Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing a Cookbook Part 5: writing and... living!

First: I would like to say that there are very few writers who live exclusively on their books. Most of us have other jobs, sometimes part-time jobs (and a supporting partner with a full time job!), many are also writing for magazines, or cooking for a living, or teaching, or developing food for clients.

Some even write books for clients, a blogger told me that, as it takes months to write a book, he prefers to do it with a sponsor. I did some writing for clients, but this is a different topic, these posts are about writing your own book, without sponsors, without brands, without advertising.

But research and recipe development can be expensive, and time consuming (and then you still have to write it all down!). Usually I take a lot of notes as I go along, at first I used some exercise books that got so messy and full of corrections, abbreviations, language mixes and cancellations that only I could (barely) understand what I had written. Now I have a laptop that I can take to the kitchen, and it makes life easier! A digital camera for my own experiments is also a bonus, and sometimes I wander how I did write my first book without these gadgets!

Yes, you have to invest a little to write a cookbook, but at least you can eat what you cook!

Writing style: just a few words

Everyone has his/her writing style, and I believe that the best thing is using it. Trying to write differently, like someone else, like following a trend, is unnecessary, and insincere. Of course there are set standards to follow with recipes, and your editor will tell you. For example, presenting the ingredients in chronological order, or using metrics rather than imperials, or both, or not using cups… it all depends on the publisher’s style and on the market. The terminology has to be clear and appropriate, unusual terms, ingredients and techniques explained in a glossary. But a part from that, use your own style, and don’t copy. I know that it all sounds logical and sensible, but believe me, I heard far too many people saying things like "I want to have a book that looks like Donna Hay's but 'fun' like Jamie's and with my grandmother's recipes"

Wow!! Wouldn't it be easier to make your own book?

(This also reminds me: as much as I appreciate your emails and FB messages, please do comment on the posts, I tend to lose track of who is asking me what, and if I am not shy talking about this topic on the blog, you shouldn't be shy in commenting here. It also looks good if there are more comments :-))

Finally, I believe that the most important thing in writing is to be always respectful to the readers: never assume that they know what you are talking about, and at the same time never talk down to them like they know nothing. You don’t know who is opening your book, and even if you writing, lets say, a book for beginners on how to boil eggs, aspire for your readers to feel comfortable, not lectured. (Did I lecture you here? hahahah!)

And if in doubt my rule is: trust your editor, always. It makes life easier, and writing proper!

Next time: photography!


  1. Are you back yet?

    This seems a lot of work, happy to help with the tasting!


  2. e io come una scema comincio dalla quinta parte.
    no dai adesso faccio la brava e vado a leggere la prima che già mi ha affascinato

  3. Hi Jo, I am back. will call you :-) promise!

    Grazie Enza, il bello viene tra un po' con le foto e l'impaginazione e tutto... comunque, l'inizio e' proprio per chi vuole trovare un editore.

  4. Great post Alessandra! It mus definitely be a work of utter devotion and passion as not many have the luxury of working on a book full time! :)

  5. Lorraine, lets say that I am doing a 'concentrated full time' now while my other 'duties' scream madly at me for attention ;-)

  6. This is such an interesting series of posts, Alessandra. We, too, are traveling, but without a computer. My visits will be sporadic until we return. I'll be thinking of you. I hope all is well. Blessings...Mary

  7. Happy travels Mary, and your cupcakes are adorable!

  8. Catching up on your posts about writing a cookbook, Alessandra, and I especially like what you have to say here about writing in your own voice (readers can tell if you're trying to sound like someone else - while being true to your own writing style can draw them in). Your point about hitting the right balance between assuming your readers know too much and avoiding talking down to them is also excellent!

    Keep forging ahead with the book. I can't wait for more installments as you discuss the process - and, of course, to the finished product as well!



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