You don’t blog? (4/5)
Thursday 16 February 2012, 11.59pm HKT
Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)
HAVING SUFFERED THROUGH three previous takes of this boring, longwinded feature, you’d be pleased to know this is NOT the finale.
(Shweet fancy Moses, just WHEN is this guy gonna write something SHORTER?!? Jeezoz!)
Let’s tuck in into the juicy bits of running a blog.
Get some coffee — it long (again). Don’t bail out yet. It’s f@#king worth your read.
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6. How often to update your blog
DECIDE straight off how frequently you want to post.
“Failure in a long-term project isn’t just a work issue; it’s an identity issue. Is it any wonder that we procrastinate?”
—Peter Bregman, American strategic management and leadership adviser (via)
‘Poasting’* is the name of the game in blogging.
(* A word from the good ole’ bad days of the Usenet messageboards remembered with tearful nostalgia for those born before 1990.)
Say it well.
Say it sensible.
Say it sensibly.
And say it often.
You’re not just broadcasting information. Engage your readers. You par-bloody-ti-ci-pate. Face the fear.
A reality check:—
Ditch the post-a-day nonsense. Even staff journalists working for newspapers couldn’t achieve that. You’d only be setting yourself up for early burnout. Lots of blogs that go on this post-a-day spree end up being abandoned after two or three months.
Some bloggers can do that, but I can’t and I reckon you couldn’t either.
My batting average is 23 posts a month. Each post is on average 1,300 words long, plus illustration. Out of those 23, reckon on six of them being part of some multipart feature, and each feature running at 5,000 words or more, again plus illustration.
23 posts × 12 months
= 276 posts a year × 1,300 words
= 358,800 words a year on average
That average puts me right up in the rarified tier normally reserved for professional paid writers or senior field journalists or feature writers. In actuality, my word count goes higher than that.
And I couldn’t handle turning out one post a day, I don’t think…
- DO:— One post a week during your first year until you get the hang of it. That’ll be 52 posts a year — plenty enough. If something interesting arises between the regularly scheduled posts, POAST! Yours is a blog, not a magazine or TV show with fixed time slots.
“This site updates every Tuesday”
- DO:— Fix a weekly posting time during your first year, such as 8pm every Tuesday or something. Puts you in a proper frame of mind to keep rolling out new posts. It’s a routine so you won’t ditch your blog after two sordid months. It makes it possible for you to say, “This blog updates every Tuesday” and therefore gives your visitors ‘expectation.’
- DO:— Limit your first year’s weekly output to 500 words each (see below). Five hundred words is just a guideline, not a fixed rule. Go over or under according to the topic.
[Stop recommending this yet constantly write mega-features. You’re fired.—Editor]
- DON’T:— It’s a bad idea to just post on a whim. I always say this to blogging first-timers. Truth is, you won’t feel anything for weeks on end. Having said that, don’t let a routine stop you from posting about ‘things arising.’
Blogging causes feelings of trepidation even to the experienced. As the subscriber base grows, that trepidation grows with each new subscriber coming on board.
- DON’T:— Even if there’s nothing to write about, don’t skip the weekly posting. Tell us why there’s nothing to write about. Truth is, a whole week’s worth of living always, always contains something to write about.
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7. You need a monthly theme plan
Otherwise called ‘flavour of the month.’
This is so easy even for the newbie blogger and well worth the effort — especially if you happen to be one of those uninspired (or uninspirable) souls who can’t seem to find anything worth blogging about.
“Planning is everything; the plan is nothing.”
— General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1940s
Sit down and develop a monthly theme plan. Magazines do it. Newspapers do it. Television does it. Sorry, you never noticed?
- DO:— Invent a majority writing theme for each month. Twelve months, so that’s 4 posts × 500 words = 2,000 words a month (or 24,000 words a year). That’s like one school essay a month. Dead’o easy’o.
