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Writing is Like Kimchi

For those of you who don’t know, kimchi is the most famous Korean dish. There are different types of kimchi depending on the season. Baechu kimchi is the most common type and it’s made in the fall. The picture here was taken one fall when we went to a village and happened to catch the ladies making their kimchi.

Key Ingredients

You’ll often see huge groups of ladies working together, sitting on the ground amidst massive piles of cabbage. To make kimchi, cut up salted Chinese cabbage leaves and stuff them with sok (literally meaning inside), a chili paste. Other ingredients include broccoli, fruit, cucumber or scallions.

In writing, key ingredients also prove to make delicious writing: unique characters, vivid settings, action-packed plots, and a strong voice. But don’t forget to ‘cook’ with your own special ingredients by pouring your own magic into the story.

They say when making kimchi, you should be able to taste the salt. When your cabbage “zings”, you’ve got the perfect balance. Same with your manuscript.

Fermentation

The sea salt not only adds good taste, it ferments the kimchi, too. After the kimchi is made, it needs minimal oxygen and a cool place. To make this work, Koreans put their kimchi in large pots, often in a cool place, with a tight lid to keep pressure at the top.

The same goes with your manuscript. Give your story time to ferment. Put it aside and work on something else. Later, take it out and you’ll see your manuscript in a whole new life. I just pulled out Chosen Warrior again after setting it aside for nearly a year. I knew I had some major cutting to do, but a year ago, the thought of cutting those precious words was too hard. It wasn’t so hard this time since I wasn’t as close to the work. I ended up cutting 14,000 words!

So now maybe you can see why kimchi kind of reminds me of the writing process.

And out of curiosity, have you ever eaten kimchi before?

18 Responses to Writing is Like Kimchi

  1. Fida says:

    Never tried Kimchi, but I do know those were great tips. Thanks!

  2. Jen says:

    Never tried Kimchi… I might have too!!

  3. I absolutely love the creativity of this post. I’ve never had kimchi, but I now understand why it’s a great analogy for writing. 🙂

  4. MG Higgins says:

    Oh, man, now I feel so lazy for not coming up with a single analogy for my last post. I love kimchi. It was an acquired taste but addicting once I acquired it.

  5. Kelly says:

    I have never heard of nor tried kimchi! Thanks for the description and wonderful analogy!

  6. PJ Hoover says:

    OMG, writing is so like kimchi. Wow, I love this simile!

  7. Brilliant post, Christy! You make the process of making kimchi (and writing) sound so interesting. I haven’t tried kimchi…but maybe I will one day.

    By the way, have you read the book Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park? Your kimchi discussion reminded me of it!

  8. Yes! All of you who haven’t tried kimchi, must. But I must say it’s an aquired taste.

    Andrea, no I haven’t read that book of Linda Sue Parks but I really am trying to read all of her books. Any book for kids on Korea, I try to snag. But there are just so few of them compared to other countries.

  9. Bish Denham says:

    Nope, never had kimchi. I like your analogy, relating the making of this dish to writing.

  10. Anna says:

    Great post! I love the idea of giving your story time to ferment. I did try kimchi once, thinking I’d like it because I love cabbage, but it had a bit too much kick for me. Maybe I’ll be brave and try it again someday.

  11. I’ve heard of Kimchi, but have never tried it. But I couldn’t agree more with letting your manuscript ferment. Sometimes it just takes some distance to help you figure out what used to be impossible to fix before!

  12. I love your analogy. I never realized how important it was to set a manuscript aside until I burned out on one. I was done with it! But I pulled it out again 6 months later, and all the things that stumped me were easy to solve. I ended up cutting 12,000 words -even some I dearly loved, but they didn’t move the story forward. Good advice!

    I think I’m going to have to try Kimchi…

  13. Rena says:

    I’ve never tried it either, but I loved reading what you wrote about it. Great analogy!

  14. jdcoughlin says:

    Christina, My husband is in Korea on business now, and even though I am not a fan of kimchi, he is, big time. I can always tell when he’s been eating it. I am a big bulgogi fan. But your analogy is perfect. It is in the time, the sitting and stewing that we get the best flavor.

  15. Shelli says:

    never tried it but it sounds interesting!

  16. Judith- that is so cool that your husband is here in Korea. In Seoul? So fun! Hope he’s enjoying the sights.

  17. Jackee says:

    This is so interesting! My husband loves kim chi but I can’t say that I’m a big fan. Thanks for sharing the process, I’ve always wondered! Now I’m off to put my manuscripts in a big pot and let them ferment.

  18. Jackee- that’s neat that your husband likes kimchi- it really can be an aquired taste. Good luck on your ‘fermentation’!

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