Interesting content, a unique or clear voice, a hook (or beginning that generates interest), word choice, tone, rhythm, pacing—these are aspects of great writing that keep people reading. But if you noticed, my question specified BLOG POST. Not short story or newspaper article or memoir or classified ad. Are there any tools for success that are specific to blogs?
I have a master’s in creative writing, but blogging is not something we discussed in grad school. For years, in fact, I looked down on blogs and bloggers. Who are they to think that anyone would want to read about their lives? (Clearly, I changed my stance on that.) Blogs seemed weirdly intrusive and self-centered to me, a person who did not read them. Hence my misunderstanding.
But blogging does have its roots in the sort of online diary that LiveJournal propelled. Blog=web log, usually a log or journal of a person’s personal life. In the last ten years, that has shifted dramatically, though blogs are still, at their root, personal. I’m not sure if blogs are recognized as a genre, but I would like to argue that they are. A still forming and in flux genre that is vast, but a genre nonetheless.
Blogs can be technical or professional, personal or topical. Each looks vastly different in terms of tone, content, and style. Even in the same niche, like food blogging for example, two posts could look remarkably distinct. So what principles might carry through this young and diverse genre? How can we write a blog post that people must read and that sends them back for more?
Think about the blogs where you spend time. Why? Perhaps it’s a friend, so you feel invested or even obligated to keep up. Or maybe the blog publishes content that you are interested in, like recipes or menu plans or great DIY ideas. I’m drawn to some blogs for the design elements—the content and writing are decent, but coupled with the stellar design and all the pretty fonts, banners, photos, and the layout as a whole, I can’t stay away.
Blogs aren’t merely a written genre. They also encompass aspects of art and design. They can also be auditory, including video or music. You can’t smell or taste them…YET. I’m sure there is a techie team hard at work on that right now. Which brings us back to this question, which new seems more difficult: with all this in mind, how do we write blog posts that people MUST read?
Let me give part of my answer by way of a music video.
I really have a ton of respect for Lorde (the original writer of the above song, “Royals”), whose music transcends her 17 years, for sure. At 17 I was counting the number of boys I had kissed while concerning myself with lip gloss and thrift-store men’s pants. Her music seriously impresses me, and when I really like music, covers tend to pale in comparison. But this group, Walk Off the Earth, over and over again takes familiar music and does something beyond a cover. They don’t meddle with a good melody (the mistake of a lot of cover artists), but find a totally unique and surprising way to package and, in a way, reinvent the song beyond melody. (For other great examples, check out their versions of “Somebody That I Used to Know” and “Red Hands,” which is original that is as creatively put together.)
But wait, Kiki, you are saying, I’m confused. We are talking about blog posts and writing and now music videos and cover songs. WHERE IS THE PART WHEN YOU TELL ME HOW TO WRITE A MUST-READ BLOG POST?
I hear you. Let me take what might seem to be disjointed pieces and tie them together in some kind of fisherman’s knot. Because the genre of blogging is young and very diverse and, by its very nature, a strange hybrid of writing, design, and other media formats, to create a successful blog post, we need to become a jack-of-all-trades. And we need to do it in a way that is creative, unique, well-executed, and stands apart.
Are you feeling more and more dejected as you read? I kind of sense that I might be depressing you (after first confusing you). You may be wondering: How can I master design AND photography AND writing AND also be a totally unique mommy blog in a salty sea of mommy blogs?
DON’T STOP READING! I promise I’m getting to some good news. We can’t all take amazing photos like Chookooloonks or The Pioneer Woman and we won’t all have The Bloggess‘ wit or Ann Voskamp‘s way of packaging the real in poetic language. But you are YOU. No one else is YOU.
Yes, you should have a design that draws, or at the least doesn’t detract. You can pay someone for that! Or if you have no money, you can find a free blog or perhaps trade out with someone who can whip up css or html.
Maybe you can’t afford a DSLR or don’t have the time to learn photography. You can take a really snazzy photo with your iPhone and use a free source like Picmonkey to add filters and fun things that make them look a bit slicker.
Maybe you don’t feel like the best writer. You can join a community like this which I hope will, over time, encourage you to hone your craft. Because writing is a craft with skills that you can build and develop.
But what no one else can teach you or do for you or even take away from you is your YOU-NESS. Dooce doesn’t have your YOU. Neither does Jen Hatmaker. Only you are you, and I want to encourage you this week that the best way to write a must-read blog post is to write one that no one else has. There are ten million cookie recipes out there, but only YOU can craft a blog post with a cookie recipe that captures your YOU-NESS.
Now I feel like I’ve gone from confusing to depressing to flat-out crazy. Are you with me? Am I making sense? What I want you to think about and really think about this week is what makes you YOU. What do you love? What is different about you from other people who might look the same, have a similar background, write in the same blog niche, or love the same things. I believe that if we can all find and embrace what makes us unique and special, like Walk Off the Earth, we could be singing a melody sung a thousand times, but in a package that is wholly different and that keeps people coming back for more of US.
I really do hope I’ve kept you here for this very long exposition on the idea of blog genre. Because my idea for the root of this community is the idea of story and the craft of writing, we will be looking each week at some aspect of writing. But I did not want to move forward without addressing this idea of the uniqueness of blogs as a genre and how so many things together make for a compelling read.
With all this in mind…
Week Four Prompt: SONG.
Whether you write a song, write about a song, or take a more concept-driven thought related to music or musicality, I hope you can think of your YOU-NESS as you write this week. Again, this prompt is meant to be a general inspiration for writing, not something to confine you. Take it where you will.
*Please do NOT link up to an older post. I totally get why this could make sense to do, but as my goal is for us to grow as writers, I want these links and posts to be growing and current because that’s what this is about: developing our craft. Posting from last year isn’t helping you develop craft.
*Please DO visit, comment on, and if you feel so moved, share the other posts. I know some linkies don’t care if you do, or some ask that you visit the person before or after you, but I think if we want community, reading them all is a huge part of that. I am noticing that the last few links often have only one or two comments. Even if it takes you a week to get there, get there and let your fellow writers know you are there, reading.
I am loving this community so far and hope that if you aren’t already part of it, you’ll join the Facebook community. I hope it will develop into a lively place where we can interact a little more. At the least, you’ll get a heads-up to the next prompt.
-Write in ANY genre, but at least loosely find inspiration from the prompt.
-Please include a link to this post or use the handy button over in my main sidebar. If you don’t, I’ll politely ask, and if you still don’t, I’ll un-link you. This just helps keep building the community and bringing new readers to the linky itself.
-Link to your specific post, not to your whole blog.
-Write a new post, or edit an old one, but don’t simply link to a post you wrote last week or last year.
-Please visit ALL the other blogs. A comment is a great way to show you were there and if you love something, share it!
-Don’t be spammy or link to a giveaway or another linky or something weird like that. Just a post.
-Try to find a sweet spot under 1000 words, if possible between 500-750.
-Be free, but don’t be overly violent or sexual or just creepy. This is a varied group, but that’s not the best fit.
I’m super excited to read what you guys have to say this week about song, and hope that the videos from Walk Off the Earth help get you in that mindset! If you have questions, shoot me an email (kirstenoliphant at gmail dot com). The linky is below and will be open until Wednesday at midnight!