Blogs. What the hell is a blog? What do we expect to see when we read a blog? What do we expect to –do- when we write a blog?
Right before I went on my so-called sabbatical (which still is kinda happening I guess, I just really wanted to get this out of my system), I was discussing a lot of this with the venerable Leafy. Interestingly (probably thanks to the sudden drop off of blogs from the blogosphere), both Matticus and Lassirra have posted this week about how to blog, how to get big numbers, and how to be successful and interesting (or, at the very least, how to not ‘suck’). Now, I am going to be big and brave (knowing that I am going to be crawling back into my hole very very soon) and talk about my take on ‘how to blog’.
I don’t necessarily agree with every single point that both of these intelligent, far more successful bloggers than I make. Some points I nod my head at frantically, others I outright disagree with. However, that is what makes blogging so wonderful – it’s a way for people to communicate with each other and discuss things. You are allowed to disagree – contrary to popular belief, NO ONE is marking you on your blog, you can not ‘fail’, and at the end of the day, someone out there will appreciate what you write.
Wait, but I thought I was only blogging for myself?
Well, to be honest, I think that is how many of us start out. I know that part of the reason I started blogging was that I enjoyed writing. Then I started vlogging because I also enjoy talking. However, I also started because the small part of me known as my ego wanted other people to read what I had to say, and to comment on it. I wanted to have the discussions about Warlock stuff that I really wasn’t able to get anywhere else.
I also wanted to be a part of that awesome secret club. I’ll admit it, even if no one else will. I read quite a few WoW blogs before I started writing. I started to notice that these guys kinda talk to each other! Wow! I was just so impressed and amazed and jealous all at once that all these wonderful, highly intelligent and creative people would discuss WoW both in and out of their blogs. They would cross link, they would have conversations with each other, all sorts of wonderful things. I desperately wanted in, being somewhat starved of WoW discussion. I have heard things are dramatically different in the US, but here in Australia, the general rule seems to be if you talk about WoW, people look at you like you have two heads.
So, get to the point Sar… How can I be a good blogger?
Well, my very first tip is to forget all the bloody rules. Sure, read them, think about them, pay attention to them… but if they don’t fit with your personal philosophy and style, then don’t follow them!
Some things clearly are basics that we should all follow. Having an RSS feed is a good example of a basic thing all blogs should have. Watching that your spelling and grammar are mostly correct is probably another. However, once people start telling you what you should and shouldn’t be writing about, take everything they say with a grain of salt. Everyone has their own reasons for blogging, their own things that they do and do not like to read about, and nuts to those who don’t want to read what you enjoy reading!
I find that, on my blog, I basically write how I speak. This means that I do break a lot of the rules regarding grammar and punctuation. I use FAR too many ellipsis’s (BTW, that is totally incorrect, but it’s one of those words that is so rarely pluralised), frequently followed by too many brackets, and finished off nicely with far too many exclamation marks. I often invert the order of words, because I am also a stream of consciousness writer, and just write as I think. This means I waffle all over the place, and if I was marking the stuff I write here, I would totally be putting (#) all over the shop! However, this approach works for me, and if I try to write any other way, I feel stifled and uncomfortable. Think writing a high school paper all over again. I had a teacher who used to mark by liberally scattering ‘BAD!!!’ over papers… *shudder*. Who the hell wants to feel like that when they are blogging?
Be thoughtful, but don’t take yourself too seriously!
Are you making money out of this little venture? More specifically, are you making a profit? I know I sure as hell am not (although I also have a feeling akin to anathema when it comes to advertisements, but that’s merely my personal beef). So why would you treat blogging like a job?
Blogging, first and foremost, is meant to be an enjoyable experience. There is nothing fun in the minds of most people about tearing your hair out over a post because it isn’t serious enough, or meaningful enough, or isn’t going to cause people to turn their existence upside down and go ‘Why the hell have I been living my life like this for so long?’ At best, I figure some of my posts may have encouraged someone to say ‘Hell, Destruction sounds kinda fun. I am going to go and crap all over some Mages’. At worst, people think I am a raving idiot. Either way, 200 or so people must find something about me fun (I think Kag suspects it’s because I have ‘bewbs’).
My favourite posts that I have written (yes, I AM that lame, I do occasionally enjoy reading my own work) are generally off the cuff entertaining pieces of total drivel. Oddly enough, they also generally get more views than others. Clearly, you people are all sick enough to enjoy this crap as well, regardless of what people say.
