5 Things to Remember While You Blog

So you’ve answered the “5 Questions to Ask Before You Blog” that I posed to you in the last post, and your blog is underway. Congratulations! Remember that your blog is a project of creative writing as much as your novel-in-progress or budding memoir. But there are important differences, and they are worth keeping in mind if you’d like the quality of your posts to grow, and readers to grow as a result of that quality.

(A reminder that this is the second of a two-part series in which I’m sharing a bit of the curriculum from my six-week Writer’s Center course, “Writing Compelling Blog Posts,” which begins the night of Tuesday, April 17th.)

Remember these five things while you blog:

  1. Your readers face temptation. At any moment they can hop to another blog, check their Twitter feed, or pull up a video of a cat yawning to a dance beat. Open strong. Write short.
  2. Allow your blog to evolve. Which posts are read the most? Keep drawing readers back months later? What are commenters saying? Listen and react. The Artist’s Road has evolved over the past 18 months in ways I wouldn’t have expected as I’ve responded to reader feedback.
  3. Blog gurus instruct us to put great care into the selection of imagery. I’ll break that rule by sharing a photo from my cross-country U.S. road trip of an Ann Arbor, Michigan, robot repair store.

    Break the rules occasionally. When you absolutely have to, write long. Or go off subject. Unpredictability is great in moderation. Or, as your left brain might say, “Spontaneity has its time and place.”

  4. Post original materialA blog is not the place to publish your work-in-progress. You’re embarking on a conversation, not a literary reading. Engage with us directly, and we’ll engage back.
  5. Have fun! You get to write. You get to see your name in “print.” You get to read people saying they liked what you wrote. What’s so bad about that?

If you’re here, you’re a reader of blogs. You may have one yourself. What have I left out?

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About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

32 Responses to “5 Things to Remember While You Blog”

  1. I’d say number 5 is my favorite on this list. Blogging often becomes a chore or another thing to check off on our to-do list. It’s good to remember that it’s YOUR blog and you are allowed to have fun with it.🙂

    • Well said, Maggie. If we were to say aloud “Ugh, I have to go write a blog post now,” how much sympathy would that truly engender in others?🙂

    • Well said, Maggie! While I’m struggling with #1 and very open to #2, I have also been having fun. The lyrics to my published songs (written for my rock bands) have always had a serious slant, and now so does my first (unpublished) novel, but to my pleasant surprise, my blog is pretty cheeky.🙂 I’ve had quite a few friends on FB say they’re enjoying the hell out of it. Unexpected – but fun!!

  2. A full service robot supply and repair shop?!? Love the photo, Patrick.

  3. I think the “write short” concept has been a tough one for me lately. By that I mean that when I go to my other projects, I’m still thinking in “writing short” mode. I think with CNF or other genres, there can be more time to figure things out, and I’ve forgotten the fun and freedom there is in learning as I write pages and pages. I think there is a voice in my head that says, “If you haven’t said what you need to say by now than it’s too long.” I wonder if my blogging has caused that. It is a different genre, isn’t it?

    • It is a different genre, that’s true. Here’s a tip for blogging: It differs from a CNF essay in that it doesn’t need to actually have a conclusion. Sometimes the best posts are ones where you set up the question but don’t fully answer it. The readers can provide their own endings in the comments field, and you’ve written shorter. That works for me, anyway, I find it easy to start an essay, harder to finish it.

  4. Another solid post, Patrick! I love the 2nd one. I’ve definitely been trying to do that, which has lead me more toward open discussions about books and reading (usually controversial ones) and less toward personal progress and stories. I’ll still throw in a funny story every now and then, but generally I move toward the posts that get the best responses.

    And I totally agree with number 4, too. I have and do post creative works (finished ones, not WIPs) once in a blue moon, but I do so not expecting to get many comments, because as you said, that’s not a conversation. It’s nice to have them online, because people do search for them sometimes, and I’ve had a few agents stop by to read things, etc., but I definitely use them sparingly.

