How to Blog: Part III

November 10th, 2011

It’s Go Time! Writing Blog Posts

Alright, hopefully by this point you’ve figured out that you are, in fact, a blogger, you like to write, and you know what kind of blog you want to have. Heck, maybe you’ve even made the leap and registered a domain name and done some site design through one of the tools I mentioned in the previous installment of this series. Now, it’s time to really dig in and actually put something down on paper…I mean, on blog. But where to start?

Well, let’s start with what not to write about…

  • Do not write about your breakfast, lunch, or generally any other meal you’ve had that day unless you a) are interested in writing about cooking or trying to be a foodie blogger, b) had a stimulating conversation or other experience at that meal, or c) discovered you were deathly allergic to something at that meal and now have a very dramatic and enthralling story to tell. No one wants to hear that you had toast for breakfast. Just sayin’.
  • Do not write bad stuff about your job or anything that should remain confidential. Ever. See here. ‘Nuff said, I believe.
  • Do not write bad stuff about people that you aren’t willing to say to their face – they will eventually find your blog, and you will end up kicking yourself for it.
  • Do not do harm. That’s my own personal mantra with my blog, and although I may not always do the best job of sticking to it, I think that it’s a good rule of thumb to stick to when you can.

So, now that we’ve covered some of the don’ts, let’s talk about some of the dos…

First of all, I don’t believe there’s a perfect 10-step process to writing a perfect blog post. But there are a few things you can do on a regular basis as part of your blog to keep readers engaged.

  • Take a side, voice an opinion, make an argument. I can not emphasize enough how important this one is. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell a new story – exactly like the news. If I wanted the news, I’d read CNN. I’m reading your blog because I want to know your take on the news. Give me some perspective – and know that you may piss off some people in the process, but that also means you’ve probably made others very happy with your post.
  • Use multi-media in your posts, especially photos and video. Alright, I’m guilty of not doing this enough myself – heck, I started a blog because I enjoy writing, right? But people like visual stimulation, so give it to them!

See what I did there? I totally visually stimulated you, didn't I?

  • Keep it short…ish – no dissertations, please! Three to five paragraphs or around 250 – 300 words is a good length. Although if you need more, use it – as long as it’s good content and well-written, people will generally stick around. It’s a good idea to intersperse your longer posts with short ones, though – give the people a break!
  • Let your voice come through – be YOU. Allow yourself to be funny, to be casual, to write in first person, to be sarcastic – not that I have any idea what that’s like. This is one of the more challenging parts of blogging for academics I’ve noticed – you’re not writing for an academic journal, so make it readable! And remember, when you talk, you don’t edit yourself that much (or maybe you do, in which case, maybe blogging isn’t for you – just sayin’ again), so be careful not to edit your blog posts too much. They don’t have to be perfect – they just have to be entertaining.
  • If I’ve learned one thing from blogging, it’s that you can spend hours laboring over a post that you’re sure is going to make agents call you because they can tell you’ll be the next great American writer only to have no one comment on it, and the post that you spent five minutes on because you had too much to do and were exhausted and frustrated and just wanted to get something out there will garner tons of comments. It’s sometimes hard to tell what will strike people at a certain time – just keep it up, and eventually some of your posts are bound to get some comments.
  • Finally, engage other bloggers. Read other blogs, link to them, respond to comments. Nothing intrigues a blogger like another blogger who reads and comments on their posts. And the blogging community is generally a pretty generous community – we like to recognize each other. The more you comment and recognize other bloggers, the more they’ll comment and recognize you, and that means the more people that will be exposed to your blog. Goodness all around!

Well, there you have it, so get to writing! And if you have recently attended one of the conference sessions I’ve presented on blogging or have been using this series to get you started, feel free to let me know so I can help promote your blog!

How to Blog: Part I
How to Blog: Part II