Food Blogging 101: 10 Writing Tips for Beginning Food Writers
- Write every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes or to churn out 250 words, even if you have nothing to write about. Being a writer means you write, even when the inspiration is not there. A restaurant chef has to serve dinner to her guests even when she’s just had a fight with her banker. See yourself as a professional and you’re already on the way to becoming one.
- Write about things you know. If you don’t know about something, but you’re inspired by it, do your research first. Knowing doesn’t always mean intellectual knowledge. It can also be unique life experiences or things you’ve learned in the school of hard knocks. It can even be about how not to follow a recipe because you’ve learned from your own failures.
- Revise and revise, then revise some more. These days it’s easy to number your drafts 1, 2, and 3 or A, B, and C, so you can also recover whole paragraphs or chapters you’ve deleted if you decide you liked previous versions better. Drafts are not children you keep forever; you can play around with them like puzzles. They’re like Humpty Dumpty. You can tear them into little pieces and put them back together again. That’s part of the process. Never be afraid you’re destroying by revising. Think of it as perfecting a work of art.
- Cut words, then cut some more. Excess is your worst enemy. There should not be a single word or sentence that is not absolutely necessary to the message you want to get across. Again, consider your writing as you consider your family. Every word is a child and every paragraph a parent. Every element is necessary to the big picture and the message, just as every ingredient is necessary to the success of a great recipe.
- Practice great first lines that grab readers’ attention. There’s an art to it. When you read, take note of first lines that strike you. Writing is like theatre in that way. When the play is boring, you nod off to sleep. That’s the last thing you want your reader to do. A recipe by the name of Lemon Chicken isn’t half as appealing as Chicken filet au citron, even if it means the same thing.
- Writing is not just words. Writers have to paint a picture in their readers’ minds. As you observe the world, in your mind, start using words to paint pictures to tell your readers about later. Flour is often called white, but it comes in many colors: bleached white, off-white, yellowish, white with brown specks, etc.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. All first drafts are pretty bad and we have to accept that. We learn as we go, just like everything in life. Perfectionism can give you writer’s block. Accept your writing for what it is. Love and nurture it until it’s good. Care for it patiently, watering it like you do your flowers, until it grows tall and strong.
- Practice flow. Put your hands on the keyboard and let it rip. You can polish it later. Just write and don’t let your brain get in the way. We talk about free association. Practice free writing and write quickly. That can even mean making lists of ideas or words and putting them together later. Free writing touches more on your creative self than on your left brain. When you don’t have time to shop for food, you go to the fridge and think up a meal using what you have. Writing can be the same way. You can connect the dots later if your central idea is not yet clear.
- Develop a thick skin. Join a writing group and get feedback. Take writing classes and get more feedback. Be dedicated to your mission of becoming a food writer and use criticism as a tool to improve it and a way of understanding how readers will react. Take it gracefully and then think about it.If you develop recipes, share them with your friends and listen carefully to every comment they have. They are probably the kind of people who will be buying your books and reading your articles. Feedback isn’t always right either, but it makes you think about your craft. Your recipes don’t always turn out right, so don’t expect better from your writing.
- Read and read a lot; read good writing, not bad. Read the kind of things you’d like to write yourself. If you want to write a recipe book, read recipe books. If you want to write a food memoir, read every one you can get your hands on. Read books about writing. What you read affects your own writing. Never forget that. Reading feeds your imagination by letting you step into other writers’ minds and observe their skills. You learn to cook better when you follow the recipes of accomplished cooks. Writing is no different.