How to Write a Blog + Creative Writing Tips to Use Now
How to Write a Blog + Creative Writing Tips to Use Now
Part 1: The Growing Trend in Shaming New Writers
I have noticed this weird trend. Somewhere out in the ether, someone will become irate over something like the misuse of the word "there". Or the idea that anyone would use two spaces after a period (full stop; dot). Or that a person might write the phrase "home in" when they mean "hone-in" (Okay, that was me, actually. On this LinkedIn group.)
Why Mock the Newbies?
And maybe we've always done this to new writers. But it feels weird to watch this new influx of people being asked to "create content" with a pretty vague idea of what that might look like, and then continue to watch as more seasoned writers (and their cronies) mock them.
Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing.
I know I get profoundly uncomfortable mucking around in other people's writing when I feel that they need a remedial class before they dive in. It's a tough spot to be in. And oddly, I do notice that it's a rare breed of person who can openly admit that they can't write, that it is a learnable skill and that they want to put the time in to refine their skills. The people who can do this, generally speaking, are writers.
So the shaming does come from a place of genuine frustration sometimes.
Ever Notice that Designers don't shame?
Still. You know who doesn't do this sort of shaming, generally speaking? Designers. I have never, not once, seen a similar "design mistakes" post. When there are such things, they are gentle, teachable posts, not gut wrenchingly cringy shame-fests.
Here is a sample of what I often send to Ben Groulx, our design director:
And here is what he sends back:
Part 2: How to Write a Blog
So. No one should be shaming you about your writing. Just as is the case with the best musicians, dancers, actors and other artists, most writers take writing classes. A lot. Most writers participate in writing-related discussions. Most writers read a lot. If you are going to blog, you really ought to read lots of blogs. And you should realize that your writing is going to improve as you practice.
Second, this is not a tutorial on the mechanics of how to set up your blog. This is assuming that you have a blog, you're just not writing in it. Yet.
Your step-by-step guide - how to write a blog:
That out of the way, here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a blog:
- Set up a Feedly account. Once there, populate Feedly with blogs you enjoy reading, and which are in a similar vein to what you might want to write.
- Create a spreadsheet in Google Drive or Excel. All you need this for is to save your ideas. You'll start getting them, too, once you start to systematically start reading each morning. You'll see posts that you think you could have written better. You'll read posts and just need to respond. You'll keep reading and realize there is a huge gap in what is being offered to you, and you need to fill that gap. All these ideas are future blog posts, and they all get stored in your spreadsheet.
- Open your calendar. Open whichever calendar app you use or open your lovely spiral appointment book. Open it, and write a topic on each day you plan to write. Don't just write "blog post due" on each Tuesday. Write the proposed topic you will write on for each day. Plan as far in advance as you can. You can (and will) change your plans. But this will help keep you on track and honest. If writing a blog is not your favourite thing to do, do not write more often than once every two weeks. You can always increase your frequency. Decreasing your frequency, however? Try not to do that.
- Write. Each post you write should ideally be around 1200 words. The minimum ought to be 500 words unless you are Seth Godin, in which case you can do whatever you want. Try for this mash-up: The most organized high school or college essay combined with your favourite sitcom. You want fast-paced sound bites but in a very standard "outline-friendly" framework. All the above is, generally speaking, of course.
- Consider Keyword Research. As long as this doesn't bog you down, get an account over on Google Adwords. Once there, click "Tools" then "Keyword Planner". Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category. Type in whatever your topic is, then, when you get results, sort to find the phrase with lots of searches per month and "low" competition. If it works to use that word or phrase, use it. If this seems like it's too much, then save keyword research for later. There's always something more to learn. Write well first, then worry about keywords. *I am not saying keywords are not important. I'm just using triage. Another fun tool is Google Trends. Play around in there for awhile as long as you're not too distracted.
- Edit. Think about your audience. Read what you have written aloud. Ideally, get someone else (someone literate, gentle and intelligent) to read what you have written aloud. Read what you have written slowly and carefully, considering the cadence and the words you have chosen to use.
- Post. Check that you have a neat, well-organized post, with a title written with the largest available headline choice in your editor, and then several "level 2" headers. Check that there is ample "white space". Quite honestly, you ought to hire a designer to help make your posts readable. If you get a basic font/style down, you will be able to replicate it each post.
- Amplify! Here's the fun part. In this new modern world where everyone is a writer, we're all also editors and publishers, too! This takes time and cojones. Time, because at first, you will be diligently sending your posts out into the ether where no one knows you, so most normal people won't read what you've written. Why would they? They have no idea how awesome you are yet! Cajones, because it's your job to show people how insanely great your writing is. Yep. Get used to it. Read The Art of Social Media and follow Peg Fitzpatrick and Guy Kawasaki's advice. Get an account at Viral Content Buzz and learn to use that service. Consider Triberr, too.
- Repeat. You'll get better as you go along. You'll be able to add in keyword research as you improve, and your amplification will produce results. You'll network with blog writers, and, as you're reading all this great stuff, you'll feel compelled to comment and connect with other writers. You'll grow. Oh, the places you'll go! :)
Part 3: Useful Creative Writing Tips You Can Use Now
The first creative writing tip is one that I have already mentioned, but it bears repeating: Read. Read the kind of writing you would like to be able to write. If that's Milton, read Milton. If it's The Oatmeal, then read The Oatmeal. If it's Cyanide and Happiness, then that's your poison (get it?!)
Onward. Some of these tips may be painfully obvious, but I think they are all valid. I'd love to learn more of what works, so, as usual, let me know what you use.
- Show, Don't Tell. Hopefully, you've heard this one before. Sometimes, telling makes good sense. But whenever possible, using concrete examples that show the reader what you mean, in a way that might stick with them, is a great device.
- Open with a Vignette. I did that in this post, and I think it worked. Creating a strong visual impact in the first paragraph can work to lead your reader into the story.
- Summarize. Try to summarize what your blog post is about in one or two sentences. This can help you from getting carried away in too many directions. (Funnily enough, I fully accept the criticism that this post may be trying to cover too much in one go. Leave a comment if you think that is the case.)
- Feel, Don't Think. Advice from the incredible Angie Abdou. I've noticed this in some people whose writing seems stiff and unnatural. They're thinking about writing as they write. So don't think. Feel it. As you would when skiing or mountain biking. Flow with it. You can always edit later.
- Pay Attention. Notice the details in your life, the things that make you sit up a bit straighter. Notice smells and tastes. Notice what people wear, how they carry themselves. Notice what makes you smile or cringe. It's all fodder.
- Make it Sing. Make your writing sing or yell or scream or whisper. If your sentence "punches", make it punch. Vary your sentence length intentionally.
- Add Yourself in. Do this strategically, but do it. Tell stories about yourself, add in bits of your personality, create a character that is "you" and add him or her into your writing at will. I say create yourself as a character, because you do want to protect yourself, and you don't want to bore your reader. Only add in tidbits about yourself that add to the story and feel right to you long term.
Those are tips I curated from writers I admire. I hope a few of them prove useful to you. Are there any other tips you use that help you write better? Share them! I'm always learning and would love to know more tips on how to write better.