For instance, you could ‘decide’ that:—
January will be about Japanese dolls — figure on doing three posts on that plus the obligatory one on New Year’s Day
February, and there’s an art exhibition opening — one on that, two on some other artists who you dig, and one obligatory one on Valentine’s Day
March is faggoty springtime (in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate) — do some photo posts with minimal writing
April (unimaginatively) is April Fool’s Day or tax-form submission time — one on April Fool’s, one on the f@cktardism of making tax returns, one on how to design a prank, and one on a noteworthy prank you got hit with
And so on and so forth
With a plan like that, you’re already stacked with writing ideas for the entire year. Forget the ‘writing prompt’ websites. A little common sense and a little sit-down planning will be more than enough — and it will be so ‘you,’ if you see what I mean.
- DO:— Do modify the editorial themes for future months, but stick to the one for the current month. Be flexible and adaptable about your plan — change it, because the plan itself is nothing. No plan is set in stone (ever) so don’t be straitjacketed by one.
- DO:— Go out! Experience! And write about it! You cannot get inspiration or get blogging fodder when stuck indoors or have conversations with just a couple of family members or close friends.
Use the experiences and context that you have (or can capture) and share in your posts — things that you find interesting and which you think can add value to people.
If you’re passionate about cars, talk about cars. If yours is an on-topic kind of blog, keep in mind that it’s important to stay on your overall subject matter.
- DON’T:— Don’t confuse your readers by writing all sorts of different stuff that doesn’t match your blog name or mission.
Like The Naked Listener’s Weblog you’re reading!
- DON’T:— Whatever you do, please don’t start a blog that talks about grammar or one that corrects other people’s grammar!
We’re filled to the brim with those already!
I don’t question those bloggers’ passion for grammar, but many of those blogs just end up recycling everybody else’s same-old-same-old and just circle-jerking among themselves!
- DO:— Use a writing structure if your blog is a collaborative effort especially between several people in different geographical locations. Document this structure (the usual who, what, when, where, how and why) in your collaboration guide. This helps to clear your mind and not leave anything important behind.
- PROTIP:— Forget books about blogging. You’re not that advanced yet. Pointless too, unless you blog for money or professional purposes, in which case you don’t need my stinkin’ input here anyway.
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8. Copydesk operations:
how to post, what to post
PEOPLE who write for fun or profit are literary faggots at heart. Admit it, you’re one if you want to get into the blogging game. I know for sure I’m one.
Trouble is, people don’t read much. Or for long.
Better write short texts. If the topic is large, split it into parts (‘takes’) and publish them on different dates.
[You’re fired since no one’s reading.—Editor]
- DO:— Blog sensibly, consistently, frequently and engagingly. Engage your readers because you’re not an info broadcaster. Leave comments on other blogs and share your blog content on social networking sites.
Be personable in style. Be sociable in tone. Be good-natured and forgiving with commenters. Your comment responses show your aplomb and tactfulness.
- DO:— Write about 250 to 500 words per post during the first year. There’s no point doing more because you’re still learning the ropes. Again, be flexible and adaptable about it.
If the subject matter calls for a higher word count, then write more. But your overall aim is 500 words max.
- DO:— The “Salami Technique” for massive writeups — slice biggies into smaller, more digestible sizes. Run big features in multiple parts (‘takes’) on different dates.
Clearly, I don’t do the Salami Technique too well, you suspect.
For this entire four-part feature, the overall word count is around 5,500 words (jeez!).
I know nearly all the tricks to make a boring, longwinded and brain-damaged story more readable.
And I learnt those tricks well before blogging or the Internet were ever invented.
And STILL I did less* than 500 words a post during my first year of blogging and also whenever I’m on a new blog service.
