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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

FriedOkra's Simple Tips for Blog Writing, Number 1

A month or so before Peabody arrived, I fancied myself a good enough writer to offer y'all some general blog-writing coaching. Several of you responded with surprising (to me) enthusiasm and then I just-as-enthusiastically dropped the ball, had a baby, and became completely useless to anyone but my children and occasionally Al, although he, and they, may argue even that point.

Ahem.

But your interest in what little ol' FriedOkra might have to say on the topic of writing both touched and inspired me, and I spent a few days back in June and July 2007 thinking about what makes the written word come alive for me. I'm not a blogging expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love writing, and I love reading well-written blogs, too. One of the most beautiful things about our community is the unique voice each of us adds to the conversation - our writing styles vary as widely as our hairstyles, and our passions and messages and meanings are joyfully distributed across such a vast array of subjects and perspectives.

Despite the variety of flavors each of us serves up at his or her own personal blog, I find commonalities of style that make writing pop off the screen and into my mind and soul, and I thought I'd share those with you over the next few weeks in a series of quick, easy to digest Simple Tips for Blog Writing to help you polish your own style, add punch to your messages or just give you some simple ideas to make writing faster and easier, since we're all busy and we're all always looking for ways to get things done better, faster.

Here's the first of my Simple Tips for Blog Writing.

1. Know your purpose. Understand why you blog and why you’re writing a post before you begin to write it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What drives you to write in general, and what has you stoked to write this particular post?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What will make the post most valuable to that audience? Is it a feeling to which you think they can relate? A lesson you want them to learn?
  • Do you want your audience to laugh? Cry? Get up and do something? Change an opinion?

You need to know the answers to these questions before you start writing, and write toward those answers. Having a clear purpose or objective for your blog and each post will not only help you write concise, targeted posts, but also help you develop your blogging voice, or your on-line personality - basically who you are on your blog and in the blogging community.

This first tip applies more broadly, too, to those who are considering starting a new blog. Asking yourself the questions above can help you build a smart, purposeful blog from the ground up, vs. what I've done - created a blog, named it, and then stumbled around for 18 months trying to figure out what to do with it.

But then again, I think stumbling around is an important component of my blogging voice, don't you?

Can you think of a post you've published lately that seemed to write itself? You sat down and the words flowed out of you faster than your fingers could type? And the post grabbed the attention of your readers and elicited more comments and conversation than many of your other posts? That's probably because you knew at the outset of the writing process WHY you were writing that post - you knew exactly what you wanted your readers to hear and why you wanted them to hear it.

In contrast, I know we've all had posts that seemed to loop around endlessly on the screen, took ages to write, and then appeared to fall flat with our readers. Right? Or is that just me? Those posts won't write themselves because your idea's not fully developed and your purpose isn't clear to even you yet. Take time with those "larval" ideas, to make them clearer in your own mind, to develop them more fully before you write and post them. Or table these ideas for further development by typing out the basics in draft posts or in a tickler file you revisit for ideas from time to time.

Tip One is Know your purpose. You don't have to have the post written and edited in your mind before you sit down at your computer (which I'll discuss in a later tip), but you do need to know where you're going before you get behind that blogging wheel.


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24 comments:

  1. Agree with every, well-written and purposeful word! ;)

    BTW, I don't comment often, but I LOVE your writing voice.

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  2. i do try to do this and i hope that my blog posts don't come off mumble jumble all the time but my writing style tends to be like my thinking style, a little of everything scattered all over the place lol. Thanks for the great tip and i cant wait to read more!

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  3. I'm new to this whole blogging thing so this post is really relevant to me. Thanks!

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  4. Thanks for the tip. I know this to be true, but I have a hard time executing on a regular basis. Guess that gives me something to work on.

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  5. Good tip! Looking forward to more :)

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  6. I am definitely a rookie blogger, so thanks for the advise. I will look forward to reading all your tips!

    Courtney

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  7. Thanks for the advice! I think that once you know your purpose, it's okay if your writing "voice" meanders around some of the time, as long as it's authentic.

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  8. This is so true, Megan.

