Okay, last week we started a series to teach about blogging. Yes, I am going to teach you how to write a blog. Contrary to popular belief, we are not instant writers the second we eek through high school English and make an A on that drivel we cut and pasted together with note cards, ballpoint pen and sadness. Yes, I am old enough to have used index cards for my high school…*cough* okay college papers.
Journalism is a specific kind of writing and gasp people even go to college to learn Journalism. The insanity! Guess what? Writing a novel is a specific craft, with skills that must be learned with much crying, drinking and gnashing of teeth. Would we all love to be that person who knows this crap instinctively and rockets to the top of the best-selling list with the novel he wrote on cocktail napkins while waiting tables and selling pirated DVDs? YES! But I assume most of us wish we were born with Gates or Kennedy as a last name, too.
Hey, if wishes were fishes, we’d all cast a net.
Here’s the deal. Wishing we were born instant geniuses is about as productive as wishing we were born into royalty. What does this mean? It means put on the grungy pants. It’s time to do some work.
Blogging is a totally different kind of writing. I see a lot of great “writing” on crappy blogs. Blogging is different.
Think Journalism. When you want to know about the nuclear reactor in Japan, do you want to open the paper to…?:
The sun crept over the eastern mountains and glittered across the wreckage below. People, dying and wounded threaded the streets, their eyes unfocused and mouths limp. The tsunami had dragged hope and loved ones back into the dark churning belly of the sea. The reactor belched black death into air already thick with fear.
NO! That is creative writing, not journalism. We want the FACTS. We want to first know how we can help our Japanese friends FAST and then, we ultimately want to know how and if and when it might affect US.
When we blog, it is a very specific kind of writing that is meant to be fast, easy, and portable. Like journalism, blogging has to capture the attention of readers with the attention span of a squirrel with severe ADD that is high off Thin Mints and crack cocaine.
Many writers are not approaching their blog with the appropriate style of writing, and frankly, that is why you are exhausted and covered in strange bruises.
A couple weeks ago, I referenced Chef Gordon Ramsay. I LOVE Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon Ramsay ROCKS. What I really, really love about this show, is that there are so many lessons that cross-apply to writers.
There is one particular episode I saw 2 years ago that comes to mind. This owner loved to cook and so he opened a restaurant and pretty soon he was chin-deep in debt and sinking fast. The owner/chef happened to be a huge fan of Ramsay, and when Gordon showed, the owner proudly displayed the shelves of Gordon Ramsay cookbooks that he had been using for the menu at the restaurant.
Ramsay nearly fell over. Want to know why? Those recipes were too complex for a restaurant. They were written for someone cooking at home for a family or a party. No chef would ever be able to turn out quality food in a timely fashion using recipes so intricate.
The owner-chef needed recipes that fit his needs…serving large groups of people tasty food in a timely manner.
Our blogs are the same. If we approach blogging with the care and intricacy of our novel or even our NF work, we are setting ourselves up to fail.
Blogging is like fast food we get through a drive-thru window. People (readers) need to be able to keep moving and still ingest and digest. If we take a moment to think about how many people read blogs, this makes sense. With the rise of PDAs, many people are reading their blogs on their phones on stolen breaks at the workplace. If we make people work too hard for our content, they are likely to pass or put off our blogs for later.
Neither is good.
So here are some general rules about good blogs:
Blogs preferably should be short. Oh how I suck at following this rule. You can break this rule if you break it well.
Many of you guys are probably getting heart palpitations thinking you need to churn out some 1000-2000 word tome. You don’t.
My blogs are generally longer because I assume many of you want to learn this stuff before it is obsolete. Unlike me, however, most of you will not have content that you are running after like a dog chasing a car he will never catch. Thus, your posts can be shorter…like 400-800 words.
Blogs need to be portable (simple). Again, think fast food. Burgers, tacos, pizza. There are no drive-thrus serving Steak au Poivre or roasted duck with an orange reduction. THOSE DISHES AREN’T PORTABLE.
This is why I break everything down into baby food particulates you can smear in your hair and fling at the wall should you desire. Hey, novel structure makes me want to fling things at the wall. Might as well be something orange that is easy to see and clean up, right? Simple is better. If you make points, illustrate with easy, visual examples which brings me to my next point.
Let me get this straight–an antagonist is not always a villain?
Blogs need to be visual.
Humans are story people. Stories resonate with our soul. We have enjoyed stories since we were sporting the latest Saber-Tooth fashions. People dig stories. Stories stick. If we are writers, then stories should not be that hard.
My blogs are so simple a…yes I am going there…so simple a caveman could get them. Why? Not only is it good blogging to keep things simple, but I have to be blunt. Writers are notorious for overcomplicating things. Yes! You! I know how you think, and it really is this simple. Stop making it harder than it needs to be.
Visual examples and illustrations help people grasp material and retain it. When they retain they return.
Blogs need to generate community.
Blogs do not have to be article after article. That is a formula to wear out fast and hate your blog, hate me, and end up drinking straight from a margarita machine.
Blogs are a way to just get people talking. Humans bond by giving opinions and advice. Don’t believe me? Call your mother. Like now. We’ll wait.
*taps toe and hums*
I bet it took her less than 30 seconds to give you unsolicited advice or an opinion. Tell her Kristen says “Hi.”
Why do our mothers freely offer unsolicited therapy and opinions? Because that is how humans (including mothers) show LOVE and CARE and COMMUNITY. They give advice and opinions whether we want it or not.
Sweetie, I know you like it but that belly ring makes you look like a tramp.
If we write blogs that encourage others to give opinions and advice, that activates the warm fluffy feeling in their collective little souls. Hey, I know it does mine. I DIG giving advice. Why do you think I write a blog four days a week when I could be doing other things like dusting or paying bills or leveling up on Bejeweled?
I love telling you guys how to live your lives. It makes me feel special. But you know what? I love hearing the advice you guys come up with, especially when it involves candy, alcohol or shooting guns in the air with wild abandon.
In the coming weeks, we are going to explore many ways that you guys can blog and still have time for things like eating, sleeping and GASP writing your novel.
What are some problems you guys have been having? Setbacks? What do you love about blogging? What scares you? Do you have any advice? Recommendations?
I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
Until next time…
In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Literary Agent Laurie McLean has a writer MUST-READ about making a Digital Marketing Plan
For the NF authors. Competing in a World Where Information is Free
The Power of Peer Recommendation and Reviews by talented Jody Hedlund
Author Voice vs. Character Voice–Finding Both by Roni Loren
How Much Bling Does a Writer Need? by Jennifer Holbrook-Talty
Story Engineering–An Interview with Larry Brooks over at the AWESOME Writer Unboxed