Newbie Blogger Initiative 2016 - Some General Guidance
Blogging is a broad church that offers many talking points. In this, my first post for the 2016 Newbie Blogger Initiative, I want to explore motivation, aspirations and style. I also want to touch upon some of the inevitable problems that may come up when writing online. Forewarned is forearmed. But before we proceed, don't forget that the advice you’ll both here and via the other sites contributing to this year’s event is purely subjective. We're all individuals and what works for one may not for another. There is no definitive way to blog and each blogger has to find their style.
It may sound like an obvious question but it’s worth pondering. People are motivated for different reasons. Some want to build communities, and share common experiences while others may have more commercial goals. Some folk just want to be "internet famous" which should not be scoffed at. It's a lot more common than you would think although many people won't necessarily admit it. However writing publicly is quite an extroverted thing to do and ego certainly does play a part in it or else surely you'd keep your writing private and not share your work. The reason I’ve raised this is because it impacts greatly upon my next point.
Who are you writing for?
If you are looking for commercial success, want to chase an audience or harbour dreams of fame and glory, then you will more than likely find yourself writing for others. This means you'll usually have to write about what you think others want to read, rather than simply pleasing yourself. It can be done, but it's demonstrably harder and will come with a lot more heartache and frustration. If you choose to please yourself then there's a good chance you'll have a more comfortable experience. I’ve always found that if you write something because you feel passionate about it, it often comes across much better than an article that was done out of obligation. So make your choice accordingly.
Get a plan.
Time is a luxury, so you should manage it wisely. Don't jump into blogging feet first without making some sort of plan. Figure out what you are going to write about and then stick with it. However this can be a double edged sword because you may find yourself hemmed in by your choice at a later date. As ever flexibility is the key. A blog with a broad remit has more room to manoeuvre and gives a writer more creative freedom.
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do you can set about establishing your online identity, so readers know broadly what to expect. Contains Moderate Peril covers games, movies and other facets of popular culture. If I started do pieces on Etruscan pottery and crop rotation in the seventeenth century then it may wrong foot the audience, or even alienate them. Readers often like consistency and known quantities.
For many years I’ve maintained a daily blogging schedule. It was a personal decision and my circumstances have allowed me to do so. Yet not every blogger will be able or wish to do this. Therefore figure out when you can blog and try and create a viable schedule that you stick to. It doesn't matter if it's once a week or month or a quarter, just be consistent. Remember that your readers will often jump to conclusions. If you post specific content on a certain day of the week more than twice, it’s highly likely that your audience will assume that this is now a “thing”. So box clever and don't set yourself up for a fall. Stick to your plan, be consistent and give the readers a reason to come back to your blog.
Let your readers get to know you.
Whatever you write, whatever your style, don't be afraid to make your writing somewhat personal. Readers often like to get to know the authors of the blogs they frequent. It’s part of their appeal. I'm not advocating that you use the medium of your blog to lay bare your soul and share every intimate detail of your life. However letting people get to know you, will help build a rapport. Also do not be afraid to have opinions. There's nothing more tedious than consensus. Just bear in mind that it helps if you can back up opinions with data, facts and substance. There's a huge gulf between valid opinion and unsubstantiated crazy talk.
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune.
When you elect to write publicly and post your work on the internet for the edification of your peers, you are implicitly soliciting public comment. So think long and hard about whether to allow reader feedback on your blog. If you are a sensitive person and don't take criticism well, then you may wish to disable comments on your site. The internet doesn't work like real life and people will often be blunt, outspoken and even hostile online. Also remember that internet conversations lack the visual cues of real world discussions. Be careful not to misconstrue comments; if in doubt ask for clarification. On the other side of the coin, don't be heartbroken if no body leaves you any feedback. This is a universal problem that all bloggers can encounter.
Don't be an idiot.
The internet is still by and large a great place. It is filled with wonderful human beings, a wealth of knowledge and free entertainment. But it also has a lot of idiots. What the internet doesn't need is for you to join their ranks. So don't be a troll, go out of your way to be unpleasant or break the law. If you are mad at something or someone, don't write a post in the heat of the moment. Take time out and sleep on it. Remember the internet never forgets. Once something you regret writing is out there, it can potentially come back to haunt you at any time.
I hope the points raised in this post will prove useful and offer new bloggers some food for thought. However no matter how well you plan and organise your blog, there eventually comes a point where you just have to seize the day and start writing. And because writing can be a very reactive and fluid process you may be surprised by where it takes you. I’m certainly looking forward to reading many of the new blogs that emerge from this year’s NBI. So get writing and happy blogging.