Monday, June 7, 2010

Chili Cookoffs are like Writing Contests

Or are writing contests like chili cookoffs?

As writers, if we are pansters, we begin with a story concept and maybe an outline. If we are plotters, we develop a detailed plot and possibly a storyboard. If we find ourselves in the realm somewhere between plotter and pantser, we perhaps utilize a combination of techniques.

I fall into the later category. I start with an idea, a hero and heroine and their backstory. I write the hook. I create an outline and turn it into a high-level storyboard. I write and revise the storyboard as my muse dictates. I write and write and wordsmith and write. My critique group weighs in. Then I edit until the manuscript makes me smile.

As a chili chef with the hope of earning a cookoff title, I begin with my concept of the final product--great tasting chili. How can I make my entry special? I start with good ingredients. I experiment with different spice combinations. I taste test. And when I'm happy with the results, I have my recipe.

Chili cookoffs are like writing contests because you can enter the same chili sample or manuscript to two different judging panels and receive contradicting results. Sometimes after receiving results from a chili cookoff, we tweak the recipe before we try again. After a writing contest, we review critiques received from the judges, and if the suggestions resonate, we revise the manuscript to make it stronger.

Other times, we are confident in either our manuscript or recipe and we enter contests again without changing anything. This happened to me recently, twice.

I submitted the same 30-page entry plus 5-page synopsis to two writing contests and received significantly different results. In the first contest, I received a couple of scores in the high sixties with one in the nineties. In the second contest, I'm happy to report, my entry finaled.

My entry for SEA PANTHER finaled in the paranormal category of the 2010 Touch of Magic contest sponsored by the Central Florida Romance Writers.

I entered my favorite chili recipe in a local charity chili cookoff in 2009 and didn't place. In 2010, the same recipe finaled in 3rd place. I doubt I could compete in Texas, where the making of chili is a fine art. But in Southern Maryland my chili tastes just fine.

Crimson Storm Dark Pirate Chili
(named for my CRIMSON STORM Paranormal Romance Series)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lb. ground beef
2/3 cup catsup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Worcester sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
3 cans black beans, rinsed
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp mild chili powder
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce

Saute' onion in olive oil. Add beef and brown lightly. Drain off excess fat. Add the other ingredients above the dashed line; simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Add black beans, diced tomatoes with liquid, chili powder and chipotles. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.



Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I swore to my husband that I would try a chili recipe this year, but being a whimp myself, I am afraid to make anything too spicy hot. Yours sounds like it might make sweat drip down the side of your face after eating it. I suppose your stories must have a lot of hot spicy scenes as well. Now, that I can handle. Thanks for sharing...

Pat McDermott said...

You don't want to make chili in Texas, Dawn. They don't use beans! Your recipe is intriguing. I'll have to try it. The chili recipe I came up with took lots of trial and error, extra cumin, and a good cup and a half of red wine before we finally gave it the nod. Love your recipe title, BTW. And good luck with Sea Panther!

Mona Risk said...

And here i thought we had the best chili in Cincinnati. But your recipee sounds delicious, not that I would cook even to save my soul. Congratulations on the contest' great results.

Kaelee Morgan said...

I love the analogy! Very creative! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Sea Panther.

Stacey Goitia said...

I love your chili comparison - I've tried and tried to win contests as well as cook a great chili. In the end, I won when I wrote what I wanted to write, not what I thought would sell...the same happened w/my chili recipe. The minute I cooked what I wanted to cook instead of what I thought my family would appreciate, I created a winner. That voice inside me is often ignored and rarely understood, but I'm slowly beginning to learn...

Cai said...

Love the comparison between writing and cooking, thanks for sharing the recipe, too.

I went to a chili cook-off last year (here in Texas - LOL) and had a blast. It's amazing how so many people can take the same ingredients and come up with something that tastes totally differen from everytone else's...and that's true of writing as well, I think. You and I could take the same setting and same characters and come up with totally different stories. That's the joy of cooking and writing - we each put our own unique spin on both. :)

morgan wyatt said...

Hi Dawn,

I have only attended one chili cookoff and thought the winner's chili was too sweet for my taste. I can see how contests are a lot like chili cookoffs. After living in Cincy, I still don't get that chocolate bar in the chili. Now, spaghetti makes sense.:)

Great post.


Joanne said...

Hi Dawn,
Your chili recipe looks delicious, and your comparison between writing and cooking contests is fabulous. I wouldn't even attempt to enter a chili cook-off, but I have entered writing contests. Congrats on your final!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hey Kaelee, Thanks for dropping by and thanks for all the crits on SEA PANTHER. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi Stacey, I agree. When we are inspired by our desires, we are more likely to create something special. Thanks for stopping by.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi Cai, I think cooking and writing have a lot in common. I find pleasure in both, as well as cultivating my garden. All three provide creative satisfaction. Thanks for visiting. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Chocolate? Morgan, I think I might have to try that next year. :) Thanks for dropping by.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hi Joanne, Thanks for the congrats and for visiting the blog. :)