Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Follow the "Writing" Recipe

by Linda Gilden @lindagilden


“Yum! This is the best turkey ever.”

“Oh, my goodness. This is delicious.”

I agreed the turkey was exceptionally good this year. But what was the difference in this one and all the other turkeys we had eaten for holidays and birthdays?

My daughter finally spoke up. “I smoked it just the way we always do. But before I put it in the smoker I marinated it for a few hours.”

It was at that point I realized how much cooking was like writing. That thought seemed a little odd to me since I don’t particularly like to cook but rarely want to quit writing to eat or sleep.

The reason the turkey was so good was the extra preparation my daughter put into it this year. She had carefully mixed the brine together. Created a rub we would all enjoy. And carefully followed the correct steps through the smoking process.

The "Writing" Recipe

I realized I often think about skipping or skimping on the preparation of my project. Some time it seems like spending hours researching one subject to write just a thousand words or so is excessive. But more often than not, I find the research is the thing that makes my article or book even stronger. If you don’t start your project with research, you will often find your work is shallow and fails to satisfy those info-hungry readers. And even though the research may not officially find its way onto the paper, adding to your storehouse of knowledge on your subject will add to your personal understanding, therefore your ability to write

The next step, mixing all the “spices” together is what makes your writing “tasty” to your readers. You can combine your information in many forms and in more than one order but your job is to find the best and most palatable combination. Using an outline can often be helpful with this.

Once your article is complete you must “carve” it, leaving the good parts in and discarding extra words, repetitious phrases, and passive voice. Many writers do not find editing fun but it is necessary to make your writing clear. Then you can arrange your article for your readers to enjoy the takeaway.

Writing an article is often just as time consuming as cooking. But often, the results are dependent upon following the recipe. Guidelines help us stay on track and increase our chances of publication because we are sending exactly what the editor is asking for (which means less work for him or her!).

During this unprecedented Christmas season, may all your recipes yield great success, your writing find that perfect publication match, and may your hearts and homes be filled with the love of Christ.


Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Linda is the author of 19 books and over 1000 magazine articles. She enjoys every meeting with editors and knowing we are all part of the same team. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!


  1. Linda,

    Thank you for this article and the sound insights and advice. Magazine articles do follow a formula or recipe. During this holiday season I hope many will capture their experiences while fresh and pitch them to publications for publishing them in 2021. As a former magazine editor, I was always looking for holiday articles and I know it is hard to find good ones. It is a great opportunity and wide open for writers.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

  2. Your turkey sounds delicious, Linda. My daughter brined and rubbed our turkey—the best ever! Love the way you tied this together. After all, all of life illustrates and teaches—if I pay attention! Thanks and have a blessed Christmas!

  3. Love the comparison of writing and cooking. Yes, there are many similarities. We use different senses for cooking and different senses for writing. I can just smell that turkey! :-)

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Linda. Sometimes after I have spent so much time on research and preparation I feel as if I don't have anything to show for the work I did that day. I know in the long run it is beneficial but like that turkey in the oven, I just need to let it get "done."

  5. That was a great hook! Using food analogies always works for me. I like how you say "carving" instead of editing. I think I'll use this approach from now on. Thank you for sharing.