Subheadings that are
chocolate make sense are good like chocolate
Lass did address this in her post, and I have to agree on this one. Make your posts scannable people! Especially if you are like me and have diarrhoea of the mouth/fingers/whatever the hell you blog with. I am SURE that people don’t read every word I write. I don’t read every word other people write generally. I don’t always have the time, or the patience, or… well, let’s just say I am lazy and can’t be assed. Use subheadings, use bold, underlining, and italics where appropriate. Make sure your subheadings are not like mine and actually relate to the crap that goes underneath them. Alternatively, mention chocolate, and I shall read.
Guides and Analysis are not the be all and end all
Yes, guides get you exposure. They get you link love on places like WoW Insider (which then kills your server, and you spend the rest of the day cursing those incoming links!), they get you google hits, they get you all that shiny stuff you are –supposed- to care about.
Thing is… they don’t always get you return visitors or subscribers. People who look for a guide for something are looking for precisely that – a guide for a specific something. If you only write guides, people are going to get mighty sick of reading them. Guides, well… are boring a lot of the time. I am in the process of unsubscribing from people who write guides and analysis and little else, because, frankly, your work (while I admire the effort, time, and dedication it takes to write all that) is boring as all fuck to me.
Why will I personally subscribe to you?
a) I know you (so, that’s a whole 5 people out of the way)
b) You make me laugh
c) You make me think
d) You write about Warlocks
Warlocks are right at the bottom of the list. Why? Warlocks make up maybe 1% of the stuff I read. Most of the blogs I enjoy I read because I feel like I am interested in what that person has to say. I’ll bet my bottom dollar (and I am at about that point!) most people are the same. It goes the other way as well. If I think you are a pretentious git, I won’t read your blog. I don’t give a rat’s if you write good posts, you are a pretentious git and I just. don’t. like. you.
Doesn’t matter what you say, just say it WELL
Let your personality into your blog! Many people advise against writing ‘I killed x, I got y’ posts… but I say go for it! That is… as long as you do it well. Turn it into an epic adventure. Say how much fun (or unfun) you had while doing it. Explain why the hell that piece of gear means so much to you as to make it blogworthy. I love revelling in others happiness (or misery, as the case may be) when they talk about it in an entertaining manner.
(To be fair, Lass does qualify her statement on the matter with basically this same message, I just wanted to state this in a more positive light)
Don’t beat the holy hell out of yourself
Everyone has an off day. Doesn’t mean you failed as a blogger. I remember when I first started I would feel immensely guilty if I took a day off from blogging. Then later on I’d feel bad if I didn’t write anything good (which, by the way, how do you measure ‘good’?) Finally, I just felt bad all the god damn time. It didn’t help that I was being pounded from all sides with messages about ‘this type of blogging is bad! That type of blogging is bad!’ Blogger’s guilt is real people.
Also… don’t assume that no one really enjoys what you write. As a reading community, we can be lax when it comes to leaving comments. I hardly ever comment, and I really should make the effort to. I always assumed that I was not an especially popular blog, and didn’t think I had readers who really enjoyed reading what I had to say. Well, when I announced my break, lo and behold, it turns out I have people who like me! Squee!
Linked to this, of course, is…
Write when you want to and how you want to
Forcing yourself into a set schedule of writing, while advised by many, invariably leads to blogging becoming a chore rather than a hobby. Write when the muse strikes. Sure, aim to write once a week or something, especially when you are beginning and don’t have a readership yet. Don’t feel forced to write total shite though so you have posted. While Matt says it is difficult to judge what is quality and what is not, I am afraid that, some days, I know that I am just pumping out crap to fill some space. This isn’t radio people, there is no such thing as ‘dead air’… don’t feel forced to fill a void.
Lass comments on memes. Memes are an interesting quirk of blogging… I personally don’t do a stack of them, but I enjoy reading them, and I do enjoy writing them when I am lucky enough to be tagged by someone. Do I enjoy them because I am a blogger? Possibly. Some people will enjoy some of your posts, others will enjoy others. No one has a 100% success rate with all their readers, and you would be lucky to have that with even one reader.
Ignore everything I said above if you don’t like it!
Blogging is an intensely personal experience. You are sharing YOUR thoughts with the world, you should do it how YOU want. Who says I am the authority on this stuff? Absolutely no one. As I said, people with bigger subscriber bases and much more intellect/skill/time disagree with a lot of my ideas. Write about what you want, when you want, and how you want. Reach out to other bloggers, link to their stuff (intelligently, I might add!), comment on their stuff (also intelligently), and don’t make an obnoxious bee’s behind of yourself in the community.