(* The the grammarfags:— Use of ‘less’ is grammatically and historically correct in this context, as is also the use of ‘fewer’ in this context. Naturalness counts. ‘Fewer’ is correct in a periodic sentence, but ‘less’ is more appropriate (and equally correct) in a loose sentence (like the one above). Grammarfags, learn English properly, or starve. The ‘500 words’ IS being used as a contextual mass noun, even though words objectively are countable (just as sand grains are too). The less vs. fewer is a f@#king guideline, not a ‘rule.’ In any case, ‘fewer’ just sounds wrong in a sentence like that. Get a life or get laid to expend your excess grammatical sexual-frustration energy. Stop being so hypercorrect. You win no friends.)
[That’s enough grammarshite. You’re rehired.—Editor]
- DO:— Pay attention to the details. If you don’t know how to explain an issue, then you should document the details. Documenting the details is valuable, though few people do it. Write in Q&A or FAQ format if the details are convoluted.
Write out all your questions first and set them in order suitable for the topic. Answer your questions on your own without looking at the ‘set answers.’ That will show you how in tune (or out of tune) you yourself are with the topic. Then fill in the blanks.
- DO:— Consider your readers’ perspective — a simple way to find a writeable topic. Thinking about what your readers need will help your generate ideas for stories and therefore generate value for your blog.
- DO:— Run a yearly biographical piece about yourself to remind everyone just who the hell is behind your blog. I run mine [link] on New Year’s Day every year. Consider getting someone else to interview you and write up the piece.
- DO:— Index your posts with a monthly or weekly recap — one more post!
- DO:— A weekly post of top articles you’ve read during the week — another post!
- DON’T:— Avoid using your free time to blog. Instead set a time and duration to blog and flog.
One of the greatest writing techniques from the greatest [paid] writers is to set a time duration for writing. Use a kitchen timer. Ding! Ding! Ding! and you just leave the story in draft and come back to it later at the next writing time slot.
If you set just one hour a day for writing, you’ll find (as I did) you can cover a lot of ground even for just one story.
Free time is for living and experiencing Life. Use that to generate fodder for your blog.
[You’re fired for having too much free time.—Editor]
- DON’T:— Don’t format as you write. Write first, then format. Get in the words and details down pat first.
- DON’T:— Don’t f@#k around too long writing or editing. Your blog ain’t a book or a thesis.
Movie scripts get changed constantly on set all the time. Good enough is already perfect. Published and be damned for your trivial typos, obscure grammaticality or tortuous (and torturous) opinions.
- DO:— Learn proper DRAFTING technique:—
One sentence per line — learn not to draft in paragraphs.
20 to 25 words per sentence.
One sentence per paragraph (for academic works, 3 sentences per paragraph)
One character space (not two) between sentences (read the sidebar)
Save your draft.
Go back, rearrange, edit, and combine sentences into final paragraphs.
Be surprised that many people who write for a living (or those who have something riding on the final writeup, for example, Ph.D.’s doing their theses) are completely ignorant of this commonsensical way of doing things.
Read my post on draft vs. manuscript.
- DO:— Draw up ‘flat plans’ for big, multipart stories.
Photo explains everything
Blog articles have an easy format: it’s just one long vertical column
- DO:— Label each of your stories with a “slug.” A slug is a short name given to an article during production.
Be nice to readers and don’t force them to handwrite out lengthy URLs of your posts if they sometimes have to.
For example, your post titled “How I Went to Hell and Back And Got Nothing In Return for The Effort” will have a blimmin’ long URL like—
Give it a slug like ‘hellback’ so the URL becomes—
- DON’T:— Don’t keep charging at your stories until they get finished no matter what the hell. If you’re stuck and couldn’t get through, leave it. Come back to it again in five minutes’ time. Oftentimes, the very moment you set it aside is the moment something brilliant comes to mind.
- DO:— Put in many draft posts and leave it there to ‘marinate.’
Break away and give yourself time to ‘gel’ and ruminate on them. Setting aside some time to think about how to finish your stories helps make great posts.
- DON’T:— Avoid uploading pictures in massive sizes, unless yours is a photo blog. Resize your pictures to fit your column width.
