This is part 2 of the Your Own Best Blogging Practices. Be sure to check out:
- Your Own Best Blogging Practices Part 1: Why and How to Blog
What should I write?
Ah, the big one. A lot of “How to Blog” posts will tell you to be yourself. And you should be yourself. But we contain multitudes. Your readers probably don’t need to know every random thought you have or random thing you have done. This is your chance to manage what people think of you by managing what they see of you.
The process that follows may seem like a lot of work for something as simple as typing your thoughts into a computer. And it is a bit of work. If it feels too onerous, feel free to ignore it. But before you dismiss the work and move on, consider the fact that by doing this work up front and making a habit of returning to it occasionally, you not only can create a more cohesive and focused blog, you can get a jump on writer’s block.
Also, it’s not really that hard. Trust me on this.
Start out by thinking about your audience and asking yourself two questions:
What does your audience want to hear?
What do you want them to hear about/from you?
Once you have a sense of those answers, create some topics, ideas and posts. I keep these in three separate documents. Paper, electronic — it doesn’t matter, but keep them somewhere you can not only refer to them, but also add to and subtract from them as you go.
With the answers to the above questions in mind, create a list of a dozen or so topics that interest you and that you feel a bit qualified to write on. The ones I came up with when I started this blog were: Spiritual Development, Creativity, Writing, Enneagram, Change, Caregiving and Self-care. And when I look over to my tag cloud on the right, I see I am not doing too badly, but I also see some things I want to write about a little more.
Once you have your list of topics, jot down as many ideas for post as you can think of. Here are some to get you started:
- Highlights of your work (being sure to respect privacy and company/organizational policy)
- Your opinions/thoughts on news of the day, again as they relate to topic
- Reports of events
- Reviews of movies/books
- Something you wish others knew
- Things you wish you knew
- Something that irritates you
- Something cool that taught your attention
- Quick lists of the best/worst of things
- Links to cool stuff (but tell us why you care and why we should)
You find some great ideas for posts (along with lots of other blogging tips) here.
When you have the time and the inspiration to flesh out an idea, do it. Don’t worry about finishing it, get the beginning or main ideas down and then tuck it away in a Pending file. Refer back to it when you have the time or want to write, but don’t know what to write.
Once you’ve got a post done, you can post it right away, or you can tuck it away for later in a Greenwood (ie: always fresh) file. I suggest slowly building up your Greenwood file. Dip into it when you are too busy to write or need to post something quickly.
How much should I write?
The answer to this is highly personal. I come from an ink and paper perspective. My posts are probably longer than many bloggers. I am aware of that and want to trim it down. On the other hand, I feel cheated when I go to a blog and only get a paragraph or two. Check out what other bloggers in your field write, then temper that with what you can comfortably write.
What should I NOT to write?
Anyone who reads blogs much has their own list of pet peeves. Here are mine:
“Gee, it’s hard to blog.” “Sorry I have been gone for so long.” Even if you are just writing for your friends, it gets tiresome. If you are trying to set yourself up as an expert of some sort, this comes across as unprofessional. If you can’t write, don’t. This is your blog, not a homework assignment.
Just links to other blogs. When I see just a list of links in a post, I find myself thinking, “Why am I bothering with you? I can poke around on the internet myself.” Tell me what you loved. Sell me on the link. Critique it. Elaborate on it or pick a fight. Give me something more.
Too much personal stuff. You can certainly post some personal thoughts and stories on a more professional post. It’s the whole “social” part of social media. But keep the balance weighted toward “professional” (for lack of a better word) content than personal. I aim for about a 75/25 split.
For another take on what not to write, check out this list
Editing Your Work
There is a renegade, wild west feel to blogging. It is so simple, so immediate, that it’s easy to think that editing just gets in the way. Editing feels like a tool of The Man. The Establishment trying to keep you down. And frankly, too much editing can take the freshness out of your blog. But just a little editing can make your blog look much more professional and make you look way smarter. And who doesn’t love that?
I suggest three tips for editing your posts easily and quickly:
Review your work in three different places. For me that means I actually doing my writing in Word. It has pretty powerful spelling and grammar functions. Once I have written it, I read it through in Word. Reading out loud –even under your breath – is a great way to catch simple mistakes. Then I cut and paste into WordPress and read it again. Finally, I preview how the post will look on my blog. Each time I do this, I am convinced I have created an error free post and each time I catch something at each review stage.
Create a style sheet. An editorial style sheet is a cheat sheet to help you remember little details spell check won’t catch (spelling of names for instance) or which of two correct usages you use (ebook vs e-book) you use. A style sheet can be a simple grid. I like to create mine on the computer and then work from a paper copy that I can add to as I go. You can read more about style sheets and find links to examples here.
Check your links. Once your post is up, take a moment and click on each link to make sure you entered it correctly and it leads to where you intended. They probably do, but takes just a moment to check.
Next: Building readership and monitoring stats.