    I actually read this post (via Twitter) as I was working on my post for 5MP, and I felt like Exhibit A of what NOT to do.

    I love those posts that flow naturally and almost write themselves. It's when I'm most me, if that makes any sense.

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  9. I'm learning from you - keep going girl!

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  10. Thanks for your tip- it's a great start!

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  11. :)

    Know my purpose? When I started blogging, I didn't have no stinkin' purpose. It sure would've helped, though (now). That's why I'm "all over the place :) ).

    Looks like you're gonna have a great series!

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  12. Hi Megan,
    I hadn´t forgotten about your blogwriting-assistance-offer, but I didn't dare to ask about it, due to you having a child and all....
    So glad you got back to it. I have lots to learn and I like learning from the best.
    This lesson is great advice, but also difficult. I have been blogging for nine months now and love it, but does it have a purpose? Even to me? You got me thinking, and that's good. Thank you!
    Looking forward to lesson 2.
    Greetings, Marianne

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  13. I completely forgot about this...and I'm so glad you're doing it now. Great tips!

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  14. Fantastic insights, friend.

    I think, too, after you've been blogging a while and kind of you get your feet under you, you may find your purpose has evolved. That's a natural part of this medium, I think. I find I've said just about all I know to say about natural living topics. (Well, except vaccine injury awareness. I could soapbox about that anyday). But things are moving in a different direction now, and it that in and of itself is rejuvenating!

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  15. So what do you think about this? I usually know what I'm saying, and why, so I've got that part of your tip handled nicely (I think). But I agree that keeping your audience in mind is relevant - yet I don't have much audience. I'd like to have one, of course, but it's a teeny, tiny one for now...do you believe in writing for your desired audience, even if no such thing has yet materialized?

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  16. Having a big giant forehead smacking uhduh moment over here.

    I've been playing with this blog of mine for mine for a few years now without ever really thinking about these things, why some posts work, why some don't, what is my goal? etc.

    I see a moment in the future when I sit down and try to find the answers to all of your questions.

    Thanks Megan :)

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  17. Lately, I have been experimenting with stories/poems inside of photographs. Sometimes, the photos say more than what I can write.

    Example:

    http://www.screweduptexan.com/2009/01/okie-adventures-best-moments-of-life.html

    One of my goals this year is to write purposely. As I just began blogging five days a week 7 months ago, I have noticed my writing style change. Writing comes easily for me now. I feel there is nothing I can't write about (although some topics would make me sound less intelligent, so I dont write on those topics).

    Thanks for the tips!

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  18. Set out to create a purpose-driven blog--that's very good advice.

    As you pointed out, however, sometimes it's in our stumbling that we find at least a hint of direction that can point us to our purpose for a given post or the blog in general.

    I really like your purpose-o-meter: thinking back to that easy-to-write, free-flowing, energizing post (versus the post that looped around and took ages to write).

    Sometimes, though, do you find that a post will take you by surprise? Every once in a while, a topic I never expected to be a hit will take off like a rocket.

    I'll look forward to your next installment. Looks like you're offering some great tips to evaluate our online composition.

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  19. Oh goodie... I like this! And so true.. I had no idea what my 'goals' where when I started and even declared a 'do over' after I got into it a little bit. And for newbies, your goals might change in time too. It took me a little bit to figure out what I wanted to say and who I was etc in regards to blogging. Hmm maybe I'm still trying to figure that out. LOL

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  20. Thanks for the tip! :-) I'm looking forward to reading more!

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  21. Wonderful and wise advice. I read so many bloggers who really haven't figured out why they're blogging or what their voice is yet, and it's neat to watch them develop their focus.

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  22. Such great advise. I always seem to stumble upon a post. One that seems to write itself, so easily. Then there are there are the days where it is such a struggle. Those are the days I sit back and think about what I am doing, and why.

    Thanks!!

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  23. Great advice. I copied your questions to keep for reference. Even after blogging for a while, it is a good reminder to get back to basics. I found this post very useful.
    LL

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  24. Oh, this is so very helpful. There are many that I am writing a post just to have something on my blog and the comments definitely reflect this.

    Thanks Megan! Great advice.

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Thoughts?