- FACT:— Uploading big pictures won’t improve on their resolution on the page. Downsized photos also saves you online storage space given by your blog service.
Your original pictures are each 3000 × 2400 pixels (2.5 MB or more).
Your blog column size is 500 pixels wide.
Duplicate your originals.
Resize and upload the dupes at 600 × 800 pixels (around 55 kB to 250 kB each).
Uploading high-res pictures of 3000 × 2400 (2.5 MB or more) photo will only lengthen the page-loading time.
By the time your browser finished 45 minutes loading two dozen 2.5 MB photos of your debauched weekend beach party, everyone’s sick of your blog and wished you had drowned at the beach or died from extreme fellatio.
I have literally seen stupid bloggers on non-photo blogs upload two or three 9.8 MB photos for a column width of 600 pixels. Took ages for the bleedin’ thing to load. I still couldn’t see the chick in the half-bikini revealing her god-given assets. Why bother?
[You’re fired for watching porn at work.—Editor. PS. She’s ugly too.]
- DO:— Convert your long or important articles into PDF files for download by readers. Some browsers never seem to print correctly. Illustrations might be too much of a distraction for some readers.
- DO:— Set up a Downloads page and gather up those PDFs of your important posts there. Be kind to readers and not let them go on a deathquest to search for your important posts.
- DON’T:— Never make MS Office/Word files for download from your website. They are often cause your blog or website to be branded a spam site.
MS Office files usually contain macros (computer input rule patterns or sequences). Search engines and most browsers can detect them but will mistake these types of files for computer viruses. And that causes your site to be mistakenly branded as a spam site.
- DO:— Only have .pdf, .jpg, .gif and .png files as downloadables. Files that cannot be converted to PDF etc (such as Excel files, .wav and .bmp) must be archived (‘zipped’) in .zip format for uploading and downloading.
Windows and Mac OSX have built-in unzippers to handle zips.
WordPress.com won’t allow .zip files to be uploaded, so that’s one further layer of protection.
- DO:— Back up your whole blog every month. Delete previous backups on a rolling basis to save hard drive space. It’s a small insurance policy in case your blog gets wiped or the blog provider shuts you down for breach of terms of service.
8A. Nothing int’resting to post?
There are times when you feel your mind has gone blank and you wonder what to write. It’s something that happens to the best of us, blogger or no blogger.
Suggestions for the confused or comatosed:—
Summarise your past week’s activities! Some writers consider this a cop-out. Nonetheless, pretty soon you have plenty to write about. Pretty soon too you’ll find yourself paying more attention to what’s going on around you — ergo, writing fodder. To learn to summarise your activities week by week on a regular basis also sharpens and focuses your mind on your life.
Holidays exist in every month: Valentine’s, St George’s Day, Hannuka, Ramadan, etc. Blog your ‘take.’ Even better, don’t talk about the holiday itself — we need no stinkin’ history of it. Go out and talk to somebody — get your pal’s perspective. Interview!
Your social calendar. Always a winner if you’re the sociable, socialising kind. Especially good with photos of chicks and studs doing crazy things. If you haven’t got a social calendar, you’ve got serious problems, pal. Maybe that’s why you’re cooped up in a room blogging about things with no context and no perspective.
Calendar dates and holidays are easy fodder. Dates are set for the year, so you’re already primed in advance. You know the Midautumn (or Mooncake) Festival is coming in August, and you can get your gear ready in July latest. You know your shipping containers will arrive in four weeks’ time, so you’re primed perhaps to do a how-to piece on containerisation.
How-to’s are wonderful if there’s something you do well. Share your information. Do step-by-step pictures. You’re a pretty good stay-at-home stripper with good cleavage, so why not do a photostrip with the last picture of you in a leotard instead of being buck-naked?
A social or political or some other issue you’re passionate about is good material. Blogging was invented for this crap. If you don’t have an opinion or not a very well-formed one, then give details of the issue to ‘clarify’ it for the rest of us.
