So You Want to Write a Blog?

Nearly three months ago, I started this blog for a few reasons.  I wanted to hone my writing skills in between penning new chapters for my second novel.  I hoped to build an audience so that I could promote my debut novel Paranoia.  Lastly, I wanted to just have fun with a different style of writing than I was used to.

When I began on this journey, I had no idea what I was doing.  But now, after more than 40 posts and creeping up on 50 followers, I’m starting to feel like I have a handle on this blogging thing.  I’m definitely not saying I’m an expert, but I think I can help other new bloggers avoid the mistakes I made.  So settle in and get ready to hear my biggest tips on blogging.


1.  WRITE ABOUT A VARIETY OF TOPICS

One of the coolest things I heard from a friend of mine (and fellow veterinary student) was that she liked my blog because it’s not just about vet school.  I always wanted my blog to be about a variety of different things.  Early on, I figured I would write about the writing process, TV shows & movies that inspired me, and of course Jimmy Neutron (which was a huge source of inspiration to me growing up).  Over time, I expanded my repertoire to include some more serious posts.

bad movies

And for some reason, I keep forcing myself to watch and discuss horrible movies.

My point?  Don’t restrict yourself to just writing about one thing.  Creatively, you’ll probably burn yourself out if you stick to a single topic.  Whatever you feel about writing, just take a stab at it, even if it doesn’t seem to fit in with your blog’s usual style.  None of your followers or regular readers are going to abandon your blog because you post outside the box once in a while.  This is also a good idea for practical reasons.  After a couple dozen posts within a single topic, you may find yourself maxing out your potential audience.  If you write about bad movies, for example, after a while you may have already attracted most of the bad movie fans searching for a blog.  But by writing about different things, you’ll attract new readers who’ve never heard of your blog before.


2. WRITE LIKE YOU’RE TALKING

I read this tip from another site when I was just starting out and I completely agree with it.  Most people (there are definitely exceptions) don’t read blogs for scientific research or literary stories.  They read them because they want to hear people’s opinions on different topics.  That means, in general, the best way you can write a blog is to act like you’re speaking to someone.  Go off on tangents, groan, sound exasperated, scream at stuff you’re annoyed with, mention when you’re laughing, just do whatever it takes to make it seem like your audience is in the room with you.  It goes a long way in making your blog fun to read.


3. AVOID WALLS OF TEXT

This was a huge problem in my early blog posts.  Paragraph after paragraph of only words gets annoying really fast.

too many words

From my second blog post.  If you have to zoom out to 33% and you still only see text, you have a problem.

It just looks ugly, it’s hard for the reader to follow, and no one will love you if you do it.  Throw in pictures, video, and try to vary the format of text with things like blockquotes.  Not much else to say about this point, which is a perfect segue for my next piece of advice.


4. DON’T SET MINIMUM WORD COUNTS FOR YOURSELF

This was a huge issue for me until just a week or two ago.  Until then, nearly all of my posts were over 2,000 words, and I absolutely never let myself dip under 1,000.  I was proud of my rather lengthy entries; I felt it set me apart from a lot of other bloggers.  Going beyond that, if I had a post like this one, where I did lists of things and expanded on different points, I’d make sure each section was approximately the same length.  But, just like with every other form of writing, imposing word count limits on yourself will only hurt you.  I would stretch out posts and sections of those posts just to hit my word mark, and they would suffer for it.  Even worse, I would avoid doing posts on topics I thought I would enjoy because I didn’t think I had enough to say about them.

Just write about what you want for as long as you feel you can, then stop.


5.  LIKE I SAID, GET PICTURES & VIDEOS (IT’S NOT AS HARD AS YOU THINK)

Like I said, I realized pretty quickly that my blogs needed pictures and videos in order to be readable.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a smartphone and my digital camera is literally the worst thing in the world.

awful camera

This was taken about six inches from a mirror.  Also, that’s not a flash.  It’s a flashlight.  I’m not convinced this isn’t a toy.

