    I am really interested in your story about be late to writing and am looking forward to exploring your blog.


    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh my goodness, I could imagine you sword fighting in your garden, Diana. Just as well you live in the woods, as I’m sure I’d get arrested if I was seen with a sword in my hand in my garden. But, you’re so right in what you say about doing the research when writing. Too many times we rush into writing something which somebody then points out is not all correct. That’s why I allow my writing to marinade overnight or a few days before I press the ‘publish’ button. However, the gremlins can sometimes still get in. Grr!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks, Esme for having Diana as a guest. This was an interesting and entertaining post, Diana. I could picture you walking around with your pad and pencil on the tall ship asking questions of the crew. I could also picture the head coming off the spear and sticking in the fence post. This was great. I’ve written about pistols in a couple stories but never shot one. My dad had a gun collection and went into their backyard in the woods to see if my mother could hit a target. She was a novice sure-shot hitting the bullseye several times. He was surprised, to say the least. 😀 — Suzanne

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Suzanne, Thanks for dropping by and I would love to hear some of your stories you wrote about pistols. Seems like I have a seriously dangers set of bloggers here, some do spears, others pistols, what will be next? Let me know if you would be interested in sharing a Guest Post with us. This can be very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The story of your mom shooting made me laugh, Suzanne. Funny how beginner’s luck works. It’s actually really hard to shoot a pistol accurately. The movies make it look easy and it’s not. Thanks for the visit and I’m glad you got a laugh from my research! Have a wonderful weekend! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is something I’ve always wondered about. I had assumed that writers needed to do a LOT of research, but the hands-on stuff is really cool … give or take the potential accidental spearing of nearby animals 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  5. LOL! OMG, I can so picture you out in the yard swinging a spear around, and the dogs on the sideline watching you and wonder what the hell their crazy human is doing. And the spear head let loose? At least it only hit a fencepost instead of a window or something. Great points about research, though. It sure helps to make the characters’ experiences real. (P.S.: I’d love to take some swordfighting lessons 😀 ) Great post, Diana!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Diana, only you could weave sword-fighting, canon shooting into a cooking blog post!! 😀😀 I’m beginning to think I should write fantasy…you’re having so much fun! I’m glad the dogs were safe whilst you were practising with the spear … after almost decapitating my PE teacher with the javelin after it flew out of my hands backwards I was never allowed near one again! Seriously, all your research must work wonders as your writing crackles with authenticity, action and imagination. A great guest post and neat sidestepping of the recipe and actual cooking tasks!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Esme, I would be honoured to cook something up – it would probably involve a recipe as well. I am appearing on a couple of guest posts this month, so would sometime in March work for you? Thank you so much for asking me. It was wonderful to read Diana’s contribution today. Wishing you a lovely weekend. 😀🌻

        Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks again, Annika. I started writing fantasy because I thought I could get away with minimal research. How wrong I was! I think all writing requires hands-on experience to a degree… as it’s the details that bring the words to life. And it doesn’t have to be as out-there as fighting with spears! Ha ha. I’m glad neither of us impaled anyone. 😀 I can’t wait to see what you’re cooking up for a next book!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. ….Where DO they go poop?? Also, I’m lucky I have a big backyard.. I won’t be playing with spears, but I do like my throwing knives! I just have to make sure all of my wildlife is out of the way and I usually end up back there with a metal detector trying to find them! Lol!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Diana the swashbuckler. I am impressed! And your writing is a delicious recipe no mater what you whip up. I have seen The Artist’s Way referenced so much lately. Do you think I am supposed to read it? Nice to see you on The Recipe Hunter today!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing”—Yes, I agree, and I love the idea of “Artist’s Dates.” That’s what I will call it from now on when I go research something first hand. And then I’ll think of you wielding a sword. 😄

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Diana, I love the way you use cooking for a dinner party as an analogy to writing a book to serve your readers. Great idea!
    It is all a great read but I particularly like this:
    ” I’d argue that the dish of details from first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing, and it’s the tasty meal that we want to serve up to our readers. “.

    Can’t wait to come to the dinner party.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by to read, Miriam. I love reading a story, even fiction, where the author seems to have the inside scoop and writes with such authority. Fantasy makes that a little more difficult, but finding ways to add authentic details is worth the effort. Happy Weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. What a fun way to do research! I’ve dragged my husband on a few trips too, all in the name of research. He still reminds me of an old hotel we stayed at that was supposed to be loaded with antiquated charm but turned out to be a bit dumpy. Okay, more than a bit.

    I also whacked around swords many moons ago when I was writing epic fantasy (epee, fencing foil and broadsword) and felt rather cool, but had no clue what I was doing, LOL. This was a fun post, Diana, and brought back many memories.

    Sounds like you have a lot of fun with your research!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Pingback: Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party | Myths of the Mirror

  13. Pingback: Writing a book is like planning a dinner party – The Militant Negro™

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