Shirred Eggs and First Drafts

2010 kicked off with a bang. Well, not really because we fell asleep before we could do any fireworks, but the minute I woke up I was back to work on book four. It’s nearing completion but the truth is it will continue to be a work in progress until the book comes back from the printers. Until then, there will be many more revisions, copy edits, layering, texturing, subtle plot revisions, and so on.

Farm fresh eggs from a private egg farm down the street

Farm fresh eggs from a neighbor.

Which brings me to shirred eggs.

Now, some of you may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Book revisions and shirred eggs? And what the heck is a shirred egg?

A shirred egg is basically a baked egg. This method of egg preparation is also known as oeufs en cocotte. The eggs can either be nestled in foods (like a casserole—use the back of a serving spoon to make an indentation before adding the egg) or prepared individually in a ramekin. You add a tablespoon of cream or milk to the top and that’s basically it. The end result is a firm egg white with a soft or runny yolk.

Sound easy enough?

Shirred eggs .. a work in progress ...

Shirred eggs .. a work in progress ...

That’s what I thought. Turns out it’s easy to overcook these guys, which I did with the first two batches which were still delicious but the yolks were cooked through and dry. Third time was the charm, though, and I think I’ll do even better next time, which will probably be tomorrow morning.

Which brings me back to first drafts.

Here’s the thing about first drafts: you have to finish a draft to have a first draft. There are so many good writers that show me their manuscript in progress and ask me if I think it can be published. My answer is always, “Maybe, but you’re going to have to finish it first.” It’s pointless to talk about it until the work is done, because you just don’t know what you’re going to get until you’re finished. That’s the hard truth about writing a novel—you may think you know how it’s going to end, but until you actually write it and see how well it works, you just don’t know. And let me tell you, crossing that finish line isn’t easy. But you’ve got to do it if you want to get published, because until you do, you can’t get an agent who in turn can’t get you a publisher who in turn can’t get your book onto the shelves in your local bookstore. You have to have a manuscript first.

And even once you finish the manuscript, your work is far from done. Celebrate, then get back to work. First drafts are exactly that: first drafts. They are rarely ready to be seen by anyone, and this is coming from someone who writes very smooth, tight first drafts. Your drafts will need work. How much work? Until it doesn’t read like a draft anymore, but a polished manuscript that could go straight to the printers if need be. The publishing industry is looking for writers who know how to write, who know how to self-edit, who know how to find strong, critical readers to help them get their work ready for their agent and publisher. If you want to get published, this is the path. There are always exceptions, yes, but for the other 99% of us, this is how it’s done.

If I had to give you one tip for finishing your first draft, this would be it: don’t go backwards. Don’t go back and fix things unless it can be done via “Search and Replace” or will take you less than 10 minutes a day to address whatever it is that’s really bugging you. DON’T GO BACK. Go forward, people. Finish it.

Okay, it turns out I have a second tip: don’t show it to anybody yet. This is not the stage for feedback, however kind or well-intentioned. Finish your first draft, clean it up, and then clean it up again. Then show it to your reading group or designated readers. Writing groups are wonderful but if your goal is to get it done as quickly as possible (because, let’s face it, this can take as long as you want it to take), then just get it done. Over-massaging and re-working elements of an incomplete first draft is premature, especially if it’s holding you back from moving forward it. Trust that your story is there, and go with it.

Here is a basic recipe for shirred eggs—it certainly gave me sustenance to finish this leg of the relay:

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream (whipping cream or heavy cream; half and half also works) or milk
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare two ramekins by spraying with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Crack an egg into each ramekin.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of cream or milk to the tops of the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the whites have set. Remove and let rest for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Once you get the hang of it, you can add cheese, cooked spinach, chives, green onions (that’s what I used in the picture above) in the last couple of minutes or garnish once it’s removed from the oven.

Shirred Eggs Recipe Links:

Writing First Draft Links:

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Comments

  1. Hi Mia: These look totally yummy, maybe dinner tonight for me! I am reading Sweet Life and I can’t put it down!! Think I will be having Good Things for my book club selection this year!

  2. Your first experience with the eggs was like my experience tonight trying to cook pancakes. Before the top of the pancakes were bubbling and beginning to get firm enough to flip, the bottoms were burned. I tried different temperatures on the stove, but never did get them to where I could get them to firm up enough to flip without burning the bottoms. But hubby and I still ate them. They certainly were not photograph-worthy. LOL

  3. I had never heard of the expression before – very interesting… i will try very soon sounds lovely

  4. My food and art is often metaphorical for my life. {And sometimes my life works its way into my food and art.}

    As I was reading your post, I was thinking, “Oh, she would love Anne Lamott.” And then there it was right at the top of your list.

    Wonderful post. Any piece of writing that encourages me in life and art {and makes me hungry} gets a thumbs up!

  5. Hi there Mia

    I have three sub-comments within my allotted comment box, so here goes!

    One – I’ve never heard of or made shirred eggs. I now feel confident that I can tackle these little badboys, soon!

    Two – I’m reading Sweet Life and girl, you are a master. Seriously, so so good.

    Three – I’ve nominated you for an award on my blog. I hope you’re able to swing on by SoCal and check it out!

    Have a lovely day,
    -Laura :)