So for me, I don’t have a ton of personal pictures in my blog.  But there are plenty of other ways to get photos.  There are several great public domain websites where you can find free pictures available for use (here and here).  Wikipedia also has plenty of public domain images, but be sure to check the licensing details first.

more details

Just click on a picture, then click on the “more details” button.  Scroll down to “licensing” and you’ll find out if you can legally use the photo.

I also use a lot of screenshots in my blog.  I take pictures from TV shows and movies as well as from websites and my writing projects.  For my laptop, all I have to do is press “prt sc” to take a picture of whatever is on my monitor.  Then just go to Microsoft Paint and press “paste.”  Then crop the image as necessary and you’re all done.

And as far as posting images in your blog goes, one of the big issues I always had was figuring out how to put two images side-by-side.  There’s a way to do this with code, but I’m extremely computer illiterate.  So what I do is copy both pictures, paste them into paint, line them up side-by-side, and then save & post that new paint file.  Boom, two pictures side by side (or 4, like with those movie posters earlier).

In order to make your screenshot sit in the center of the screen, you can’t just use the normal “Align Center” option.  You need to click the picture and choose that align center option.

align center

Like so.

I also like to click on that little pencil icon three spots over, scroll down, and click on the box that says “Open link in new window/tab.”  That way when someone clicks on your photos they won’t be directed away from your blog and then have to go back to finish reading.

Lastly, you can also embed Youtube videos into your blog.  I just recently figured out how to do that; here are the steps.

how to embed

1.  Click on “Share.”
2.  “Click on “Embed.”
3. Copy and paste the “embed” URL into your blog.


6. PROMOTE LIKE CRAZY

You are barely going to get any hits if you simply update your blog and then leave it alone.  I found this out the hard way when I started my blog in January.  Aside from posting new posts on my Facebook page, I never did any other promotion.  The result was an average of 23 hits on my blog per day for that month.

Starting in late January, I began promoting my blog on a variety of websites.  I would post my articles on TV shows and movies on their IMDB pages.  I would try to find other message boards and fan sites for the things I wrote about.  But what absolutely, unequivocally gave me the most traffic was posting on Reddit.

reddit

Thanks, buddy.

For those who are unaware, Reddit a site completely driven by its users.  People post whatever they want in the subreddit (community) that fits what they want to discuss.  For example, if someone finds an interesting article on space travel, they might post it in the Space subreddit.  Reddit users can then comment on that post and either upvote it (making it more visible for other users if they think the post contributes to the community) or downvote it (make it less visible if they think the post is worthless or doesn’t belong in that community).

After I started submitting my blog posts to Reddit, my number of views increased to an insane degree.  Like I said, throughout January I had an average of 23 hits on my blog per day.  For March I have an average of 291 hits per day.  That’s over a 1,200% increase.

A word of warning, though.  People on Reddit do not like self-promotion, at least on the most popular subreddits (the major ones like MoviesTV, & News).  Make sure you make other contributions on the site by commenting on other people’s posts and submitting things unrelated to your blog.  This shouldn’t be a chore because Reddit has a community for everyone.  (Personally I frequently visit and comment on the Walking DeadNews, and Bob’s Burgers subreddits.)

So I would extremely highly recommend you post your blog posts on this site.  Find smaller subreddits that relate to your blog posts, you’ll still get a lot of hits and people seem to welcome personal blog posts more.  For example, when I write a post about a bad movie, I don’t submit it to the Movie subreddit.  I’ll submit it to the smaller badMovies subreddit, as well as subreddits for the particular genre that film is in.


Well, there you have it.  I hope these tips can help you fellow bloggers.  As always, thanks for reading and please consider following if you like what I write.  It helps me out a lot, and I’ll keep working hard to post quality stuff I think you’ll all enjoy.

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quietthinker1

I'm a 24 year-old veterinary student, novelist, & aspiring screenwriter. I'm trying out this blogging thing in my spare time.

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