Interview your friends. Do a Q&A piece like the ones you see in music or teenybopper magazines. We’re all nosey parkers at heart, so Q&As can be rivetting reads. It’s unnecessary to do a formal, 60 Minutes-esque job of it.
8B. Ain’t got no connection, baby
Lack of an Internet connection at home is no bar to blogging.
“As king, you must be able to see the good in every situation.”
— King Edward I (‘Edward Longshanks’) to his son and future king of England,
on the possibility of his son’s French wife being killed by Scottish rebels,
which could be exploited to get French alliance in fighting the Scots
Blogging is essentially spontaneous writing. Make the mental jump and turn your blogging into more considered writing. Write offline and then type it out in your favourite local cybercafe later.
This is also why I said one post per week.
In fact, many of my posts started life on record cards (AmE: index cards). Many people in the old days used to blog — ’scuse me — journalise or diarise in this way.
Know Samuel Pepys? He was a blogger too, in an analogue sort of way.
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9. It ain’t literature, that’s for dang sure
You misunderstand the very nature of blogging. You do. We do.
You know the type. Some idiot who keeps writing in to those ‘Letters to the Editor’ in newspapers, day in day out for weeks on end, saying nothing in particular, prognosticating over everything. Eventually we realise this faggot letter-writer is doing nothing more than just literary onanism or just plain verbal diarrhoea.
Blogging isn’t the place for flexing your highfalutin’, browbeating literary muscularity.
The blogging world is actually full of these linguistic masturbationists.
(We can’t call them LITERARY masturbationists because that would a contradiction in terms.)
It’s easy enough to spot these monsters and debasers of good, clean, crisp language just by their writing styles and vocabulary.
They write as if they’re writing some textbook or tome on a politically correct subject using a traditional, conformist thesis-writing guidebook issued by The Establishment for its card-carrying party members.
DON’T BE A FOOL LIKE THEM. Blogging IS writing, but not perhaps in the traditional mould of writing for print media or academic writing.
You have to appreciate the fact that the great literary classics such as Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” the “Beowulf,” Edward Gibbon’s “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” etc, etc, etc, have NEVER been academic works.
Indeed, Shakespeare’s works were entirely commercial in nature, aimed at the uncouth, uneducated and brutish ‘masses’ who parted their princely penny (a day’s wages) to see his plays.
Not to put too fine a point on things, many blogs are actually far better written, far better detailed, far more evenhanded, more credible, with more veriable facts, and better informed than many mainstream media outlet or academic publications. Some of the biggest guns in mainstream media are absolute bullshit (just like many blogs are too, of course).
Blogging is primarily for enjoyment and informativeness. So ‘ideas’ and ‘the message’ and presentation are trumpcards than Literary Review-style grammar correctness. Srsly.
You might not regard bloggers as real writers, but they are writers real enough. The good ones ARE real writers, and many are also published authors.
[You’re not a real writer. You’re hired! — Editor]
Try not to be a grammarfreak or a linguanophile when you write. Don’t bristle at using prepositions at the end of sentences, or else—
A: “Where’s the library at?”
B: “You’re being ungrammatical. You shouldn’t end a sentence on a preposition.”
A: “Okay, where’s the library at, asshole?”
So, where’s your blog at?
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[Oh, for god’s sakes, when’s it all gonna end?—Editor]
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes only).
Images: Posting by Shutterstock via Photo-Dictionary ♦ Word count T-shirt via The Write Sisters ♦ Ice cream girl by Bryci.com via Fits News ♦ Topic, motherf@#ker via Nihilism and Cupcakes ♦ Buchette salami by the author ♦ Kitchen timer via Prepared Pantry ♦ Flat plan by the author ♦ Crossbow loading via edupics ♦ Computer Virus Spread to Humans via Skuggen ♦ Index cards and red pen by the author ♦ Index cards with handwriting by the author.