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Monday 10 September 2012

How to improve your blog writing

Chapter 4 -Food Bloggers learn about good writing

I felt like I was back at school when John Cooke, food writer and marketer took us through the basics of writing about food for our blogs.

John started by reading two pieces with very different styles: AA Gill's 'Table Talk' and Claudia Roden's 'Arabesque'.  The point of this was to help us understand that good writing is good writing whatever the style and that good writing tries to tell you something you don't know. Which is exactly what he then proceeded to do:

  • Think about  why you are writing and who you are writing for, off line or online?
  • Write as if you are writing to one person
  • Where will it be read?  PC? Tablet? mobile phone?  Size matters!
  • Do your research - find out something your audience doesn't know
  • Avoid cliches: 'Drizzle not', No to 'Nom Nom'
  • Edit and write again in half the space (be your own editor)
  • Do the overnight test - DON'T PRESS THE BUTTON
  • Read it aloud to yourself, read it to someone else if you can
  • Being funny isn't easy, leave it to the comedians
  • Think about colour in your writing, use similes
  • The start is very important, make sure the first sentence grabs your audience
  •  End by referring back to where you stared
 Back to the classroom, it was our turn to write. Working in pairs, our topic was "the best meal you have ever eaten" and we had to write no more than 180 words.

 I was fortunate to be paired with Kellie Anderson of Food to Glow.  At first we struggled to find a topic, but then I remembered a meal eaten in Penang, Malaysia and we were off!

"The best meal I ever had was not about fine dining, there was no Michelin star chef, nor a sommelier.  In fact I wore flip flops and we drank local beer. I don't remember the name, but it was ice cold and hit the spot.  I can't remember what we ate, but we rode in a cable car to the top of a mountain and stepped into a different world.  The menu was unintelligible but the views over Penang were unforgettable. We could have had a cheese sandwhich and it still would have been a memorable experience.  I may not recall the menu but I can almost see, smell, taste and hear it some 30 years later."

Although the memory was mine, Kellie was a superb co-writer and editor and I doubt the piece would have had the same impact without her input. I am trying to avoid cliches, but in this case, two heads are definitely better than one.

I thought you might like to see the photograph, of my husband, which was in my mind's eye when I recalled this most memorable of meals.  When I looked at the photograph I was surprised to see that the food was visible because all I could remember was that glass of beer!

Many thanks to John for his workshop, it was good to be reminded that, just like cooking and baking, writing is a craft which requires practice and constructive criticism to improve.

Why don't you tell me about your most memorable meal?

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At 10 September 2012 at 07:59 , Blogger Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

I love that picture, Janice. Must have been a fab holiday.
It has only been a week but that summary was a great reminder. Think I will have to revisit the tips again and again. Might not be a bad idea to reread every ime I go to do a post.

At 10 September 2012 at 09:03 , Blogger Unknown said...

Janice, I am loving reading about your bloggers conference - I missed most of the NZ one recently and so I am soaking up every bit of info I can get. This is such a great post - I concur heartily with John's wise words (I cannot bear 'nom nom') and your piece about the memorable meal is very evocative. As for your husband... phwoar! (I think that's allowed, under the circumstances, don't you?)

At 10 September 2012 at 17:15 , Blogger Choclette said...

I'm with Lucy - what a handsome husband you have Janice.

Thanks for the tips - I know I need them, but it all seems a bit of a struggle at times. Baking is so much easier.

At 10 September 2012 at 18:02 , Blogger Debs Dust Bunny said...

Thanks for sharing so much of the information you gained at the conference. As you know, I am not a serious blogger, writing for my friends and family and for myself, but I want to write as well as I possibly can. I will try to adhere to the tips and advice from your writing lecturer but it's hard not to 'nom nom' sometimes!

At 10 September 2012 at 20:40 , Blogger Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Who takes all the notes.........
I thought you said it was me. Yeah!

Great seeing the photo to go along with the memory. It was a great piece.

At 10 September 2012 at 20:46 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments and my husband is suitably pleased with the comments about him!

Yes Jac, I am learning from you ;-)

At 10 September 2012 at 21:21 , Blogger Anne said...

Its funny as when I started blogging many years back, it was purely for my own records, I never wrote for an audience. However, after just retaking, and passing my English language GCSE it has made me re-think what I write far more! I draft all my posts now and edit till I am happy!

My most memorable meal..hmm there has been so many, both for good and bad reasons its hard to choose!

At 10 September 2012 at 22:12 , Blogger Unknown said...

look at the handsome beardy man... it could be me!... it sounds like a great and inspirational day... i love the piece about the restaurant at the top of the mountain, it reminds me of a similar meal in California... its always great to have days like this isn't it? Can't wait to read more beautiful words from you Janice x

At 11 September 2012 at 17:23 , Blogger Karen S Booth said...

I have been to that same restaurant in a different country.....and that little piece really resonated with me, plus, the photo is wonderful.....a lovely post Janice!

At 11 September 2012 at 20:14 , Anonymous laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

This is just the sort of post I love reading. Tips, ideas and more importantly a story about you and your wonderful meal. I think your personality comes across really well and even though I don't know you, I feel like I do!

At 11 September 2012 at 20:41 , Anonymous kellie@foodtoglow said...

Hello from your fellow SFBC writer! It was a fun day and John's talk was definitely one of the highlights. But the main high point was meeting you and the others. Truly. And your memory certainly made what could have been a scary assignment into a rather exhilarating one. Loved being able to do a quick, tight write up. Just like in my old journalism days :D And your hubby is a dish, btw.

At 11 September 2012 at 21:45 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks again for the comments, it was a great day and meeting fellow bloggers is such a great experience.

Laura - I'm delighted that you feel you know me. I get so much pleasure from sharing my cooking and blogging experiences with my readers.


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