    • Kudos on permitting the evolution, but also for being true to your preference and voice, even when you know that post may not get as much traffic.

      I’ll pass on what I hear editors say at writer’s conferences, and it is that if you put creative writing on your site, they won’t publish it, because it’s been “published” already. But I met a woman at AWP who had some short fiction she had written on her blog but under a tab of her writing, an agent saw her fiction and liked it, and now that agent is shopping around a novel the woman has written. So nothing wrong with letting people see what you can do!

      I will also say I occasionally will write a post more as a pure creative essay. I did that a couple of months ago when I wrote up a trip to the White House to go to the Arts & Humanities Awards. And I did that last summer with a post about going off the grid. A reader recommended I repurpose that for an essay contest, I did so, and won! So that was a case where the creative piece began on the blog, then evolved off of it and was published.

      • Oh, that’s a neat story! And yes, you’re absolutely right that once a creative piece is up, most people won’t publish it. To circumvent that, I only re-publish pieces (poems, short stories) that I’ve already had published elsewhere — once the rights revert back to me, of course. That way my work is easy to find if agents and editors are peeking, but doesn’t ruin my chances of getting something new in a literary journal, anthology, etc. Thanks Patrick!

  5. I definitely broke the rule of keeping it short this past week! I love al your suggestions, Patrick. It’s been an interesting journey this past year, seeing how my blog developed. It’s very different than I thought it would be, in some ways better, and in some not as good as I’d like. But I’m sure it will continue to change and morph as I continue blogging for a second year.

    • I’d love to see you write a post about how it’s been different and in some ways better. That sounds very intriguing.

      Of course, I like the WP template you use! I try to make mine differ a bit from others who use this one by making the links brick red.

  6. My #6 would be: “Occasionally write purely for yourself, even if you think it might not get any traffic.”

    (I guess that fits with #3 so maybe I didn’t create a #6 for your list after all. But I really tried.😉 )

    P.S. Loved the Robot Repair Shop! (but you knew I’d say that :D)

    • A ha! #6 sounds like the conversation I just had with @AnnieNeugebauer above!

      Milli, I count on you to be my photo cheerleader, although @VirtualDavis beat you to a shout-out today!

  7. Great post, Patrick. Here’s my contribution: Try to break up your text into subheads and bullet points. We’re living in an age of scanners, so make your content easily scannable!🙂

  8. yes to all of this! I especially agree with not sharing works in progress.

  9. Very nice post…and just the kind of photo I love to see !
    Peace,
    Siggi in Downeast Maine

  10. I’m back..

    I’m not quite sure where to ask this question so excuse me if this is the wrong place,
    or you’ve addressed it in the past and I missed it.

    I am elderly and very computer challenged. My blog was started June 5, 2012…so I am almost up to a year.

    My readers asked for a photo to ID my posts (gravatar?).and an index which I finally got with the help of my first husband…
    .he lives in Virginia, but I did know that someone can do things as an administrator and be far, far, away.

    The things I can not figure out…the language escapes me how to do it…
    are
    the badges when comtributing to a prompt sight
    I was given two awards for blogging but refused them because after
    many days could not figure out how to post the badge,
    linking back to a prompt site or another post referenced
    in the blog.

    Oh, and tagging. That seems to be important for me to have so I can find previous posts.

    Would be interested in any referrals to places that would help me do these things.

    Thanks…love reading your blog.

    Peace,
    Siggi in Downeast Maine

  11. jolinapetersheim Reply April 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    At the moment I am having a hard time letting my content evolve beyond all things mommy. Hoping that will change as I stop changing so many diapers. We shall see….Thanks for another great post!

  12. Great post, Patrick. I like the perspective in each of your points, including to have fun! Being persistent is another key thing to remember. It sometimes will feel lonely, but just keep writing… Thanks! Jon

    • Persistence is critical. You see stats on how there are so many blogs out there. What I want to know is, how many of those have seen a new post in the last month? Blogs are like restaurants in that most of them seem to shut down in the first two years. It’s hard to keep going.

      Good to see you here again, Jon!

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