Do you still write personal stories on your food blog? It seems like a subject of great anxiety to food bloggers these days.
When I taught a writing class earlier this year, many food bloggers said they are afraid to write personal stories now. They’ve all read the long, drawn-out posts about cats, children and confessions about depression that end with a recipe for Rice Krispie Treats. And they’re terrified that they might do the same.
Readers are busy, they say. They just want the recipe.
But here’s the bad news: If you just talk about a “yummy” or “delicious” recipe in the first graph and then get to your recipe for French Toast that’s the “best,” it will read just like everyone else’s.
That’s not going to work. You have to stand out. It’s not just about the nice photos and a good recipe, although those help.
I’ve got news for you: Your readers who come back are not just looking for a recipe. If they were, they would go to recipe sites and not your blog. They are looking for YOU. They want your personal story — AND a good recipe.
So how do you get personal stories into your food blog?
1. First, satisfy the impatient readers.
Add a button called “jump to recipe” for those who have arrived only because they searched for zucchini bread. Now you can relax and write.
Look at it this way: If you write personal stories, it gives the recipe searchers a reason to come back. Otherwise, they’ll just take the recipe and you’ll never see them again.
2. Banish adjectives.
Your dish is not yummy and delicious, or the best. You can do better. Write a story instead. Here’s how to do it:
3. Inject your personality.
Write as if you’re talking to a good friend. Make your readers feel that they know you.
4. Let me say it another way: Have a voice and personal story that’s yours, one readers will recognize.
If you were looking for a brownie recipe, would you expect to find the same post from David Lebovitz as Smitten Kitchen? No. They have their own approach and stories.
Let’s see how these two superstars write personal stories:
Here’s one of David’s brownie recipes. (Yes, the brownies look tempting. But please focus!)
He starts with a personal story about doing a book signing. A baker gave him a box of brownies, and he ate one surreptitiously, and it was a revelation. Then he continues his personal story about his search for black cocoa powder, and his research on who’s baking brownies with it, and then his recipe development process.
This is pure David. You recognize him immediately, and you expect a story before the recipe. There are other expectations, because you know him: You expect him to discover a delightful new baked good and be funny about it; and you expect him to have lots of brownie recipes, but to be obsessed with this one and making it the best possible recipe, so that you want to drop everything and make it immediately. But he never says that.
Here’s the Smitten Kitchen post. (Also tempting. But hey, you’re learning something here.)
She mentions how long she’s been blogging and how many recipes she has for brownies. Notice the self-deprecating humor in her lede about her excuse to redo the photos. Somehow she works in a personal story about her son Jacob and a Malcom X reference, and then there’s a sales pitch about how they take 10 minutes to make. She makes an argument for using unsweetened chocolate.
And you recognize Deb immediately, because you know what to expect. There’s self-deprecating humor, there’s a personal story about which brownie she likes best, there’s a personal story about her kid, and there’s her breezy way of telling you these are a snap to make. You want to drop everything and make it immediately. But she never says that.
So take a cue from these megastars. Personal stories (and good photos and recipes, of course) are what brings readers to their blogs, so why shouldn’t readers come back to yours?
And if you’d like to learn how to stand out from the crowd by writing personal stories for your blog, take a class or come on a workshoptake a class or come on a workshop.