Onward with Blog Month!
Last Monday, I talked about Blog Idols, the people who write the blogs we’re all jealous of, and what we can do rather than cry and get depressed because we don’t think our blogs are as good.
Step one was: write a better blog.
And today, I’m here to help you do just that. Before we go on though, here’s a disclaimer. A couple of people have written in, confirming my suspicions that you exist. You claim to blog “for fun,” and have no aspirations to control the world through blogging. Your blog is a personal diary, and you are content to share kitty pictures with just your friends and family. You are not jealous of anyone else’s blog.
That’s great! I’m not telling you that you should be jealous of anyone else, or cry yourself to sleep at night because you can’t push your visitor count a little higher. But this still applies to you. So stop taking pictures of your kitties for one minute and read on.
Five ways to write a better blog
Your Blog is Not a Yard Sale
Early on in my blogging adventures, I had an epiphany. Lightning struck my brain. I had been writing and prattling on, and most of what I was writing wasn’t very good. I wanted more readers. But I thought that the readers I wanted should conform to the nonsense I wanted to post. Why aren’t people reading this? They would like this garbage if they were smart! I was trying to take something from others, their time.
The revelation came when I decided rather than trying to trick people out of their time, I was going to start giving them something. I was going to do my best to write something that had real value that people could see. If I couldn’t justify writing something, if I couldn’t tell myself it was valuable, it would benefit people, and that people needed to read what I wanted to say, I didn’t write it.
Don’t make your blog a yard sale. Yard sales are full of trash that their owners don’t have any value for, but they’re hoping a sucker will take it off their hands for a few bucks.
Don’t Write Everything
It goes without saying if you’re trying to be valuable to others, you aren’t going to write everything. Leave that to the emo teens sitting in their basements, hating the world but having nothing coherant to say. You should also think about what kind of blog you are writing. Very few bloggers get away with having a wide open, unfocused blog. Most of us should pick a few topics and stick to them. It goes back to value. Now that I know what my readers find valuable, why would I randomly drop in a post about, say, building mailboxes? I actually would really like to write a post about building mailboxes. I could write a mean mailbox blog, I promise you. But that would be a waste of your time.
This is a two edged sword. The more focused your blog is, the more valuable it will be to your readers. But, the more focused it is, the fewer people it will probably appeal to.
Not Too Many Knick-Knacks
My wife and I have a very modern decorating style. Namely, we don’t like to have a lot of tacky crap on our walls. I know some of us like to be surrounded by armies of trinkets, and our blogs start to look the same way. It’s fine to decorate and make your blog your own. But don’t put decorating over ease of use for your readers. If your blog could be featured on that show “Hoarders” because you never saw a plug-in, button, gif, or unreadable girly font you didn’t like, it may be time to clean house.
Write a Blog
I know, this is revolutionary stuff. Your blog should be a blog. Your blog isn’t a research paper, or a haiku, and it shouldn’t look like that…unless your blog is about haikus. I used to just barf out my thoughts in behemoth chunks of text. Then I found out that not using small paragraphs makes baby Jesus cry…because baby Jesus is still learning how to read. If baby Jesus wouldn’t not read your blog, I doubt anyone else wants to. I also found out that a lot of readers weren’t reading to the end of my posts, much less commenting. Got to limit my blathering. Now I shoot for 1,000 words or less on each post. It’s tough for me. There’s always a “director’s cut” of every post on the cutting room floor. Break it down, keep it short, make it snappy.
I know most bloggers don’t follow this rule, but most bloggers also don’t write this blog. I learned early on that if I didn’t set a schedule for blogging, I’d give it up. If you’ve read this site for any length of time, you know I always post Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and I haven’t missed in two years, except when I go on vacation and leave you babysat with the “Best of My Blog” posts.
Why do this? It gives your readers something to expect. They know when to check your site. People forget about sites that go weeks without updates. Also, having a rhythm helps me fight writer’s block…most of the time. This point isn’t mandatory, but it is helpful.
Tell us about how you write the best blog possible. Do you have to write in a certain time or place, or do you have to be wearing your special “blogging pants?” Do you have a schedule or a focus, or does it just shoot from your brain to the screen whenever the mood strikes? Non-writers, what do you suggest to the bloggers out there?