A short, unfinished fiction about cake makers and books with ink that never dries.
About six days ago, you posted an advert online looking for clients to write a novel for. Two days later, you recieved a reply from someone who had always wanted to turn their ideas into a novel.
Your new client is an expert in making cakes. They have been making cakes for most of their lives, and have made cakes for some pretty famous people. Your client spent years following cake recipes online, but always had a niggling feeling that something wasn't quite right with the instructions.
As they gained more and more experience, they started asking themselves what would happen if they did something a little differently. So they started experimenting. Sometimes they would fail miserably and burn their cakes into little lumps of coal (which sold pretty well in winter). Other times their experiment would be a complete success.
As the decades rolled by, the good and bad experiments added up. They could see a picture of a cake and intuitively know how to cook it so that it tasted incredible, looked flawless, and could be scaled to feed hundreds of customers a day with the help of a team of employees in a cake factory.
All of the other cake factories in the area were not aware that there was a better way. They followed the same recipies day after day. They spent so much money on ingredients that often went to waste. They struggled to meet the demand for those cakes because there was never enough time. As a result, staff tended to be overstaffei, underpaid and underappreciated.
Your client cares a lot for these people. He wants to make their lives easier. He feels partly responsible for setting such a high bar for the local cake baking industry. If he could do it by 'just following recipies', then surely the employees of the other cake factories should be able to do the same thing? Or at least, that was the complaint executive cake makers in other factories made.
For a long time, he wanted to find a way to help those other factories improve their processes. He knew that it was unlikely that many of the other cake industries would encounter the same revelations he spent decades experimenting to discover. Many people were also afraid to deviate from the rules in case they got fired.
After a lot of thought, you client decided that he needed to write a novel about cake making in such a way that any who read it, would instantly be able to repeat the same steps and make incredible cakes, quickly, cheaply and in large quantities. He hoped that over time, it would encourage other people to experient with his ideas and come up with even better solutions. He loved his industry and wanted to see it and it's people thrive.
However, your client realised that he did not have the skills to write such a novel. He knew his and his factories processes like the back of his hand, but could not write. Novel writing, just like cake making is a field that takes years to master. He remembered buying a book from the library one time. The book cost $99 dollars a month. Each month, a new chapter was added with new cake making tips. He returned it once he realised he hadn't read it for a year but was still paying for the lisence.
What your client did instead, was to teach himself an impressive array of business skills. He spent hours around his work detailing exactly what the novel should include, which chapters the readers should use first. He also spent hours drafting business proposals and learning more and more about how to get investment for writing novels.
After some time, your client managed to raise some money from investors. This was it. He could finally make the novel that would revolutionise the cake making industry, potentially even on a global scale. Unfortunately, your client had a bit of bad luck hiring his first author. The novel writing wasn't turning out as expected, the author wouldn't communicate and didn't 'get' it.
So when you posted an advert mentioning that you were in between work and looking for a NaNoWrimo level position, had written bestselling books as a ghost writer for a many famous industry leaders over the years, you were very impressed by the cake maker. His ideas were not only extremely insightful, but the problems he was solving were rooted in extensive, real-world experience. Your intuition told you that this could be something big. So you decided to work for less than half your rate, knowing that this problem was worth investing your decades of novel writing experience in.
The task of writing this novel was so huge, that you knew it would be difficult to do alone. However, just like the cake maker, you had spent years experimenting with ideas that most of the industry take for granted. You also knew that there was a better way to do things, and was frustrated by the lack of novel writing courses that truly understood the craft. It was pure luck when you asked for help on a forum and the author of an industry-changing book introduced you to concepts that changed your software career for the better. Even having been exposed to these career and life-changing ideas, it still took you a few decades to 'get' these concepts.
Your options for finding people to work with then were pretty limited. Either you could find someone you could trust, who had also unlearned all of the bad practices inherit in an industry who thinks in terms of how and not why. Someone who had also experimented until they broke through their mental barriers, until the concepts that appeared simple but were anything but easy became a part of their skills repertoir. This person also had to be willing to take a significant pay cut.
Or, you could hire someone that you could train, who you could let take care of the user experience side of things. Someone who was prepared to experiment and break through the same mental barriers, hopefully in less time than it took you, with your help and guidance.
You ended up doing both. In a pure stroke of luck, a friend you had met in another country, agreed to leave their job and work with you on a problem they also belived in, despite the pay cut. You also hired a junior journalist you met on twitter, you showed the kind of 'spark' that indicated great potential, even if she doesn't see it sometimes.
However, you knew that in order for this novel endeavor to be successful, that your team had to be more than a team of three authors. The cake maker is also an essential part of the team, and so are every single one of his employees at every level in the hierarchy. This novel would not work, without every single person working closely together, every single day.
As with any novel writing project, there are always challenges that need to be considered and addressed. In this specific case, there have been a lot of problems. Many of these problems are worth capturing, because they are the kind of intuitive things that are 'recognised' only after decades of experience, in an industry that is mostly blind to them.
Part of the reason why these problems are so difficult to explain, is because once you have a few decades of experience under your belt, you no longer remember what it was like when many of the things you know now, were not obvious. This is one of the benefits of having a junior journalist on your team who enjoys telling the story of what they learn a long the way. Sometimes they are able to capture that are hopefully easy for people without decades of experience to understand. Because they are their own audience. Just like the cake makers junior employees, who are always teaching him how to help them better understand the 'obvious'.
In order to take you along on this journey, we must first provide you with a little context. As you may have guessed, the books in this world are a little different from the kind of books that you are used to in your world. In our world, our books are alive. The words we write today may not be there tomorrow. The ink never dries, the story never stays the same.
As the story evolves, we discover critical plot points that alter the course of history. I mean this in the most literal sense. The words we write today may of their own violition, cascade through the past and change the future. Change and cascade are the authors own antagonist, unless we take special care to cultivate them as our allies. For they can do untold harm when unleashed unwittingly.
Our primary aim then, as authors, is to make things Easy to Change, mostly by not making any changes at all if we can help it. Did that make sense to you? Ah, you are starting to feel that slight discomfort as your mind struggles to make sense of how you can easily change something by not changing it at all. That's a good sign. There are two more levels to pass through, the audible click level, and the domino level. Though you may only reach the second level by the end of this narration. The domino level requires an immersive journey, your journey to mastery.
For now, all you need to know is that ETC is our guiding star. There are many good principles that can help guide and improve your novel writing skills, but all of them are like little compasses made of sparkling stardust, trying to find their way back to the star that granted them to you.
We need these golden compasses to find our way, because often there are many obstacles. Some of which take the shape of mountains that reach tall enough to obsure the ETC star. Some times they appear as crossroads, where one of us, or all of us eagerly walk along it for a while. Sometimes our team members are pulled back by other team members, sometimes they come back of their own accord. Other times, we all get lost for a little while, until we learn enough to navigate better, often though, these are intentional excursions that may or may not reveal a better path. Time and time again though, we have found that it is physically impossible for us to move forward unless every member takes the same steps in the same direction. We must all have our feet firmly planted on the same page, leaving inky footprints that may or may not still be there tomorrow.