I love being a blogger.
There’s a freedom (and responsiblity) in blogging that is rare to find in any other writing profession except for maybe fiction writing, but that’s another type of freedom and another discussion for another day.
For today’s #blogchat on Twitter, creator Mack Collier asked what writing tips are needed to be a better blogger. I think I’ve got a handle on this topic seeing that, well, I’m a writer. And a journalist. And a blogger.
And I do run a writing blog, after all.
As a writer, what tips do I have for bloggers? So glad you asked!
Voice is important.
I think this is extremely important. For me as a reader and writer of blogs, voice is extremely important. What is voice? Here’s an example. When someone says something, maybe it’s a phrase or the tone of voice, another person would say. That’s when you pop up and say “you sound just like…” or “that’s something such and such would say…”. That’s voice. It’s a particular way things are being said or written.
How do you develop voice? With practice. Start out with being personable and inviting to your reading audience. Remember, people don’t have to read you, they want to because you have something to offer so don’t be dry toast about it.
I hate to say it but grammar counts.
I’m the type of writer that will work DAYS on an image or a metaphor or a scene but will spend about 30 seconds on grammar and mechanics. My eyes bleed when I have to do that. In journalism, we believe that a grammar mistake chips away at credibly. It’s the same with blogging. How can you have a fantastic voice but horrible grammar mistakes. (It can happen and has on this very blog.)
This is something I work on constantly, not only in my writing but also on my blog posts. I’ve had friends read over a post and email me, asking me what I meant about a passage. Embarrassing, yes, but I appreciate when it happens because, nine times out of ten, I just wrote the post in the 10-15 minutes I had free between projects.
Stop being cute and get to it.
One of the things that annoy me about blogs is that the writer tries to be cute. So cute that the meat and potatoes of the post is seven graphs and three pictures in. It’s not only annoying but a waste of time. In the time it takes to get through the cute intro to what the post is about, a reader can decide to move on. In journalism it’s the time it takes to get from the lede to the nut graph, which tells you what the story is about. That distance is about an inch on a good day, usually shorter.
Just get to point.
It’s easier for some than others. Here’s a way to figure it out. Write the post as you normally would. Then figure out where the important part of the post starts. If it’s far from the first sentence of the post, it’s time to edit down the intro to what you need.
But once you get to the point, make it well.
If I had to concentrate on any one part of the post the most, I’d spend more time making sure my point is clear. I spend loads of time making sure the train of thought is clear and concise. For me as the writer, it’s important that my point is on point, that it’s fact checked, and that it’s easy to follow. I work on this constantly. Sometimes I nail it. Other times, well, it’s a work in progress.
Then there are the other writing rules.
There are lots of writing rules to make great prose. I recommend two books on the writing process. On Writing Well my William Zimmer and The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B White. These two books have served me well through the years. I still refer to them and referred to them while revising my thesis. Some of my favorite rules are: don’t use three words when one will do, avoid over using adverbs, and extract redundancies.
When I’m revising, I like to do at least two reads to per piece. The first time I read for content. I ask myself: 1) Are all the pieces there I need? Are they in an order or sequence that makes sense? What am I missing? What would make this better? I usually have walked away from the piece (chapter, short story, blog post) for a couple of hours, days, or even weeks. I try my best to look at it with fresh eyes. I like to call it “letting the piece breathe”. And 2) I read for grammar and mechanics. I try to catch as many as I can (again this makes my eyes bleed). While I’m checking for that, I’m also doing a line edit — reading the sentences to make them as strong as possible.
Since I’ve been writing about writing for a long time, here are some of my favorite blog posts about writing in general through the years. They’ve been helpful to writers in the process of their novels and projects. I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too.
What haven’t I discussed here?
I’ve covered lots of writing rules and practices. What’s left? The process. How do you write best? Laptop? Ipad/tablet with keyboard? Are you using an app or using another app like Evernote (which I’m currently in love with) to get some blogging or writing done?
Would love to hear your thoughts! Hit the comments below!