One of the things that has taught me the most in my blogging experience is not the writing of my blog posts, but the reading of others. I've looked at many posts with a mixture of awe and envy over the years at amazing abilities to tell stories, make observations and move me to tears.
Here's a list of what I think are some important blogging lessons I have learned over the years. And mind you, I have made every-single-one of these mistakes.
1. What's your point?
Quite a few pieces I read really suffer from not having an actual premise or a theme or the piece ends up straying far from where it started, kind of like the writer's equivalent of not cleaning out the garage because every photo or can of aerosol spray you pick up leads you to another mini-project. It's true that sometimes you intend to write about one thing and the piece takes on a life of it's own. Still, if your blog post isn't about something and doesn't tie back into your theme it reads as choppy and disorganized. You may be writing a lot of great things in there but unless you are tying them together somehow they they get lost.
2. Location, location, location
Just like in business, good blogging is also about real estate.
Many of us bloggers nowadays not only publish on our own blog sites but also as part of other publications' blog platforms. Think about the kind of people that likely read the site you are thinking of publishing your piece to and ask yourself critically if the readership is actually interested in what you are writing about. Case in point: I blog a lot about our journey with autism but I also blog for the Times of Israel. I have published very little about autism there because while there may be those who might be interested in this topic, largely the readership of Times of Israel is not primarily coming to the site to hear more about autism. They are interested in Israel, politics, Jewish life and religious topics. It's just not the right audience for autism and I largely avoid publishing those kinds of pieces there.
3. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing
I am sometimes guilty of not using photos enough to break up my blog posts. Often my pieces on Kveller or Times of Israel in editing get photos added to them. Adding some photos can really make a piece come alive. It also can break up the text and keep people interested. Adding too many photos though can become an irritation. Most of us are not writing children's books. Of course there are no rules on this, and probably some would disagree but I would say no more than 3 photos per post and not more than a photo per 3 paragraphs is more than enough. If you do that think about whether or not the photos are really a fundamental part of your story line.
4. Size matters
People read blogs for information and for entertainment. Blog posts are not term papers. They are not an online thesis or your summer reading list. Very simply, if your post is too long, people will not stay interested. I make this error a lot as my posts tend to be on the long side. Sure, there can be a topic so important that you need to spend more time on it, or it just may not be possible to portray what you want to portray. A good length to aim for generally about 500ish words. If you need to go beyond 500, think about breaking up the post with headings and if you get to 1000 words, think seriously of breaking the post in two.
A list format is a great way to break up a longer post (ahem).
If you want to count your words, here is a great online tool for it.
5. Snark and sap with caution
Many people nowadays think that they need to go snark or sap in order to write a good piece. Be careful with this. It takes some pretty talented writing to pull off snark and sap. If you go even the slightest bit overboard you either end up looking like a whine bag, a snotty b*tch or Holly Hobbie.
That line is very hard to find and therefore very easy to cross.
A blogger that I know IRL recently posted about how hard it was to find good household help and how her two au pairs don't communicate with one another. The piece was meant to highlight the issue in a humorous way but was so full of snark and woe-is-me that it was made pretty clear to her by the comments this post generated that she was nothing but a rich housewife with nothing better to do than complain. Ouch. That was definitely not the chord she wanted to strike.
About a year ago I fell into a blog that I thought was the best thing since sliced bread. It was about a woman who accidentally caught her husband cheating on her and was her journey with that and how she was taking her life back. It was fabulous, she was so open about what she was dealing with and trying to find the good in the situation, trying to grow as a person and find meaning in her misery.
But after a while there was just too many starlit evenings, too many birds sending her cosmic signals and too many meaningful hikes wrought with symbolism and meaning.
6. Find YOUR OWN voice
This is a tough one. It can take a while to find your own voice but that should be something you are actively striving for. While you might learn some tricks or tips from reading other bloggers, be careful that you are not trying to copy someone else's style. I see this all the time. The best bloggers out there, those that are attracting hundreds of thousands of likes and shares are doing so because they are authentically themselves in their posts. They are not copying someone else. You can see so easily when someone is not writing in their own voice, because it just comes off as trying too hard. Your own voice comes off effortless, natural, not like you are phoning it in. I have one blogger friend, she's amazing. She puts her hand to keyboard and the whole world is sharing her posts. She has loads of admirer's that are fellow bloggers. Some of those admirer's very blatantly copy her style and it just comes off as a knock-off, it's a fake Fendi and not compelling. As bloggers our voices are evolving all the time, but focus on finding what works and feels good for you rather than trying to copy someone else.
So, now that I have officially broken rule number 4 by a few hundred words, I say, get out there and write some great stuff!