can’t see the forest

One Year Out – 10 Things I’ve Learned about Blogging

Posted in advice, Blogging, how-to, Internet, Personal, Web, writing, WWW by Curtis on 9/23/07

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Continuing my recent Lettermanian trend of this and that, I was able to survive introspection long enough to come up with ten things I’ve learned about blogging since I began this quest about one year ago. Maybe you’ll have something to add?

  1. Read more. Write less. You’ve probably heard me invoke this anecdote ten too many times already, but I like it—Isaac Asimov, when once asked to give his best advice to young writers, said “Read more.” Stephen King gave the same advice in his On Writing. But it’s not just about developing style and technique. One gains insight by writing, but quantity and quality of input can only help to increase quality of output, as I see it. When you find yourself far more focused on writing than reading, it might be time for a quality check.
  2. Don’t get too ambitious on a per-post basis. I am as guilty of this as anyone else I’ve encountered in the blogosphere. As raincoaster once pointed out to me, the medium of blogging is just not as well suited to long posts as to shorter ones. Splitting posts with —more— can help. It’s your blog—write as much or as little as you please. It’s wise to remember, though, that your blog post is a tangible product in that it shows up on a screen and will be, perhaps unconsciously, sized up as a whole before any of the parts are explored. For that reason, short and squat is more attractive for most people, no matter how many awesome things you might have to say. If the topic is too large for a single post, make a serial of it. That’s how most large works have historically been first published, anyway.
  3. Avoid hotlinking media. Not only is it discourteous (except maybe in the case of gigantic hosts), but it’s unreliable. Numerous older posts where I hotlinked images, etc. are now missing that media because the link has been killed or the target has moved.
  4. Remember your audience. This is one of those things that goes for writing in general, of course, but it’s particularly important if you’re trying to attract repeat visitors. Try not to write as if you’re talking to yourself, try not to overuse technical jargon and astronomical vocabulary; but, at the same time, don’t talk down to your readers, either.
  5. Avoid weak language. Another very general rule. It’s a good habit to avoid words/phrases like seem(s), maybe, I think, in my opinion, is being, was done—and try not to get too adverb-happy, also. Clean, straightforward language does wonders to hold interest. Weak, overly subjunctive writing is invariably too wordy and can get tiresome pretty fast. Remember: Subject, Verb, Object. It works. Variety is the spice of life, but not the meat-and-potatoes of life.
  6. Take your time. Hurry up. The choice is yours. Don’t be late. Tee-hee. What I mean is not to get too comfortable with the ‘Publish’ button. You can always edit later, but if you come across posts in your blog that cause you to wonder “When did I do that?” or “Why did I do that?” then you’re probably taking things too quickly. Or, maybe, you’re just a coffee addict like me. Or both.
  7. People and relationships are important in the blogosphere. Everyone’s style is different, but in some sense, each blog is an open book, a reflection of the person to whom it belongs. Be prepared to feel a kind of attachment to those bloggers with whom you identify. And while, yes, there are a lot of opportunistic f***s out there, one should always be open to the development of working relationships on the Web—while remembering, of course, that they are on the Web.
  8. Regular posting means regular traffic. Admittedly, some of my biggest days in terms of page loads have occurred while I’ve been away. As a general rule, though, regular traffic is created by regular posting and by regularly frequenting the sites of others. It’s easy to think that the posts you care the most about should naturally receive the widest viewing audience, but, in reality, that’s seldom the case.
  9. Categories and social bookmarking require thought and planning. Categorizing and bookmarking sometimes become chores I execute in a perfunctory manner. But using these tools wisely and with a little forethought can make all the difference in how visible and accessible your material is to others.
  10. If you care more about stats than comments, something is awry. Enough said. Seriously.

4 Responses

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  1. Cliff Burns said, on 9/23/07 at 8:45 pm

    Some good advice here. Bloggers, don’t be boring. It’s okay to be personal, but not self-absorbed. It’s fine to be caustic, but make sure you know who you’re aiming at. I edit my posts meticulously–no typos or spelling errors, a sign of respect for my readers.

    Thanks for this, I hope more bloggers will heed your words.

  2. Curtis said, on 9/23/07 at 8:47 pm

    Some nice additions—some of my biggest ‘oopses’ have entailed the realization that I could have said something with more tact and finesse. And meticulous editing is always a plus. I let things slip through the cracks from time to time, but I agree that good editing is a sign of respect for the audience.

  3. Odale said, on 9/27/07 at 7:12 pm

    This is an excellent post and you are a proficient writer! I’m new to this whole concept, having a blast, but really needed this and any other viable advice! Thank you and keep writing!

  4. Curtis said, on 9/28/07 at 1:55 am

    Thanks, Odale. I could’ve expanded this list out to twenty items, and it’s not as if I really follow my own rules all the time, but I’d say it’s sound advice for any web-based writer. Very glad you could make it.

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