For today’s post, I wanted to share with you another excerpt from my book, The Extroverted Writer. This one is taken from the chapter on Blogs:
There are a ton of books on blogging. Each will probably offer you more information than what I’m about to present, and they may even do so in a more entertaining fashion—bells, confetti, and joke after joke after joke. But I’ve been blogging for awhile now, and I’ve also read a lot of equally great and bad blogs. In an effort to condense everything into a digestible sub-section, I’ve identified a few of the many rules of blogging. These are the rules I see broken, mangled, and abused most often. And these are the rules that will quickly make your blog a zillion times better (or thereabouts) should you uphold them.
Five Important and Essential Rules of Blogging
1. Stick to the goal. I can’t stress it enough. Your blog absolutely must have a goal.Whatdo you want your blog to accomplish? Structure your posts around that goal.
Do you want to promote yourself as an author/speaker/expert? Do you want to promote your book? Do you want to connect with fans? Do you want to offer an online experience that ties in with your book? These are important questions, and without answering them, your blog will turn into a mush of information.
For example, many in the publishing industry have come to know and love Chip MacGregor’s blog. He provides valuable information on the industry and is a huge help to writers. But what would happen if Chip suddenly started blogging about the Oregon Ducks? He certainly loves them enough to do so, and those who know him know he isn’t shy about his affections. What if every other post was a recap of their games and dealings? And then what if he shifted gears with his blog on the weekends and talked all about dancing? (Yes, Chip dances.) What would happen then?
I’ll tell you what would happen: he’d start to lose readers. Sure, he’d gain a few who are interested in the Ducks and dancing, but all of the readers who rely on his blog for publishing insight would soon find other places to go. The bottom line is that he wouldn’t be hitting his target market anymore. He’d instead be hitting a niche market interested in publishing, the Oregon Ducks, and dancing. Not exactly a best-seller-sized readership.
When your blog lacks a clear, singular goal, you will either lose readers that you’d otherwise want to keep, or gain ones who aren’t going to contribute to your success in publishing. It’s as simple as that.
2. Treat each post like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a common mistake for bloggers to cram multiple themes/points/declarations in each blog post. What you end up with is a smorgasbord of personal opinions and experiences, and readers are left to wade through it all and extract what they want.
A good example of this happens during election season. Bloggers are often eager to share their political views, but their posts can turn into a tirade of what they love and hate about the current administration. On and on they jump from one thing to another, covering gay marriage, taxes, our nation’s debt, immigration, and more until the reader’s head is spinning and he or she doesn’t know how to reply. I mean, who has ever had a good response to a sudden soapbox moment? No one. So, the result is readers either feel alienated or they choose to pick a fight, and neither of those options are appealing.
This is why each blog post, no matter the topic, should be treated like a book. It should have a beginning, in which it teases the reader or introduces the topic; a middle, in which it provides additional information; and an ending, in which it hits it all home and brings it together.
A good example of this is here on my personal blog. It’s a humor post, but notice how the opening line presents the subject matter in a way that is both intriguing and funny. The next few paragraphs offer supportive information, building on the subject matter without fully disclosing what the heck I’m talking about. Then the final paragraph brings it all home for an ending that (I’m hoping) is both enlightening and laugh-out-loud funny. Note: My blog is NOT a professional blog. It’s simply something that I do for me, so it doesn’t follow many of these guidelines.
To once again use our election season blog post as an example, the author would see a much better response if he or she were to choose one of those topics and craft a post that is entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking (as opposed to the GRRRR, I HATE THE WORLD vibe that tends to go hand in hand with political posts).
I must say that if you’re pursuing nonfiction publication, your blog post endings should have a clear takeaway—something that the reader learns or can use and rewards them for reading. This will make you look like an expert who is able to help. For example, if you want to be an expert on stress management, your blog posts should leave readers with a stress-relief tip, method, or truth.
3. Keep it casual. There’s this tendency to treat blogging as you would an essay—proper grammar, no contractions, complete sentences. But that’s the very mindset that will kill your blog. Think of it more as a conversation with friends. Throw grammar rules to the wind and leave properly formatted sentences to your high school English teacher. Trust me, you’ll get a lot more readers this way.
4. Don’t forget voice! Your author voice is one of the most effective weapons you have in making your blog a success, yet you’d be surprised how many authors don’t incorporate it into their blogging. Your blog is an advertisement for your books. What better way to prove you’re a great writer than to have a strong, compelling blogging voice?
For the record, your blogging voice can vary vastly from your novel-writing voice. Mine does. People read my blog posts and think I’m planning to be the next David Sedaris. But I have no desire to write entire books of memoir or sarcastic, cheap-witted prose. (Not that David Sedaris writes cheap-wittedly. That’s just how I view my own nonfiction style. In fact, I’m surprised you’ve made it this far into this book!) Instead, I want to write women’s speculative fiction. Needless to say, my fiction voice is exponentially different than my blogging voice, yet many times my blogging voice has caused people to become intrigued with the fiction that I write for fun.
5. Avoid the “daily diary” syndrome. This is probably the biggest problem for those 149.9 million bloggers who can’t seem to get traction, and it can be summed up in one sentence: no one cares what you had for dinner.
There’s this tendency to treat a blog like a journal where you archive your day’s events. But no one cares that you went to the grocery store after picking up Travis from football practice. And no one cares that you found ground beef on sale for two dollars a pound.
If you’re blogging about your personal life (this goes back to rule #1), avoid the tendency to rehash all of your day’s events. Pick one event, and form a blog post around it. Give it a beginning, middle and end, and your blog will leave readers wanting more.
I hate to be pointing you to my personal blog, since it’s not a shining example of perfection, but if you look at that post again, you’ll see that I wrote it the day before my best friend’s wedding. I had a million topics to choose from. I could have written about her dress or the decor or the strange guy I had to walk with down the aisle. I could have written about how I barely got off work in time to be there or how I was wearing shoes with million-inch heels. But instead of cramming all that juicy (and sometimes entertaining) information into a never-ending post, I selected one thing that I felt encapsulated the experience. And, truth be told, that blog post almost landed me a major marketing job at a university.
Well there you have it…the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogging. For more of where that came from, check out my book. And in the meantime, what other rules can you think of? I want to know! Leave a comment below.