I know a little something about writing. Even though I’ve been blogging on and off for a long time, I don’t know how to write a great blog. Or even a better blog. What I do know from experience is how to write a bad one. Here are 31 ways to be sure and write a blog that stops traffic.
- Write long posts. Writers making the transition from print to blog make this mistake often. Unless it’s very compelling content, readers quickly scroll and click on after about 500 words. This post is going to be a bad one. I promise.
- Write daily. The blogging experts love to point out that the most popular blogs are updated at least daily. I think that’s confusing correlation with causation. Before you’re really popular, daily updates can overwhelm readers.
- Write your diary. Many blogs read like a bad journal entry. “Today I went to the gym, did some laundry, and watched TV.” Even on Facebook, that’s not good reading.
- Write old news. Readers want what’s fresh, even if that’s a fresh take on an old issue.
- Write too personally. Reality TV has made it acceptable to bare it all, but there are still plenty of us cringing.
- Write without spell check. If you can’t spell and you post your errors, your readers who can spell are going to focus on them and nothing else.
- Write without regard to grammar. While composing your post in a word processor, pay attention to the error indicators. Here’s a great free online grammar course to get you up to speed.
- Write to get your own needs met. These kinds of blogs come across like needy phone friends who never take a breath.
- Write to invoke guilt. Asking why no one is reading or commenting on your blog is like having BO.
- Write with unnecessary cursing. Even if you are comfortable with cursing, constant repetition of the same words is just bad writing, not to mention bad form when so many are offended by it.
- Write without regard for others’ feelings. Criticizing individuals and bashing entire classes of people may generate traffic, but won’t generate any good will.
- Write what’s controversial just to build your blog. Readers who appreciate honest, thoughtful debate will eventually see through you and move on.
- Write without reading others’ blogs. Just as writers in other genres hone their craft by reading the best writers, so bloggers benefit from reading good blogs.
- Write without building relationships. While traditional writers rarely engaged in relationship building, failing to make connections with readers puts your blog at risk. Responding to comments makes your readers feel appreciated.
- Write without giving credit. If you steal others’ work, you will eventually be called out for it.
- Write without linking to others’ blogs. Bloggers appreciate the links and so do readers who are looking for good content. Here is a great post on this topic. (I need to take this blogger’s advice.)
- Write without providing resources. Giving your perspective on a subject is a great start, but readers want to know where to go for more information. I think 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a great resource.
- Write without humor. Even blogs on depression can be funny.
- Write about how you spend all your time blogging. Many of your readers are bloggers who will be put off by your obsession, although many will stick around to see the train wreck.
- Write amidst a busy, blinking background. Your readers with ADHD won’t be able to focus on your words and may need an extra dose of medication.
- Write infrequently. If you don’t update your blog, your readers won’t care because you don’t.
- Write like you’re perfect. Readers don’t like to feel like losers. Share your perfect photos of perfect people and places and your blog will be perfectly alone.
- Write like you know it all. This is a shift from traditional writing, too, where experts were supposed to give comprehensive information. Readers like to share, too.
- Write what you want to write about. Freelancers know they can’t sell pieces that readers don’t want. Blogs have to be about the topics your readers are interested in.
- Write without paragraphs. This is equivalent to blending a main dish, sides, and a dessert and serving it up in a bowl. Mmm.
- Write without subheadings or photos. Subheadings and photos are like keeping your foods from touching each other and some of us like that. I was going to add more photos to this post, but it messed up my numbering, so I will leave it as is in the interest of not appearing perfect.
- Write to constantly pitch your products. Blog posts that start off talking about how they’re giving me something “FREE to add value” tell me that the sales pitch is coming soon and it’s a turn off.
- Write sparsely to make room for long audio and video. Many readers (like me!) learn best by reading and don’t want to spend 15 minutes watching something they could learn by reading in five. I always appreciate the content in writing, too.
- Write with links to inappropriate content. Like it or not, readers trust that you are not going to send them to offensive or spammy links. Don’t violate that trust.
- Write without purpose. We have to know why we are blogging and even why we are writing a particular post, or we’re sure to go off the rails.
- What should this one be?
What other mistakes have you seen bloggers make or have you made yourself?
A few weeks ago, a woman I had exchanged a couple of emails with, wrote that despite having hours of work to do, she had gotten caught up in reading a sample of my book, So You’re Not Wonder Woman, instead. She told me everything she loved about what she had read thus far and wrote, “You’re a great writer.”
At the time I received her email, I was meeting someone for lunch (a happy occasion), but it was all I could do to stop bawling. This dear lady had no idea that I had been wondering if I was wasting my time writing in a digital world that seems to have more writers than readers. We have corresponded quite a bit since then and she has become a treasure to me.
My new friend isn’t just an encouragement to me as a writer, however. She’s an encouragement to me as a homeschooler and a Christian woman. How many times have I missed an opportunity to encourage a fellow home educator? Bloggers get more positive feedback than homeschoolers do. Our work is so trying at times, so vitally important, yet it goes mostly unnoticed. While I pray that whatever I write on this blog will be an encouragement to others, how much more effective can I be by giving genuine praise to a fellow blogger, tweeter, homeschooler, or sister in Christ?
