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10 Writing Lessons from Top Chef

If you haven't been watching Top Chef on Bravo, then I urge you to check it out, because it offers up excellent advice for life, and, in particular, for writing. Here goes:

10 Great ingredients don't necessarily result in an excellent dish. Just like a great character and good writing skills don't necessarily result in the best of stories.

9 Sometimes, simple is better. As in last night's episode, where Dave served lasagna and simple (if colorful) veggies to a bunch of working moms, all of whom loved it. Whereas they hated some of the more complicated efforts.

8 Stay true to your own vision. The folks who remain true to their own vision generally succeed, and even if they don't win (or even if they lose), they garner the respect of the people who are judging them. I'm betting this works with agents and editors just as much as with the food critics and whatnot on the show.

7 Marketing yourself is an important part of selling your product. If people like you and/or connect with you, they're more apt to like what you've made. Just check out the episode where they serve monkfish to kids, or last night's episode with the Junior League -- the chefs who charmed the women got the highest votes. I'm just sayin'.

6 Mastering your technical skills is crucial, whether it's chopping veggies or writing stories.

5 Sometimes you have to fly by the seat of your pants. Take a risk, and it could pay off big.

4 Not everyone will like everything you do.

3 Related point: people have lots of different reasons for why they like or dislike your product (whether it's food or writing). Some of them are associations that they bring to the table, over which you have no control. Don't get twisted about it, just move on.

2 Nobody likes a smarmy, supercilious showoff. (cough Stephen cough)

1 Presentation (or looks) matter. Just as people "eat first with their eyes," they make snap judgments on the quality of your writing based on how the page looks. Weird margins, fonts or paper colors earn points off. So do numerous typos or other formatting errors.

Bonus lesson: Be nice to people, but carry a sharp knife.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
ex_dotificu
Mar. 30th, 2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
HA! Very fun list, Kelly. We can learn so much from television.

Although I have to admit I tried one ep of that show and it didn't grab me. Not sure why.
lisa_schroeder
Mar. 30th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC)
Great list! I haven't watched the show, I may have to try it.

I would have loved the lasagna too. Yum!
kidlit_kim
Mar. 30th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC)
Great list!
What a great list. Goes to show you--inspiration is everywhere.
jbknowles
Mar. 30th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
I love this!!!!

You should totally submit it to the SCBWI Bulletin!!

:-)
tamarak
Mar. 30th, 2006 03:34 pm (UTC)
Great stuff, Kelly!

Anyone else getting hungry all of a sudden?
jharfam
Mar. 30th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
Your sense of observation is amazing - as well as your ability to put it into words.
literaticat
Mar. 30th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
That Stephen, I just want to slap that smirk right off his face.

And it's going to be another awful Omarosa/Santino thing where they KEEP him all season no matter how awful he is because awful people make good TV.

HATE.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 30th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
He's so condescending and smug. And he's only 24. What a jackass.
beachalatte
Mar. 30th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
Blog bonus. Read Kelly's :)
sheela_chari
Mar. 30th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
*covers her eyes*
What? You are actually recommending your fellow writers to watch ANOTHER reality show? On Bravo no less!! And this is after I finally weaned myself from Project Runway (okay, I stopped watching it because it ended. But I was getting ready to quit cold turkey).

Still, your points are hilarious and well-taken.
tab_walton
Mar. 30th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Fantastic! Number 3 totally relates to my post from today. Good stuff. :-)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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