Don’t Write That, Write This! How To Be An Awesome Blogger

If the causes of the Big Bang remain a mystery, the expansion of the Blogoverse can be traced back to the day a writer first discovered Wordpress. With the exponential growth of the form since, The Onion will soon run a story on how scientists have determined that in less than a year the sheer mass of writing blogs will rupture virtual reality and send us all hurtling into hyperspace doom.

So how do you make your blog stand out from the crowd? After many weeks in my laboratory, experimenting on captive blogs, I now take off my white coat, lay aside my sphygmomanometer and give you the results of my research.

Do not write about your pets or family

I have already cautioned against the use of cats as a subject for twitter, so it can’t come as a surprise to hear me say that unless you own a brontosaurus, writing about your pets isn’t going to pique the interest of a casual visitor to your website. Similarly, your kids and spouse are off limits, for the simple reason that you want them to carry on liking you.

Write about what interests you instead

Unless you own a brontosaurus, writing about your pets isn’t going to pique the interest of a casual visitor to your website.

Clock making. Pearl Jam. Why fishes don’t have earlobes. Whatever makes your heart beat faster makes for good reading, because true passion is infectious. When people tell you to write about what you love, this is what they mean.

Do not write about self publishing versus trad publishing

It doesn’t matter if you’re self or trad or hybrid (a lovely concept which makes me imagine writers shambling around like Triffids and hunting down readers with their sepals). As Rob Hart recently wrote, the whole publishing debate has gone cult, which means the only right position is not to have one. And writing about publishing is a big turn off for anyone who isn’t actually actively engaged in publishing (would you read a blog about the intricacies of the extruded plastics industry? Didn’t think so).

Write about other issues instead

There’s a whole big world out there with stuff happening in it every day. Is it okay for people to dress up as inhabitants of a psychiatric hospital at Halloween? Should giraffes be offended by comparisons to Miley Cyrus? Is Bora Bora a real place or not? Look outside your own corner of the fish pond (do fish ponds have corners?) and find your stories there.

Don’t write about how hard it's been for you to get published

When you’re in the process of getting published you think about almost nothing else. Getting published is a love affair, full of agony and joy and – hey, if you can write a blog about love, Bridget Jones style, you can write about the roller coaster ride that is getting your labor of love into print. Right?

Wrong! Remember the last time you spent an evening with someone in the throes of unrequited love and wanted to run screaming for the exit or pour formaldehyde into their drink? Writing about yourself quickly gets old for your readers and remember, your blog is not about pleasing you, your blog is about pleasing them.

Write about other people instead

Chance encounters. Heroes. Villains. The people you wanted to be when you were six. The people you didn’t want to be when you were six. All of these people, real or imaginary, make for more interesting reading than your latest battles with your editor/agent/publisher/bookbinder.

Don’t write lists of advice about writing

Now that information overload has given us all the attention span of microbes, lists have become an easy way to spoonfeed an audience our message. There’s nothing wrong with lists in themselves except when they become combined with the need to become a fount of wisdom.

Writers must enjoy sounding authoritative because virtual space is crammed with lists of authorial advice: ‘5 Ways to Not Make Your Characters Sound Like Raving Loonies’, ‘6 Plot Devices Favored by Italian Poets’, ’10 Dialogue Tags to Make Your Readers Groan’.

Unless you are Elmore Leonard, giving advice about writing is…inadvisable. And you are not Elmore Leonard because he is dead.

Write other lists instead

'10 Reasons Chocolate Ice Cream is the Best Food Ever'. '5 Ways to Remove Chocolate Ice Cream Stains from your Clothes'. '3 Exercises You Might Want to Try After Eating Too Much Ice Cream'. You know about more than just writing. Share your expertise with the world!

Don’t write about the latest controversy

Controversies have a short shelf life. In a couple of weeks the collective unconscious will have shuffled off like the zombie horde, in search of fresh brains to devour. You want your material to seem fresh and relevant for more than five minutes and you also want it to be unique. When a scandal hits the fan, everyone suddenly has an opinion about it and however strongly held your beliefs, your take on the subject is probably no more insightful than anyone else’s (sorry but this is true). Most scandals are also more nuanced and less scandalous than anyone wants to let on, which means that you may well find your carefully reasoned arguments fall apart like poorly executed macramé as more facts come to light.

Write your own controversy instead

Unearth an old scandal. Re-examine widely held beliefs (is Jeff Bezos an alien?). Question the status of sacred cows. Rehabilitate the reputation of long forgotten wrongdoers.

Now let’s hear from you. If you wrote a blog which managed to avoid all of the subjects above, put a link in the comments. Blog glory awaits…

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Cherstin Holtzman's picture
Cherstin Holtzman from North Port, FL is reading The Dark Tower Series: The Dark Tower, Book 7 October 3, 2013 - 5:03pm

I've broken every rule here, and I'm craving ice cream.

This is excellent advice, and I'm not kidding about having broken every rule.  I am, however, in a place where I confess to creating a travesty on the web and I am looking for ways to recreate my blog.  Thank you for this piece - this is excellent advice to help get me out of the drivel I've been writing about lately.  

I'm starting to peruse a wider variety of blogs and I've noticed the ones I am adding to my reading list are all short and to the point, involve some sort of interaction or introspection, and they aren't about any of the above-mentioned topics.  You're definitely on to something good.



Dave Cummins's picture
Dave Cummins from Ireland October 4, 2013 - 5:24am

This is a great piece, all sound advice I'll try to adhere to in the future. If I get a dinosaur though, I'm going to town. Cheers

David Hadley's picture
David Hadley October 4, 2013 - 7:26am

My blog A Tangled Rope has avoided all that stuff by not really being a blog in the traditional sense at all. Although, a recent post did feature a nice cup of tea, but it turned out to have something to do with dragons instead.

I must admit I am getting very bored with writers writng about writing, or not writing, or anything like that.


cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 October 5, 2013 - 9:51pm

Maybe another idea: don't blog at all. Or at least, consider that you don't have to blog to be a successful writer. I have a blog, and when cool things happen in my life, I make a post about it. But generally speaking, I find the whole thing a bit monotonous. This isn't to say I don't read blogs (there are some really good ones out there). Or that blogs in general are stupid. I am saying, it isn't a necessity.

Then again, I haven't published a whole lot (yet), so what do I know.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce October 12, 2013 - 7:14pm

Cath, this is great advice. I don't blog, but these are huge turn-offs when it comes to reading blogs, particularly the woes of being published and the traditional vs self publishing debate!