My new friend had no idea that taking a few minutes to send me an email would motivate me to keep doing what God has called me to do. Please join me in utilizing the motivational power of encouragement by:
- Commenting on a blog post you loved
- Leaving a review for a book or product you appreciate
- Replying to a tweet of someone you don’t know, but you’d like to bless
- Telling a fellow homeschooler how you see her excelling
- Sharing with your husband and kids the great qualities you see in them
Encouragement is like lifting someone up on your shoulders so they can do the work God has called them to do.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Want more encouragement? Check out these great links:
I Believe in You
Write a Note
P.S. I’d love to encourage you! Are you frustrated or just want someone to read what you write? Comment or shoot me an email and you’ll have some encouragement coming your way!
Lately I have been struggling to determine how to spend my writing time. I have a limited amount of time and an unlimited number of ideas. I’d love to do it all, but that isn’t reasonable when I have a full-time job homeschooling my six kids.
My writing timeline thus far can be summarized as follows:
- Childhood diary writing, school assignments, and the beginnings of novels never finished
- High school compositions and speech writing for competition
- College compositions and speech writing for competition
- Grad school thesis, dissertation, and professional writing
- Christian periodical and booklet writing when I had children
- Christian speech writing and secular freelance writing for periodicals
- Started blogging
- Wrote and self-published nonfiction book; continued speech writing and blogging occasionally
- Wrote a first draft novel for Christian middle schoolers and families; continued speech writing and occasional blogging
That’s how I got to where I am today. I am now trying to finish my novel, speak more (requiring more speech writing), build a blog following for at least two of my three blogs (what’s the point of blogging if few people read what you write?), and generate more sales for my book. Meanwhile, I am writing what amounts to enormous amounts of material via email to friends–much of it potentially helpful to many people.
So I wonder what I should do. I’m over my phase of wondering if I should be writing at all while trying to homeschool. I’m past the idea that I can’t try to make money selling what I write simply because I don’t need the money. I now know that I can make money to support charities and missions and can make time to write despite my busyness.
But do I drop my blogs completely until I finish my novel? (I do know that I need to finish and publish it.) Do I just blog post haphazardly (which is what has been happening despite my repeated resolve to make my blogs a priority)? Do I spend my writing time on speeches, articles for publication, or even video scripts (which is yet another thing I love writing and developing)? Do I spend my time promoting what I’ve already written? Do I focus on writing more books which I could sell at my speaking engagements? Do I keep trying to do it all?
For today, I’ve decided just to write about where I’m at, like I would to a friend.
I was recently asked how I was able to write for Woman’s Day magazine and thought many would-be writers might have the same question.
While I’ve always been a writer, once I was in the midst of diaper changes and a very part-time clinical practice, I didn’t think my dreams of being published could be fulfilled. While I am far from being a full-time freelance writer, I have enjoyed seeing my work in print and have even enjoyed getting paid to do something I love.
I’m not going to give you the standard advice about perusing The Writer’s Market guide or the The Christian Writer’s Market guide and then sending off good query letters. I’m not going to do that because that isn’t how I was published. That certainly isn’t to say that it’s a pointless approach; it isn’t. It just so happens that I spent hours fantasizing about which periodicals and publishing houses I would send my work to, but never did. I understand from other writers that pursuing publication in this way can be both rewarding (a presenter at a writer’s conference I attended was making over $100,00 a year as a freelancer) and frustrating (with long wait times and lots of rejection).
I’m going to tell you the atypical way I was able to get published because I believe it can work for you, too.
Let People Know You Want to Write. In my first job as a psychologist, I made sure to let our clinic supervisor know that if there were writing or speaking opportunities, I wanted them. Tell your pastor, workplace, organization, or municipality that you’d be glad to write for their newsletters, blogs, and more. I’m not talking about knocking yourself out to put “writer” on LinkedIn or marketing yourself aggressively. Simply mention it!
Write What You Know. We often try to write what we think will sell, rather than what we know. To get published, start by writing the information others ask you for. Because I was a psychologist, I was often asked for information on a host of relationship and mental health issues. My church was the first to ask me to write for them. Without any action on my part, a parachurch organization asked me to write an article for its family newsletter. Are people asking you how you make delicious homemade bread, stay so fit, or organize big events? Write about it.
Give it Away. I wasn’t paid anything for my work for quite some time. Honestly, seeing my published work was payment enough! Share your writing with others for free and let it be reprinted without charge. Early on, you want as many people to have your name in front of them as possible. The combination of these three steps led to my being hired to write booklets for another parachurch ministry. I was well paid and rewarded by seeing my work in our pastor friend’s office in another state.
Write in Love. The reason I was able to write for Woman’s Day, a magazine with a circulation of 6 million at the time, was because I responded to a request for nominations of women who make a difference in their community. My nominee was selected as a winner and I was invited to New York to meet the editors of the magazine as well as the First Lady who would be giving the award. My friend, Deb, was able to write for Woman’s Day after responding to their online request for bloggers on The Happiness Project–an idea she loved. She also responded to a request for bloggers by her favorite store and is now a regular HomeGoods contributor. Respond to and write about people and organizations you love and you may end up published, too!
Pray for Publication. If the Lord wants you to be published, He will make a way. When I learned I would be meeting with the editors of Woman’s Day, I prayed about a topic idea. Immediately, I thought of FLYLady (the online organizing system I was using at the time), but she hadn’t responded to an email I’d sent her. I prayed about it and that day, Marla Cilley emailed me back. I was able to pitch the idea to an editor and received a rewarding contract several weeks later.
I believe publication is possible for any aspiring writer no matter the competition, the changing nature of periodicals, or the writer’s season of life. Do you have other suggestions for aspiring freelancers?