One of the best things you can do as an aspiring writer before and after you get published is to start a blog. A web log (or “blog” for short) is basically just a content-based website that you, the writer, operate on your own.
In other words, it’s your very own online magazine, of which you’re the editor, contributor, and publisher. A blog is a great place to test out new ideas, practice writing, and build up a readership that is interested in what you have to say.
Blogging can be for everyone and anyone, and it’s never too late to start. It’s really quite simple, and people just need to be reminded of that. That’s why I try to write concise tips for those who are just getting started.
I came up with 10 short commandments for blogging. Some of these instructions may seem nit-picky, but the more I train others on how to write well and tell their stories, the more I find people yearning for this kind of direction.
So, I’m throwing it out there for anyone who needs it:
The Ten Commandments of Blogging
1. Blog often. If you’re going to do this, then you need to commit. Blogging as little as once a week or a few times a month isn’t going to cut it. If you’re going to build a decent following, you have to blog regularly. Otherwise, you will be lost in the millions of other webpages on the internet. Blogging several times a week (at least three to four) is important.
2. Use paragraph breaks. People don’t read blogs like they read books. Liberally break up your blog into short, easy-to-swallow thoughts. You shouldn’t have any more than four to five sentences per paragraph.
3. Tell stories. Introduce characters, events, and places. Tell anecdotes (short memorable stories in chronological order) with a brief moment of reflection at the end (why it matters). Don’t just talk about yourself. People get caught up in stories.
4. Know yourself. If you aren’t a writer, work with someone who is a writer, and get your thoughts out to the millions of people on the internet waiting to hear you have to say. If you tend to drag on or over-explain things, acknowledge it. Poke fun at yourself. Find others who want to hear what you have to say, no matter how silly you are.
5. Post pictures and videos to illustrate your points. While an image for every post isn’t necessary, if an illustration helps people visualize your message, it helps make the post more interested. Photos keep the reader interested. Introduce images or graphics towards the top of the post to grab the reader’s attention. Video blogs should average 90 secs and have a point. People have short attention spans; use short, compelling videos maintain their attention or illustrate a point. Videos and images should complement, not replace, your writing.
6. Keep it short. A good blog is 4-5 paragraphs or roughly 300 words. Don’t drag on. Save it for the next day.
7. Improve your blogging skills. Invite feedback. Read others’ blogs to learn how to write better.
8. Activate your audience. Use your experiences to make a difference in people’s lives. Don’t just tell stories or write for the sake of writing. Encourage and challenge them to do something different as a result of what they’ve read. Most people want to be a part of something meaningful; give them a cause to support and adopt.
9. Invite people back to your blog. It may seem simple enough, but don’t neglect to make promises to your readers that you can deliver on. Break blogs up into multiple parts, do the occasional “to be continued…”, and give away tidbits of what you’re going to write about tomorrow. Either explicitly or implicitly, invite them to come back.
10. Build your blog audience. Invite people to subscribe to your update alerts via RSS feed or email notifications. Utilize social media tools like Facebook notes and applications, twitterfeed (which automatically posts your newest blogs as links on your Twitter account), Friendfeed, and other social media tools that allow people who are already following you to read your blog.
Another simple strategy is to include your blog address in emails and other communications, and experiment with other ways of getting new readers. Mashable is a good site to check out for the most recent news in social media and to discover cutting-edge strategies that will help you engage new audiences.
Also, check out these other articles on writing tips: