Amanda Luedeke

October 16, 2013

A Wednesday with Amanda: 5 Essential Rules of Blogging


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.

Share :


  • Guest says:

    I don’t think so, Peter. It seems to me they’d feel more like, hey, I know this guy, he talks to me. He’s on the bar stool next to me, or across the table, laying it all out.

    Narrative voice is subject to treatment. You tell a story from the first person POV of a middle-aged academic, it sounds different than one you tell from the third person viewpoint of a twenty-year-old addict, but your voice is there in both, underneath. With the blog it’s you being you. I think readers will recognize you.

    I follow James Lee Burke on Facebook, one of my favorite authors. He gets on there every so often and tells little stories from his life, shares what’s going on. It’s a different voice than his books, but it’s the same voice. You go from one to the other, doesn’t matter which way, you recognize it.

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    If our blog voice is different than the voice we use for our books, won’t that disappoint blog readers when they buy our book?

    • Shaun Ryan says:

      I don’t think so, Peter. It seems to me they’d feel more like, hey, I know this guy, he talks to me. He’s on the next stool, or across the table, laying it all out.

      Narrative voice is subject to treatment–you being a character. With the blog it’s you being you. I think readers will recognize you.

      I follow James Lee Burke on Facebook, one of my favorite authors. He
      gets on there and tells little stories from his life, shares what’s going on. Different voice than his books, but the same voice. You go from one to the other, doesn’t matter which way, you recognize it.

      (Edited to reply to the poster and not the thread. Hey, I’m a social media neophyte, cut me some slack)

    • Peter DeHaan says:

      That’s helpful Shaun. Thank you!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      This is exactly right. A blog voice is naturally different from a narrative voice! With nonfiction, the voices tend to be more of the same.

  • Shaun Ryan says:

    Sound advice.

    Additional input? I’d say, in a me-me world, make it about something you believe is bigger, more important, something you have to share. Because the hard truth goes beyond nobody caring about what you had for dinner. Almost nobody cares about you. Why should they? What’s in it for them? You have to give them something.

    Anyway, the dog just barfed on the rug and the beans are boiling over, so I have to go.

  • Tanya Dennis says:

    Your first point is my biggest hurdle. I started blogging devotional type stuff, then transitioned into a “mommy blogger.” (I hate that title, by the way.) That led to a homemaking blog complete with weekly recipes and work-at-home organizational stuff. My latest shift has been toward Bible study and abolition (anti-human trafficking).

    As you pointed out, with each shift in goal I lost and gained readers, but little consistency remained.

    The problem is that when I focus only one aspect of me, I feel like I’m denying the other parts of me. I try to stay centered on the “goal”, but it’s difficult to do consistently when my life encompasses so many diverse facets. Of course, my life is not that different from most Christian suburban moms. We all wear a ton of hats; I’m not terribly special in that way.

    And so my blog goal has settled somewhere in the middle of who I am and what I’m most passionate about: Pursuing God in the Dailies … whatever those dailies may be. It’s a broad topic, to be sure, but it encompasses me best and the message I want to share: that God can be found in the dailies. Your life may not be what you envisioned or planned, but God is still there and He’s ready to help you and use you wherever you are.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Thanks for sharing 🙂 As you experienced, many find it difficult to not view their blog as a representation of who they are and what they are about. The mentality is “it’s all about me!” when it should be all about the readers. I think when a blogger can view their blog as something that is entirely dependent upon their readers…and then they are able to taylor it to meet reader needs and expectations, that’s when it will have the best chance at taking off!

    • Guest says:

      I get that. I don’t want it to all be about me, but every writers’ conference I’ve attended (including some taught by Chip) insists that, for nonfiction writers, “your brand is YOU.” What do I do with that? Am I taking this too literally?

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I think you may be viewing brand and marketing strategy as the same thing when they are not.

      Brand is all about image. It’s all about how people VIEW you: The things that come to mind when they think about you. The things they expect from you. The Pioneer Woman, for example, has a pretty clear brand–life on a ranch. This is what we expect from her.

      Marketing strategy/implementation is about how you connect with OTHERS. Sometimes brand and strategy overlap, and in an ideal world the content will support the brand. But still, the two need to be thought of as different things. The Pioneer Woman talks a little bit about life on the ranch, but she also provides plenty of content that is reader-focused, such as recipes, homeschooling tips, shopping tips, etc. And all of her recommendations and content revolve around this rural America, idyllic lifestyle.

      Another example, I have branded myself as “the marketing agent” and I strive to maintain that brand. However, the CONTENT that I produce is entirely focused on you, the reader. Instead of talking about MY life or MY business or MY successes as an agent or MY experiences marketing, I strive to simply impart my knowledge. Consequently, people read my stuff! They come back week after week, because they know I will keep the focus on helping THEM. This approach only solidifies my brand as “the marketing agent,” so it’s a reflection of an ideal situation.

  • Brilliant–wish I would’ve read this 5+ years ago for my early blogging. It’s actually funny–I started out blogging chaps from my book, gained readers, then shifted into trying to “brand” myself…now, on my third blog, I’m back to focusing on my books/writing and it feels GOOD! Ha. In the meantime, though, people did get to know my writing voice/style and I got to connect w/them in the comments (another biggie! respond to comments and people will be more apt to return and feel appreciated! I know I do!). Great tips today, as usual, Amanda!

  • Jaime Wright says:

    Where on earth did you find ground beef for $2 a pound?! 😉 Great post and point made. BTW, love your book. It’s already helped me gain FB followers outside of my little world of population 100.

  • Samantha Williams says:

    Amanda! Great post. I have a question as a soon-to-be “new” blogger. Your number one states to pick a general topic/direction and stick with it. What if the point is to establish yourself as an author across the board? Couldn’t your blog have subcategories, and people could subscribe or read what topic interested them? For example, I want to blog writing tips for authors, marketing tips for authors, book reviews, and author interviews. Would that be changing my angle too much? Just curious, thanks!!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      I strongly encourage you to check out my book…I think it will address many of your questions. If you want to have a career as an author, don’t write to writers. Writers aren’t going to be your biggest fans when it comes down to it. So, write to readers. And really zero in on what your genre is (any agent will tell you that it’s harder to build a solid career if you’re writing in multiple genres out of the gate). Lastly, I don’t know of any blog that allows you to subscribe to individual categories, though there may be a widget for that.

      Check out my book and other books on building an author platform…I think they will help you figure this out!

    • Samantha Williams says:

      Thanks a million, will do!

    • Samantha Williams says:

      Actually Amanda, I’ve been giving your comment a lot of thought today. While I’m definitely going to pick up your book, I’m wondering more about your statement: “If you want to have a career as an author, don’t write to writers.” As a writer, I look to authors for guidance into the industry. I can’t write to readers, because I won’t have anything published at the time of this launch, haha. With a career in marketing I want to be able to offer writers something that I know. There’s no good way to balance posts for readers and writers? Writers would be audience now, readers later. Can you shift objectives, or would you need two blogs? I follow a lot of blogs by authors that blog about their books and industry tips or tricks for aspiring authors. Although I’m not sure their readership. Thanks!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      If you shift your blog, then you will lose the readers that you’ve accumulated, so there’s a risk there. And I would definitely caution you, because since you aren’t published you may have trouble being seen as an expert on writing tips and tricks. I think it’s fine to blog about your journey as a writer, but your time would be better spent if you blogged about a topic that shows up in your working novel. Maybe scrapbooking or baking or horses show up? Blog about that. Develop a following in a hobby field and you’ll have a prime audience when you novel IS published.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.